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Entertainment for babies and children in Shetland

by Allison Christie -

Shetland is a great place to bring up children. Excellent schools, health and sporting facilities, unlimited space for free ranging, and numerous classes and events for children to take part in. Allison Christie has been chatting to Jenny Teale about her two child focused businesses and a relatively new event in the Shetland calendar - the Baby and Children Show.

Jenny’s two businesses offer classes to parents of brand new babies through to teenagers. Her Bambeenies classes includes baby yoga, baby massage, sensory and messy play, exploration, dance, themed parties and workshops. Whilst the Inferno Dance Group offer weekly classes in contemporary and street dance teams for primary and secondary school age children.

As well as running both businesses, Jenny also set up the Baby and Children Show in 2016. Now in its third year, it was a dream of Jenny’s for some time. “I wanted to show parents just how much Shetland has to offer. Bringing all the businesses, services and groups to one place just made sense. It’s such a fantastic weekend with so much to do for everyone.”

The show runs over two days on 1st and 2nd September, and Jenny’s explains what you’ll see if you visit over the Saturday or Sunday: “as well as businesses, services and groups having stands exhibiting what they offer (a good mix of free support, advice and products for sale), most of them also have interactive things on their stand. From messy play to soap making and crafts etc. Then on top of that we have a demonstration area which is jam packed all weekend with things like car seat safety talks, play sessions for babies, bubbles and balloon sessions, a football class, fairy parties, pirate parties, a mega chocolate party, bookbug, yoga, special character meet and greets, a pirate party, fairy party and hopefully a snowy session with Elsa from Frozen.”

I love that I get to be part of their journey and that more than likely I’ll be able to watch the children grow and flourish where in larger cities instructors may never see a child again. I get to be part of their lives.

The Shetland Baby and Children Awards are also an important part of Day 2 of the show. With categories including best club/group, best family friendly restaurant, best baby and child retailer and best day out, they are a great opportunity for the Shetland public to nominate any service, business or group that focuses on children. Jenny explains “I know myself it can feel like an uphill struggle sometimes. Running a business, service or group can be tough but that recognition when people have taken the time to nominate you is so rewarding. It shows they appreciate what you do and that means so very much, it gives you the drive to keep going, keep improving, keep striving for more. The awards give the community a chance to have their say, to tell the world who has impacted their lives, who has made a difference and who they want to thank. And that means a lot to those who want to say thank you.”

With a range of business owners, professional services and volunteers nominated for awards, it’s clear to see that everyone is equally valued in the role they play in contributing to our children's welfare, but what does Jenny think is the most rewarding thing about running her own business in Shetland? “For me it’s knowing that I’m playing a vital part in our community. Bringing parents together, helping them meet other parents but also more importantly supporting them and their children. Giving them a space to look after their emotional and physical well-being. I love that I get to be part of their journey and that more than likely I’ll be able to watch the children grow and flourish where in larger cities instructors may never see a child again. I get to be part of their lives.”

I asked Jenny if helping new parents to build friendships and get to know each other was something she specifically set out to encourage, “Yes I think it’s an integral part. We as instructors try to make sure we know each of our parents by name, their children’s names and get to know them and their needs. We encourage communication within the classes and allow time to chat. We are also lucky that our venue Islesburgh Community Centre has a great cafe that mums can pop down for coffee or lunch before or after classes and this allows new friendships to blossom too. We’ve watched families new to Shetland build support networks with other parents. It’s a great way to get involved in the community, meet new friends and feel part of something bigger and there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing parents chatting together before and after classes.”

Jenny goes on to add that “Actually one of the most rewarding parts of my job is that I do find people are happy to confide in me if they are needing a bit of extra help or support. One of the main reasons I started Bambeenies was because I wanted to help, I wanted to be that support for those who may not have it. When I was a young mum with post-natal depression I found attending toddler groups and classes hard. I wanted to make sure I could make people feel comfortable and relaxed at my classes and that even if they were having a bad day I understood and wasn’t there to judge. Parenting can be hard, it can be isolating and frustrating but having somewhere to escape and feel relaxed and enjoy spending time with your little ones is what we are all about, and I think Shetland does that really well.”

Living in Shetland the bairns have advantages they might not have elsewhere in the UK. The great outdoors, the beaches, wildlife, freedom to roam, safety, knowing people look out for each other.

Jenny adds “Living in Shetland the bairns have advantages they might not have elsewhere in the UK. The great outdoors, the beaches, wildlife, freedom to roam, safety, knowing people look out for each other. As well as indoor facilities like leisure centres, clubs and groups. And for the majority there’s something available just a stone throw away but even if you have to travel, there’s no mega commutes. And the classes and children groups are so accessible, regular and if I do say so myself to a very high standard.”

The Inferno Dance Group run by Jenny with also put on an impressive dance show in June this year with 120 children on stage performing a stunning range of acts. Since then the number of dance teams have increased to allow 160 children to attend, aged 4 to 17.

How does that work in practice? Jenny explains “We have a fantastic group of senior volunteers! They have just been nominated in the Shetland Youth Volunteering Awards Group category and all work towards their Saltire Awards with us too. They are a fantastic bunch who have helped me create a lovely big dance family. The bairns all look after each other, are extremely supportive to each other and the younger groups. All our dancers follow our code of conduct which helps keep harmony too. It’s really a piece of cake!!”

As Jenny rushes off to continue her prep for the show weekend (and chase the delivery of a snow machine!), I asked the one thing she would love every person coming to the show to remember about it.

"Enjoyment! I love seeing people leave with big grins after having a fun family day (or weekend) out. That is why I do all of it!"

Seeing the excitement on Jenny’s face when speaking about the show and her businesses, it’s clear to see both planning for the Show and running her businesses gives Jenny as much enjoyment as it does the children who come to her classes. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that snow machine turns up on time.

About Allison Christie

Busy wife and mum of three (cats and horse not included). Sometimes gardens and photographs, mostly delegates. Allison owns and runs her own Social Media Management business from her home in Vidlin, Shetland.
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