Introducing the baby class offering sustainable play in Edinburgh

Ben Drake 18months, Alistair Drake 3, Alexis Holmes 2, Neive Porter 3, Regina Alomzi, Amira Alonzi-Sharshar'''Regina Alonzi runs a baby and toddler group that uses only wooden toys in a bid to encourage sustainability and the development of children's imaginations.
Ben Drake 18months, Alistair Drake 3, Alexis Holmes 2, Neive Porter 3, Regina Alomzi, Amira Alonzi-Sharshar'''Regina Alonzi runs a baby and toddler group that uses only wooden toys in a bid to encourage sustainability and the development of children's imaginations.
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A CAPITAL mum-of-one is helping to introduce children across the city to a new world of wooden toys thanks to an innovative play scheme aimed at promoting sustainability.

Regina Alonzi took on Wooden Toys Edinburgh in May 2017 after moving back to the city from London while eight months pregnant with daughter Amira.

Now she is hoping to crowdfund a permanent home for the group, after previously running at locations in Comely Bank, Goldenacre and Trinity.

Regina, 30, has already secured a property in Canonmills, which will contain a shop, baby classes, a bathroom and a wooden play area with comfortable seating as the scheme looks to attract dozens of new families.

But with rent on the premises costing upwards of £16,000 a year, Regina is hoping to crowdsource enough funding.

Regina said the project offered an alternative for families who wanted children to “explore their imagination”, while also bringing like-minded parents together in a safe and welcoming environment.

She said: “The classes are important because they offer parents and carers a safe and supportive environment to meet and help children use their imaginations.

“We have around 200 toys, everything from puzzles, mini kitchens and cars to a doll house, musical instruments and pull-along animals, there is really something for everyone.”

Regina added: “We want to encourage sustainability, to get toys that you can’t get off the shelf. We take second-hand toys in good condition, so we have that circular economy, it keeps that element of sustainability.

“All of the toys are plastic-free, bacteria doesn’t grow on wood toys, so it is a more sanitary environment. The children and the adults can socialise, it is good for the kids to learn new skills.”

Regina revealed she didn’t know anyone after moving home to Edinburgh, saying she found London “too difficult” as a single mother.

Despite not knowing anyone, Regina soon found a close-knit community of parents at an antenatal group, before discovering the Wooden Toys scheme from there.

She recalled: “I moved to Edinburgh when I was eight months pregnant. I didn’t know anybody. It’s hard to meet people when very pregnant, so I went to antenatal group. It was nice to have that support and meet like-minded people.

“I had been to a few of the Wooden Toys classes before, but the people who ran it said they were not able to do it any more and were giving it up.

“Myself and my friend Katie Drake took it over in May 2017, but Katie went back to work in February, so I continued to run it by myself.”

Regina added: “I think that is why the group is so good for parents as well as children, they are less isolated and they get out of the house to come to a really friendly and welcoming environment. It is something a little bit different.

“They also give adults the opportunity to meet other parents and carers, have adult conversation and perhaps feel supported a little bit more”.

Regina said she was proud to be the only baby-toddler group out of more than 70 across the city to use only wooden and natural toys and added that going forward, she would like to work with local health boards and other social care providers to widen access for disadvantaged families.

Now working part time in an office, she added that being able to give up work and have Amira with her during the groups would be an ideal scenario for the future of the play scheme.

“Everyone seems to love the groups. People that come really enjoy it. Children are much calmer at these groups because the toys don’t have beeping parts and they can use their imagination.

“Amira is very social and independent. It’s great because she gets all the benefits from the groups, but I can work at the same time. I get to work and have her there.

“Ideally I’d love to work with the NHS and if any new parents are struggling they could come for free.”

She added: “It would be nice to have a fixed base, so hopefully we can get people behind our 
crowdfunder.”