Hidden away behind Kingswood Meeting House is a secret garden where our ROAM-IN community joins together to play. And come rain or shine (or perhaps that should read come rain or mud!) the garden echoes with the joyous shouts and laughter of children exploring and enjoying nature.
Our ROAM-IN sessions have been running since spring 2021. We were aware that some children are unable to access ROAM Free; it may be that the public nature of a park is considered too risky for them, or some children may prefer the option of playing alone. We wanted to create a session that was similar to ROAM Free but which could provide children a little more support, a little more adult presence and a little more structure. We worked with families of children with additional needs and their siblings to design the sessions. Our first pilot sessions ran in the autumn of 2020, and in April 2021 we were delighted to start running regular sessions.
The sessions have proved wonderfully popular, and over the last year we have welcomed over 50 children with their families and carers to ROAM-IN, often with more than 20 children attending each session. Many come regularly, creating a joyous sense of community that warms our hearts!
‘We like that it’s all just simple stuff, the kids just get so much pleasure out of. It’s just a nice environment for them to relax and run around in and do what they want with people that are similar to them.’Lisa, Parent
During the sessions the children enjoy playing in the beautiful surroundings – constructing robots, cakes and other creations out of boxes, chasing bubbles, hunting for minibeasts in the mud or just taking a moment to feel the cool breeze on their faces while being gently swayed in a hammock.
‘The best thing is the opportunity to speak to other children, other adults, play with other children, talk to adults and interact with volunteers – this gives them a tremendous opportunity to do that. They also get lots of amazing activities, they get to build, dig, play in the mud, hear stories, go in the hammocks. It’s unique, and something that they really need, and something they really enjoy and benefit from.’Anthony, Parent
‘Our daughter has no sense of danger and no understanding of her environment. She loves being outside, she loves running, but we’re constantly having to hover around her and what’s lovely is that here, we can take a step back, and that’s extremely rare. And, what we find great is that because she comes on a regular basis she feels very comfortable here as well. So it’s giving us a sense of freedom that we wouldn’t get anywhere else.’Sonia, Parent
The Sessions have been funded through the generosity of the Eveson Trust who work across the Midlands, providing funding for charitable organisations that support people with disabilities, mental health problems, children in need, and other good causes. We are also incredibly lucky to have found such a beautiful setting for the children to roam in the grounds of Kingswood Meeting House.
Key to the running of ROAM-IN have been our wonderful band of volunteers, and it is through their support and hard work that we have been able to create such a welcoming and safe environment. We have been lucky enough to recruit volunteers from a range of backgrounds – including teaching and occupational therapy. Over time the sessions have evolved slightly. Where we can, we try to offer 1:1 support for the children, which gives them more opportunities for self-directed play, independent of their primary caregiver. This also gives our parents a chance to take a break, enjoy being outside, and perhaps most importantly, drink a hot cup of coffee!
‘I’ve been supported by some amazing volunteers, we came here when my son was unwell one day, and he was pulled around on a parachute, as volunteers supported me by talking to me – I felt like I was being dragged around on a parachute too! I trust people here.’Leanne, Parent
‘I think all the volunteers and Lisa are fantastic – they have a real understanding of when to approach children or when to take that step back.’Sonia, Parent
We’d like to give a big thank you to volunteers old and new, to Jill Bowie for facilitating at Kingswood Meeting House, to Eveson Trust and of course a huge thank you to the families who attend and bring spirit of play, community, fun and adventure!
If you would like to find out more about our ROAM-IN sessions, or you might be able to volunteer some of your time to come and play then please email email@example.com – we’d love to hear from you!
‘I think what you are doing is fantastic. It’s very unique and very helpful, not only for the children, but for the parents who are very grateful.’