The coronavirus pandemic has been “particularly isolating” for young families, a Perthshire mother has said.
Louise Fisher of Blair Atholl and her family have experienced the challenges first-hand, with her middle child spending more than half of his life under Covid restrictions.
Brothers Rory, aged five, two-year-old Charlie and three-month-old Hamish were among hundreds of young children separated from friends during the pandemic.
They were unable to socialise indoors, with nurseries, playgroups and play centres all closed for several months.
Things are about to improve however, with parents at the Blair Atholl Baby and Toddler Group – including their mother – organising a fundraising drive in a bid to get back to a sense of normality.
They plan to refurbish their meeting space at the village hall, with a baby and children’s items sale taking place on Saturday between 10am and 2pm.
Organisers want to make the premises more child friendly and suitable for breastfeeding mothers.
But their biggest wish is to allow young children to interact with each other again.
‘Particularly isolating for families’
Louise has taken all three of her sons to the Baby and Toddler Group, which has been around for more than three decades.
She also attended the group as a child with her own mother.
She is determined to improve local families’ lives as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.
“It has been a difficult time for everyone but particularly isolating for families with small children,” she said.
“My second child has spent more than half of his life with some form of restrictions in place and has really not had the opportunity to socialise with others in his age group at all.
“As for the parents, carers and grandparents who attend, we have missed out on all of the support from each other and the informal advice and friendships which I’m sure we are all looking forward to beginning.”
She added: “Groups like ours are so important, especially within rural communities, to allow the children to interact with others of a similar age and provide the adults with five minutes to sit down and the opportunity for a cup of tea and a chat.
“We have recently had a lot of interest from new members and are looking forward to opening again at the beginning of August to welcome them.”
The Baby and Toddler Group hopes to complete the refurbishments in time for reopening on August 4.
So far, members have painted the walls and replaced the old plastic chairs with new sofas to provide additional support for breastfeeding mothers.
Members were given a grant from the Enchanted Forest in 2019 which was used for the new furniture and the walls were painted with the help of John Spark and the Unpaid Work Team at Perth and Kinross Council.
They now plan to replace the bathroom as it is “not in great condition”.
Louise added: “It’s not very inviting, especially for potty training children, and there are no baby changing facilities at all.
“We would love to have a new bathroom in place as soon as possible – by the end of the year would be fantastic.
“However we may need another fundraising event too before this could happen.”
‘Phenomenal’ community efforts
The local community has come together to support the group in its fundraising efforts.
Louise said: “We have had such a phenomenal response from the community with so many high quality donations coming in from as far away as Dundee and Nairn – with thanks to family and friends for delivering these – and we are excited to be able to give these items a new home.
“We also have prams, travel cots, high chairs and more for the little ones and bicycles, books, toys and games for the bigger children and much more.
“We would love a good turn out from the local community.
“Even if people do not have little ones in their lives they can still pop along for takeaway tea, coffee and cake and enter our raffle for the chance to win a luxury hamper from Atholl Estates.”