New stay-and-play group meets 'overwhelming demand'

Children at a Little Owls Day Nursery

Little Owls also run day nurseries in Scarning and Toftwood. - Credit: Little Owls Day Nursery

A new stay-and-play group launching on Monday has encountered “overwhelming demand” from parents signing themselves and their children up, as the pandemic has cut young families off from one another for most of the last year. 

The group, called Owlets, will be run and managed by Little Owls Day Nursery, which has been in Dereham since 1989, and will be held weekly in the town’s Memorial Hall, which reopened to groups and classes in line with government guidance on April 12.

According to the guidance, the number of adults allowed to attend is limited to 15, but 48 families expressed an interest in joining, so nursery director Justine Watts decided to double the number of sessions on offer. 

Justine Watts, director of Little Owls Day Nursery, and the new Owlets group.

Justine Watts, director of Little Owls Day Nursery, and the new Owlets group. - Credit: Submitted

Mrs Watts said: “Our aim was to offer one session on a Monday morning on a term-time basis each week, but the demand has been so overwhelming and oversubscribed that we are needing to now offer two sessions - one in the morning and one in the afternoon each Monday.” 

Mrs Watts said she thought the high demand was partly due to the nursery’s good reputation, but also partly due to the effect of the pandemic.

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“A lot of people who have babies or young children at home have had no social contact whatsoever, so I think it’s probably more important for the parents than the children, in this current climate,” said Mrs Watts, who added that she was “excited” to take the nursery’s work into the community. 

The Memorial Hall in Dereham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The Memorial Hall in Dereham. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The sessions are designed for parents and children under the age of 2 ½, and each will include a focused learning opportunity such as a mini me yoga session, language and literacy development, messy play and family wellbeing.

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Sessions will run on term-time Mondays from 9.30am – 11.15am and from 1.00pm – 2.45pm weekly.  Refreshments will be provided after the session and the group will close at 11.45. Parents must pre-book and complete a registration form for test and trace on arrival. 

Parents interested in attending the group can email or call 01362 699700

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