The big idea

Twin­kle’s Town in Nor­wich is the sort of play area we all must wish had been around when we were tots. Owner IN­GRID HENRY tells the story of how it all came about

EDP Norfolk - - Good For Business - Twin­kle’s Town, 63 Sus­sex St, Nor­wich NR3 3DG, 01603 219266. twin­kle­toes­soft­play­baby­cafenor­

So who are the peo­ple be­hind Twin­kle’s Town?

I’m In­grid Henry, owner of Twin­kle’s Town and mum to Kaan, seven, Twin­kle, three, and As­ton, 17 months. Work­ing with me is Lianne Mills, a sen­sory baby mu­sic move­ment teacher, qual­i­fied baby mas­sage in­struc­tor and chil­dren’s en­ter­tainer. Lianne has four chil­dren; two older step chil­dren plus Matthew, nine, and Har­riet, five. She also has three young grand­chil­dren so we had plenty of lit­tle peo­ple ready to try out our fun role play area.

Please tell us a lit­tle about the story of Twin­kle’s Town.

I opened Twin­kle Toes Baby cafe and play cen­tre in Nor­wich three years ago when my lit­tle girl Twin­kle was six months old. As a new mum I couldn’t find a nice place to go with my baby which was invit­ing and breast­feed­ing friendly, so we opened our fab café serv­ing lovely cof­fee and lush home-made cake, of­fer­ing a place for mum­mies to meet and chat with the added ben­e­fit of our award-win­ning baby chang­ing fa­cil­i­ties. We of­fered stim­u­lat­ing baby classes like baby and me time, sen­sory baby bond­ing class, messy play, mu­sic, move­ment and singing class, and a free new­born baby mas­sage class. One of our most pop­u­lar classes was lit­tle ad­ven­tur­ers, a fun in­ter­ac­tive class for con­fi­dent crawlers through to chil­dren aged four. It was based around learn­ing through play and fol­lowed the Early Years Foun­da­tion Stage frame­work with words and pic­tures, cards, mu­sic, singing and themed, struc­tured free play. From this we knew that a chil­dren’s in­ter­ac­tive role-play area would work here in Nor­wich as there was noth­ing else like it.

What is it that makes you dif­fer­ent from other play cen­tres?

Re­spond­ing to chil­dren’s love of role play, we have cre­ated a re­al­is­tic high street de­signed with lit­tle peo­ple in mind. We had help from lo­cal busi­nesses and ser­vices who thought our brain­child would ben­e­fit the lo­cal com­mu­nity; Nor­folk Con­stab­u­lary, Roys of Wrox­ham, Nor­wich Theatre Royal, First Self Drive and Mr Plas­tics all con­trib­uted time, posters and sig­nage.

Our mini town of­fers the chil­dren a real fun learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where they can grow their imag­i­na­tions and we of­fer a high qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence by oper­at­ing pre-de­fined play ses­sions and keep the num­bers lim­ited. We love to see the chil­dren’s faces on their first visit when the gates open and they see this whole mini town which they have to ex­plore!

Each of our scaled-down play ar­eas, the theatre, beauty salon, fire sta­tion, po­lice sta­tion (with cells for naughty par­ents!), hospi­tal, café and post of­fice, con­struc­tion site and su­per­mar­ket, have been care­fully de­signed and filled with life-like props to of­fer a cre­ative and ed­u­ca­tional play ex­pe­ri­ence.

How does what you of­fer help a child’s de­vel­op­ment and how does it fit with the Early Years Statu­tory Frame­work?

As a par­ent what I love most about our play cen­tre is the ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fit. Chil­dren ex­plore, ex­pand­ing their un­der­stand­ing of them­selves and oth­ers, and it helps them de­velop lan­guage skills and dis­cover lead­er­ship abil­ity. By en­cour­ag­ing so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and prob­lem-solv­ing it also en­ables chil­dren to gain in con­fi­dence. It is all de­signed fol­low­ing the EYSF and we have also in­cor­po­rated other learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren through­out the play cen­tre.

What is your Big Idea for Twin­kle’s Town in the fu­ture?

Our plan for the fu­ture would be to of­fer our play area out to more young spe­cial needs chil­dren with con­di­tions like ASD, ADHA, PDA, and dys­lexia. My el­dest son has all these con­di­tions and I think when he was younger some­where like this would have re­ally helped him. We would also like to fran­chise out the Twin­kle’s Town brand across the coun­try.

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