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Play Is Good For Highland Babies
Highland babies and their parents are set to benefit from a new play initiative, launched in Inverness.
Starting this summer, the play @ home programme will be offered to all new parents by their health visitor, in the form of a booklet with advice and ideas for how to have fun with your baby. The official encouragement that play is good for you has the backing of NHS Highland and The Highland Council.

Between them the agencies are putting 100,000 into the 3 year programme, which will cover more than 6,000 children and their families. "This is a positive way of offering support to all our new parents," said Caroline Thomson, chair of NHS Highland. "Every parent needs a hand at some point and we hope that play @ home will be a useful and friendly companion."play @ home was first developed in New Zealand and brought to Scotland by NHS Fife and Fife Council three years ago and adapted for a Scottish context . Since then, the programme has been taken up by Orkney, Shetland and Ayrshire.

The programme comprises of three booklets, bound with a soft plastic spiral, covering the baby, toddler and pre-school stages. Each booklet contains ideas for games, songs, rhymes and massage techniques.  The Highland version has been specially printed to include Gaelic songs, prepared by local former teacher Janet Grigor with advice from CNSA (the Gaelic Pre-school Council) and The Highland Councils Gaelic Advisor.

Julia Nelson, Health Development Officer based in The Highland Council's Childcare and Early Education Service, who is co-ordinating the programme said: "Play @ home is designed to be fun. Its not always easy for parents to think of ideas at home, especially if its your first baby. The active physical games and massage will help babies to develop their bodies as well as encouraging early speech and language. But most of all it should be enjoyable!"

The first Play @ home booklets for babies will be distributed on the 1st August but parents whose children are born before this date can still join in with the scheme by borrowing a booklet from their health centre or local library. The following booklet, for the toddler stage, will be available in summer 2003.

Over the coming months, organisations working with children and families will be invited to contribute to planning the next stages.  "The programme offers opportunities to use the ideas in leisure centres and libraries as well as in early years groups. Within two years time, parents and children in the Highlands should be familiar with the materials.