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Caithness News Bulletins September 2003

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Toddlers in Caithness will soon be getting an extra 1st birthday present from NHS Highland and The Highland Council.

As children born in the area from last August reach one year old, each family will receive a free copy of the play @ home toddler booklet.  The easy-to-use guide has hundreds of ideas for active games that are fun to play and help children's development.   The booklet also includes advice on infant massage techniques, recipes for play materials, songs and rhymes.

To mark the occasion, toddlers and their families, together with representatives from NHS Highland and The Highland Council held a birthday celebration at Wick Medical Centre a couple of weeks ago.

play@home is a highland wide initiative and launch events for the new book will be taking place in Inverness and Fort William over the next few weeks.

"play @ home is designed to be fun,"  said Ian Murray, the councils' Head of Community Learning and Leisure. "Toddlers grow so quickly that it can be hard to come up with fresh ideas to entertain and stimulate them.  We hope this will be a helpful resource for all parents.

"Rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease are increasing in Highland as elsewhere.  Encouraging early enjoyment of physical activity gets children off to a good start.   Research is also showing that movement has a beneficial effect on  building up the brain's networks that will be needed later for reading and writing."

All babies in Highland born from 1 August last year have received the play @ home baby book from their Health Visitor, with copies also available in all libraries and health centres.  Highlands & Islands Enterprise are contributing funds to enhance the programme, including massage instructor training and plans for a Gaelic version for toddlers.

The Highland Councils Health Development Officer, Julia Nelson who is responsible for implementing play @ home commented:  "We're hearing back that first-time parents and in particular dads, are finding the booklets useful.    With smaller families these days, it often happens that people have little or no experience of very young children before they become parents."

Almost 2,000 Highland families already have the play @ home Baby book.  Fun sessions around the region are being planned, where parents and youngsters can try out some of the activities together.