Last year I went to Colchester Zoo with my daughter’s preschool. The trip was a part of the ICAN initiative http://www.ican.org.uk/ which aims to aid communication with children. From what I understood most of the preschools from North Essex were there too – all with the same aim – encouraging speech and communication with children. The trip was fully funded so that each child and accompanying parent was given free access to the zoo as well as vouchers for lunch and drinks and a goody bag. I can’t imagine how much the day cost the local council/education authority (or whoever else may have paid for it).
At the gate we were given a sheet of tips to encourage us to talk to our children during the day and some information on why communication with our children was so important. This is directly from ICAN’s website:
“Children with communication difficulties might find it hard to express themselves, understand words, speak in sentences and understand simple instructions. Daily life for these children can be distressing and frustrating. They can struggle to read, learn, join in, make friends and achieve”
I wonder if I was the only mother standing there who realised the irony of the whole day though? it really hit me at the monkey enclosure. The spring baby boom had really hit at the zoo and almost every enclosure we looked into was full of cute little baby monkeys, holding onto their mothers tightly, suckling as their mothers swung from one branch to the next. As I turned from the monkey enclosure I saw a sea of Maclarens, Quinnys, Bugaboos and the like, all the colours of the rainbow, wheels and handles everywhere. Toddlers facing away from their mums clutching plastic cups and doodling on the communication tips sheets, whilst their mothers engaged in conversation with their mummy friends enjoying their free cups of coffee.
I couldn’t help but stare at the sea of buggies and human mums chattering to their friends (and not their offspring as the day intended) and then looking back to the monkey mums all in physical contact with their babies, grooming them as they ate their lunch, an arm around them as they looked back at me with matched curiosity.
……and I felt a stab of sadness for that innate knowledge that we have lost.