Seashells is a Family Hub based in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey. The area is characterised by high levels of deprivation, health inequalities and poor levels of activity. The centre provides universal services that all families can access as well as targeted services to those most in need of additional support. By working with partners in health, education and family support services, Seashells aims to ensure that families with children, aged 0-7 in particular, have access to appropriate services, free activities, advice and guidance.
During the pandemic families were unable to access the face-to-face support that was previously provided by the Centre. The aim of this project was to build upon and compliment existing services to support families to keep active in and around the home during lockdown and beyond. The Tackling Inequalities Fund was used to purchase and distribute 50 sports packs to the most vulnerable families in the local area.
50 packs were delivered to local families, and each contained a football, frisbee, skipping rope, tennis balls, bean bags, a target throwing game, a water bottle, a toy, and an Active Rainbow Challenge booklet and additional age-related information and fact sheets.
Four different sports packs were designed in collaboration with the Children & Young People (CYP) Leads and Early Years Teacher to ensure they were appropriate for ages: birth to 12 months, 1-2 year olds, 3-4 year olds and 5 plus. Items & equipment were chosen carefully to focus on and improve:
- Gross and fine locomotor skills
- Hand eye coordination
- Throwing skills
- Turn taking and sharing
- Teamwork and fair play
Additional information was included in the sports packs, including other activity ideas, games to play, challenges and contacts for further support to improve overall family health and well-being including Seashells Family Support services and other relevant local services.
The packs, and follow up work, allowed Seashells to continue building on key health messages to share with families that they would ordinarily promote through their face to face work. Parents and carers reported having fun and being active together, enjoying having the opportunity to try new activities, getting outside more, taking regular exercise, developing new skills, improving fitness and overall health, increased self-esteem and improved mental health. One parent was even inspired to sign up to a level 3 fitness qualification.
Quotes from parents/carers:
“The children are having great fun with their activity pack and really enjoying the playdough”
“The children absolutely love their activity pack and are taking their Frisbee and ball to the beach today”
“Child S loved her activity pack and sports pack. She opened it and began to play straight away”
The boys enjoyed playing and Parent/Carer E encouraged them to try the activity ideas. “The boys liked the beanbags and the target game best”. Parent/carer E was pleased to see us and thanked us for the packs.
“Child P likes pulling the balls off the target and hearing the sound. She likes the big ball and follows it around the room trying to grab it”. Parent/Carer J was grateful for the activity packs.
“Thank you again for the activity packs, the children love playing with everything and the indoor football has been a challenge”
“Thank you, the children enjoyed playing. We have a large green to play on and they all had a nice time.”
“The boys couldn’t wait to open the activity packs and play. They really enjoyed the target game”.
Parent/Carer M made an indoor assault course for her children. She said “the packs gave her more creative ideas”.
Challenges & Learnings
The pandemic added some logistical challenges and meant that Seashells had to plan carefully how and when the sports packs were delivered, allowing extra time to call ahead to ensure the households were well before visiting and implementing additional PPE measures.
Developing and distributing the sports packs meant that Seashells were able to:
- Reach, engage and maintain connections with families during difficult and unprecedented circumstances.
- Provide support and information that helped to reduce isolation, boost mood and help maintain relationships.
- Inspire the families to be more active, get outdoors, move more and share ways to improve their health and well-being.
- Develop further information packs which have allowed them to have, and continue to have, conversations around health, child development, exercise, sports, benefits of exercise on physical and mental health (for adults and children) and healthy eating.
Seashells also learnt the following:
- Families would like more support (and more opportunities) to get active, especially with their young children.
- It’s important to undertake discussions and build a trusting rapport and relationship with the community to gain a greater understanding of their needs.
- It’s important to have regular contact and communication, be consistent and reliable so the families feel safe that you will be there when needed and to act on what you promise to do, so they feel listened to.
- Purchasing higher quality equipment for the sports packs has meant that the items will sustain repeated use and can be re-used by additional siblings.
- The sports packs provided a talking point for further conversations around health and well-being that can be built upon and continued further with family support workers.