Incredible Kids is an inclusive play centre in Bristol where kids with additional needs can play and have fun alongside their siblings. They also provide a mutually supportive environment for parent carers.
Sessions are open to children and young people up to the age of 25. They aim to provide something for everyone whatever their age or additional needs. For outdoor sessions, there is a giant sandpit, slide, rope net swing, zip wire, drop slide, a hard court with roller skates and ball games, adventure playground, scooter track and sensory play.
For those preferring an indoor session, very young children are most welcome with a baby corner available, that is safe and comfy for both the little ones and their carers. Children of all ages have access to many toys and lots of equipment including arts and crafts, lego, toy cars, role play, dressing up, sensory bubble tube, action men, babies, barbies, prams, toy kitchen, tunnels, and much more. For older teenagers and above there is the lure of table football, ipads, games consoles, arts and crafts along with other activities. All dressing up clothes are available in a wide range of sizes – right up to older children and adult sizes, everyone can join in the fun.
As Covid-19 took hold and impacted Incredible Kids running their normal sessions in 2020, they looked to find ways they could continue to support their families in safe environments, and in doing so reduce the possibility of social isolation occurring.
The Society of Merchant Venturers was pleased to give a £2,500 grant in July – which the charity went on to use for hiring outdoor play spaces that enabled lots of activities to take place including messy and sensory play sessions, all supervised by experienced playworkers.
The feedback from families was very positive based on them having somewhere to go during the crisis when potential feelings of isolation and disconnection that can occur through having a child or young person with additional needs were possibly even greater than normal. The activities were enjoyed and appreciated by everyone, connections made and advice and support were readily available from a trusted external agency. Smiles all around!
This is what one family shared with Incredible Kids about the difference the safe outdoor sessions made to them:
“We immediately knew we had found a home from home. We left already feeling excited about attending our next session. We both felt welcomed by the staff. They greeted us with warm smiles and made us feel instantly included and a valued part of Incredible Kids.
My son was free to explore his new surroundings and took great interest in the varied activities available before settling at a firm favourite. I could see he felt relaxed as he chatted to staff who joined him as he played. Watching my son smile and interact with other children was reassuring that he felt comfortable being himself.
I chatted to the supervisor who was able to signpost me for further support services if I felt these could be useful. I had that instant feeling of belonging to a lovely supportive and understanding community with who I could meet both face to face and online too.
My son enjoys the varied indoor and outdoor activities available at Incredible Kids and has been able to try new experiences too which have helped boost his self-esteem and self-confidence. He has been able to learn more about himself as an individual and recognise his strengths whilst also enabling him to become more confident in asking for help from others.
Some of his favourite activities are very much sensory-based; he especially loves the sand, hands-on messy activities and anything physical. The death slide, scooter track and large scale climbing frame are firm favourites along with roller skating, football with peers and staff and playing hide and seek amongst the vast outdoor play area.
Whilst I watch him play he always has a smile on his face, he is very happy and enjoying himself and he loves the social interaction from both peers and staff. He is now more confident talking to others and making new friendships and asks whether those children will be at the next session he’ll attend.
Whilst the children’s needs all vary there is that common ground to start from and that real sense of support from one another as we share our experiences and journeys so far. The staff can signpost to other organisations who may be able to offer support. Having access to this wealth of knowledge helps make me feel a better parent for my son as I know where else I can turn to for support.
Incredible Kids has a special place in my heart and I often attend the sessions when I don’t have my son too as I always feel so welcome every time I go”