Mother’s New Business Sparks Children’s Imaginations
We all know that children love to dress up and play in a make-believe world. But how many of us are aware that the skills children develop through this role-play can help form some of the foundations for literacy? Role-play enables children to act out scenarios, explore emotional responses and build relationships with their peers. It also helps them to construct narratives, which is essential when it comes to understanding how story-telling and writing works.
Thanks to Winchester mum Pooja Mehta Nicodemi, the launch of Little Planet role play and soft play means there’s a fantastic opportunity for parents and children to socialise and develop key skills through imaginative play. Having opened its doors earlier this month in Winchester’s Trinity Hall and Kings Worthy’s Tubbs Hall, it’s already proving popular with parents and children.
I joined Winchester’s Mayor along with lots of parents and children at the launch of Little Planet and learnt more about the inspiration, aims and woman behind it all.
Why Little Planet?
Its name is no accident; loaded with social values, environmental awareness and vibrant ‘imaginary world’ play spaces, this is a happy little planet. Its aim is to be welcoming and inclusive – something Pooja believes is paramount. She recalls how valuable to new parents Winchester’s YMCA café was and how she felt a loss at its closure. Little Planet nods to that by offering parents the opportunity to chat and watch their children play independently. The timings are also generous with the Trinity Hall session lasting 4 hours, so there’s no mad dash to arrive on time.
For Pooja, “Little Planet is not just about providing a learning and play space for children, it’s also about getting the parents out and integrating with other families.” Pooja’s conscious of the role such environments can play in supporting the mental health of parents, especially new mothers. With that in mind, she’s made Little Planet free to children up to six months old. As parents of very young children, we can feel isolated so it’s important to have free access to places where we can chat to other parents and know there are changing facilities and space for pushchairs.
A great environment doing its bit for the environment
What’s so lovely about Little Planet is there’s something for all. A soft play and ball pit baby area, colouring and creative zone for budding artists or those who prefer quiet activities, and the role-play sections where children can be anything from an ironing pirate to a princess construction worker.
Children are free to explore it all, challenge stereotypes and make a mess (that you won’t have to tidy up!). Pooja’s also keen to vary the role play areas so that children can come back each time to experience something slightly different. Where possible, she’s opted for wooden toys over plastic and likes the idea that Little Planet reduces waste by negating the need for parents to buy many of the items for their own homes. She also offers organic, plastic-free teas served in reusable cups alongside delicious cakes and healthier snacks for children.
When talking to Pooja, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is all she does – the effort, time and passion she injects into Little Planet is obvious. That’s not the case. As well as being a mother to two young children and setting up and running Little Planet, Pooja has also been cabin crew for 20 years. As someone who believes “we really can do it all,” she’s a great person to offer a bit of advice on how to go about achieving your goals.
So, here are some of Pooja’s tips for reconciling with ‘mummy guilt’, starting a business and ignoring negativity:
Follow your instincts
What you are doing has to be something that you’re really passionate about because not everyone will be supportive. If I’d listened to some of the people around me, I’d never have done it. Sometimes you just have to go for it!
Register a company name
The very first thing I did was to register the name Little Planet. I wanted to do it on the date of my daughter’s birthday because that made it more meaningful and gave me a boost. Ultimately, all this is for my kids.
Believe you can do it
We can be mum, we can be working, and at the same time own a business because I’m living proof of it. As women, we’re great at just getting on with things. There will always be ups and downs but it’s important to stop for a moment and remind yourself of what you’ve already achieved.
Every problem has a solution
People will always raise barriers and ask questions such as ‘when will you spend time with the kids?’ What’s really important is that there are solutions to these challenges but what’s great is that as women we are good at finding solutions.
Reconcile with ‘mummy guilt’.
I don’t think it ever goes away no matter what you’re doing. Even if you go shopping for yourself you can be thinking you should be spending the money on your children.
I have a notebook where I write down ideas – it’s really helpful.
Pooja acknowledges that it can be stressful but it’s evident that she genuinely cares and enjoys what she’s doing. She says she feels “like a mum helping out,” and thinks her background as cabin crew has helped her to become more of a “people person” and made her better at paying attention to detail. “In the air and when setting up a business involving children, safety is paramount as well as listening to feedback.”
Yes, she’s had to invest heavily in time, and from her own pocket, but what’s clear is that she cares about this as something more than just a business. For her, it’s a little planet for those who occasionally need this world to be smaller but who want their children to be inspired to imagine beyond it.
Little Planet runs on Monday 9th and 16th December at Winchester’s Trinity Hall 9.30-1.30 and Tuesday 10th and 17th December at Tubbs Hall in Kings Worthy 1.30-3.30pm. Follow them on Facebook for 2020 dates.
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