PLAY: Yindi and Dharma Baker testing out the community playgroup's toys at Monto Landcare Hall.
PLAY: Yindi and Dharma Baker testing out the community playgroup's toys at Monto Landcare Hall. Alex Treacy

Stay-at-home dad spearheads community playgroup's return

THE hall has been cleaned, the tea and coffee is on the boil and the toys have arrived.

Now all that's needed are parents and children to fill the space with laughter and chatter.

This morning marks the return of Monto Community Playgroup after a year-long hiatus.

Spearheading its return is stay-at-home dad Jaiben Baker, who said the playgroup's earlier disappearance left a real gap in the community.

"There's no permanent daycare centre here so there's not much for kids aged 0-5 to do,” Mr Baker said.

Monto was visited by mobile playgroups from Mundubbera and Hervey Bay, but having their own group provided a sense of ownership, Mr Baker said.

Several local family daycares have already committed to bringing their children to the playgroup, including those run by Rebecca Nowland and Tess Gleeson, who are taking leadership roles in the reformed group.

Ms Nowland stressed that this group will be welcoming for mums, dads, carers and grandparents.

"Dads can feel like there's nothing for them to do because it's the mum's job,” Ms Nowland said.

Mr Baker said the weekly playgroup was a chance for the children of Monto to form friendships before enrolling in school.

But it's not just children who benefited from community playgroups, he said.

"It's chance for parents and people to connect,” Mr Baker said.

"Half our population or more live outside of town, they're disjointed, they can't talk to their neighbours.”

Plus, he added, when children are playing amongst themselves, parents don't have to "constantly look out for them” and can instead connect with each other.

Ms Nowland agreed.

"It helps keep people out of depression by getting them out of the house,” she said.

The playgroup has also found a new home in the Monto Landcare Hall on Kelvin St.

The benefit of this venue, Mr Baker said, was that parents and children would also be able to play outside, in the shady garden beside the hall.

Tea and coffee will be provided and parents are asked to bring a plate or snacks.

Mr Baker said he was looking for active support from the community: donations, participation and ideas, both from parents and local businesses.

The playgroup runs every Friday morning in the hall, 9am-12pm.


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