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Community First: the story behind the Stone Soup Group

Will Barritt

Written by Will Barritt

5 min read

EasyPeasy Parent Meetups are an opportunity to bring together parents and caregivers from your local community to share parenting tips, ideas, and play inspiration. This opportunity has been made possible by The LEGO Foundation, and funding is allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. 

But it’s not just about bringing parents together; Parent Meetups are about providing opportunities for innovative and creative projects and empowering communities. By showcasing the inspiring story of the Stone Soup Group, one of our first Parent Meetup groups, we hope to demonstrate how your group can make a positive impact in your community. 

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What is the Stone Soup Group and what is the story of Stone Soup?

The Stone Soup Group is made up of 10 parents who are passionate about their community in Walthamstow. Since becoming parents, they realised that fun activities to do locally soon add up in cost and childcare spaces can be hard to find (as well as expensive). They decided to start up their own meetup for parents to bring their children using EasyPeasy’s Parent Meetup funding. The power of community brought in many parents who were able to share their creative skillsets and knowledge in the form of activities for children. When we spoke to Angela, one of the Stone Soup Group organisers, she emphasised how ChangeX was a straightforward and quick application process. By participating in the ChangeX 30-day challenge, the Stone Soup Group received funding through EasyPeasy Parent Meetups, enabling them to secure a venue and attract new participants. Angela encourages other parents to create a group through our Parent Meetups!

The Stone Soup Group gets its name from a European folk story where an old villager is hungry but has nothing more than an empty cooking pot. The other villagers are unwilling to share any of their food with him, so he goes to a stream and fills the pot with water, drops a large stone in it, and places it over a fire in the marketplace. One of the other villagers becomes curious and asks what he is doing. He answers that he is making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful and which he would be delighted to share with the villager, although it still needs a little bit of garnish, which he is missing, to improve the flavour.

The villager, who anticipates enjoying a share of the soup, does not mind parting with a few carrots, so these are added to the soup. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient, like potatoes, onions, meat, salt, and pepper. Finally, the stone (being inedible) is removed from the pot, and a delicious pot of soup is enjoyed by the old man and villagers alike. Although the old man has thus tricked the villagers into sharing their food with him, they have successfully transformed it into a tasty meal which they share all together.

The Stone Soup Group used the name to emphasise the co-operative and community-focused aspects of the group. If a community member wants to lead an activity, they can! This creates an interactive, fun, and inclusive experience for both parents and children at each event.

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What happens at Stone Soup Group events?

The Stone Soup Group welcomes all parents and children to their events at St Mary’s Church in Walthamstow, East London. The church has an indoor space as well as a garden that provides an ideal space for fun outdoor activities. Each event has 5-6 activity stations centred on a theme that differs each time. Past activities include a fruit chopping station (with child friendly knives), a painting station, flower headbands, a wool art workshop, and bird feeder creation. The children have the freedom to engage with whichever activities capture their interest. As long as it's safe, the children are also free to engage with the activity how they want to - thus making headbands can turn into decorating their pram!

Parents are encouraged to suggest and lead activities, fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration within the group and the organisers deeply appreciate witnessing the children's boundless creativity.

Since their first meetup, the Stone Soup Group has experienced remarkable success. With consistently sold-out sessions, it has built a thriving community of parents who eagerly return for each event. The positive reception of these meetups has opened doors to exciting opportunities, including invitations to conferences and collaborations with local events and businesses. This journey has led to the Stone Soup Group receiving the prestigious Fair Education Alliance innovation award, which provides resources for the group to explore its aspirations to become a cooperative nursery.

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Tips for other Local Parent Meetups:

Angela shared valuable insights and tips with us for aspiring organisers of local parent meetups. 

The first tip she had to share was to not try to do too much! Some of their play sessions were quite  elaborately prepared and ended up being a bit stressful to organise. Kids will always find a way to have fun with whatever they have to play with! Angela encourages other organisers to plan something fun without striving for perfection.

Secondly, advertise widely. WhatsApp groups, schools, and word of mouth through your own parent network. Put posters in local libraries, food banks, even in local charities such as the Salvation Army. The more places you promote your event, the more your community grows and the more varied your audience is. 

While the Stone Soup Group has a long-term vision beyond stay and play sessions, there is definitely a role for smaller or temporary groups that run a series of events and then disband. From a funder's perspective, these might seem like small or short-term impacts, but for the individuals taking part they can be transformative experiences, so are still a massive deal in a community, especially when it comes to early years. The Stone Soup Group’s organisers have made really special friendships, supported people who were feeling isolated or needed a chat about an issue playing on their minds, and even helped someone make their way into a job in the early years sector. Even if the groups end after a few months, it’s all about impacting people and their families. 

A New Project: Uniting Generations for Health and Learning:

Looking ahead, the Stone Soup Group has an exciting project in the pipeline, where the stay and play sessions will be run in a way so that senior residents can also participate. In time, the aim is to establish a cooperative nursery, possibly in collaboration with a care home, in Walthamstow. This innovative initiative would foster interaction between older residents and children. Angela explains that each stands to gain from playful interaction. For example, seniors, often quite sedentary, are more likely to get up to interact. The children also benefit from the interactions through enhancing their vocabulary from listening to stories and communicating.

EasyPeasy Parent Meetups, exemplified by the Stone Soup Group's inspiring journey, provide an incredible platform for parents to connect, communities to thrive, and innovative ideas to flourish. By emphasising creativity and community support, these meetups can bring positive change to all families. The Stone Soup Group's story showcases the power of collaboration, the importance of inclusion, and the potential for short-term initiatives to have a lasting impact. 

So, if you’re eager to start your own local Parent Meetup and help create a vibrant, supportive community that nurtures the next generation, sign up to our newsletter to be informed when funding is next available!