Rachel Campbell’s enthusiasm for getting babies and toddlers active is contagious.
The Oamaru mother of two began Tumble Tots active movement programme in the back room of Oamaru’s Scottish Hall in 2019, when her daughter Evie was 9 months old, and now she is fully booked.
As a qualified teacher and early childhood educator, Mrs Campbell had always been passionate about children’s physical development, and noticed a gap in the Waitaki district for the under-3s, when she herself became a mother.
‘‘Having my own child, I realised that there wasn’t a huge amount out there in the Waitaki, and I had always kind-of known of this concept in other regions, so I thought, ‘Let’s see if this is something that the community would want’.
‘‘Here we are two-and-a-half years later, and it’s definitely something the community wants.’’
Mrs Campbell now runs two classes on a Monday in the main part of the Scottish Hall.
Tumble Tots is for walking toddlers up to 3, and Tumble Bubs is for babies from 3 months.
Both were full this term, but she would soon be taking bookings for term three.
‘‘We have 20 babies, which is incredible.
‘‘We are so thrilled to have that many, and 22 toddlers, which keeps us busy.
‘‘I say we, but really, it’s just me.’’
When starting out, Mrs Campbell was well supported in her venture by Sport Waitaki and the North Otago Toy Library through the loan and hire of their gear, but over the years, Tumble Tots had accumulated its own gear, and now owned the majority of it.
‘‘We try to support local, such as Raw Woodworx in Weston. They customise a lot of our own climbing, wooden gear. We slowly have built up our own planks, ladders, Pikler frames, soft foam shapes, etc . . .
‘‘That just all happens over time — and I don’t have to rent and borrow as much, because now we can up-keep it ourselves.’’
Families taking part in the classes were asked to pay a nominal fee, which helped cover running costs and gear maintenance, she said.
Mrs Campbell volunteered her time, and ran the venture purely for the love of it.
‘‘I just love doing it for the kids. I just get a real joy out of seeing the children having fun. Each session there are smiles, there’s laughter. The children are having a really good time.
‘‘It’s a service that I think that every community should have, and I just feel cool that I’m the one offering it in the Waitaki.’’
While the physical development aspect was the focus of the classes, people brought their children along for different reasons, she said.
‘‘For a lot of children and parents, especially parents, socialisation is the huge thing.
‘‘A lot of these children have been born in Covid times, so a lot of these mums, especially first-time mums, haven’t had the chance or the opportunity to meet other mums and socialise and mingle, and build those relationships with other mums and babies.
‘‘So a lot of my families come for socialisation. A lot of them come because they want to try something new, and each week I try new experiences for the children.’’
Although it was not just mothers, who came with the children. Fathers and grandparents were also regularly at the sessions, she said.
In 2020, Mrs Campbell had taken Tumble Tots to Kurow and Palmerston fortnightly. She was well-supported by the communities there, but the Level 4 lockdown hit as the first term came to an end, and she had since had her second child, and not started those sessions back up again.
It was time-consuming travelling, and there were extra costs involved, which she had to cover herself.
‘‘I need to make it sustainable . . . but that’s always a possibility . . . it was fun, and it was really nice to meet those children and parents in those communities.’’
Even as her children got older, Mrs Campbell hoped to keep Tumble Tots running while it was still wanted.
‘‘I feel like at the moment it’s thriving, because we’re kind of out of this Covid bubble, and people are ready to mingle, join social groups again and get out of the house with their baby or toddler.’’
For more information, Tumble Tots is on Facebook, or visit tumbletotswaitaki.com.