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
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.