News & Events

The power of a volunteer armed with a Bookbug!

18.10.2018 - 15:02

Have you ever met a Bookbug?  They are delightfully fluffy yellow creatures that love to help little children to use books.  Our volunteers often take a Bookbug with them when they visit the families they are supporting

Recently a family in Midlothian was referred to Home Link Family Support as mum was feeling quite isolated.  Dad often away with work and mum felt stuck at home with her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.  The family were new to the area and mum felt unable to get out with the kids, tired and the thought of playing and reading with them overwhelmed her at times.

A Home Link Family Support coordinator met the family and spent some time getting to know them, and then matched them with a weekly volunteer.  The volunteer had recently attended Book Bug At Home training which was part of Home Link’s Volunteer training opportunities.  This meant the volunteer felt confident about singing and reading with children, and was able to take along her Bookbug and a wonderful bag of books and resources.  The kids loved her weekly visits and looked forward to having cuddles with Bookbug while exploring the books together.

The volunteer visited every Tuesday, for a year and her visits included many other activities such as trips to the park, the library and the museum. Gradually mum was able to see how well the kids responded to books and Book Bug and she started to get involved. When dad came home from work, he was happy to join in too.  When the match ended both Mum and Dad said what a huge difference this had made - books, rhymes and singing had become a regular fun part of family life and that the children would often ask for books and songs before bed. 

Rachel Almeida

Midlothian Young Parents Support Coordinator

Let's pretend to be... the value of imaginative play

12.10.2018 - 11:37

By Katarina Vassakou, Family Support Worker


M.: This is Elvis, and this one over here is Tom Thomas.

K.: What does Elvis want to do? Is he doing the same job as Tom Thomas?

M.: No! Elvis is going to put out the fire, he is a firefighter. Tom Thomas is a police officer, he is going to be sitting here! (Points the driving seat of the fire track).

The fire, made by yellow and orange tissue paper, is approaching one home. It is made by a big ball of crumpled paper, and moves up and down, left and right, because of the wind.

M.: Hot! Hot! (He says while Elvis is stepping on the fire). Elvis wants to go inside the house to save the people. You take Tom Thomas and put him on the ladder.

K.: Oh! A helicopter coming (scissors are used for this)! Maybe they could use the helicopter to pour as much water as they can on top of the house.

M.: Yes! And then they can go to sleep because it’s night time.

K.: The fire is almost gone, disappeared (the ball of crumpled paper is now under the table) – they made it!

M.: Elvis and Tom Thomas are going to sleep (uses both hands and pretends to sleep on the table). Now I want to go outside in the garden. I want to play ice-cream shopkeeper…

The value of pretending and of make-believe play seems less obvious. Many parents are not very comfortable when they watch their toddlers playing with their blocks or toys while talking out loud to themselves. Jean Piaget (1962) wrote that symbolic play is not just a passing feature of growth for the development of logical thought. Piaget noted that this is an intrinsic characteristic of our human nature. Pretend play serves our children well for their self-entertainment and for understanding the complexities of the world. Most importantly, it is the foundation of a long-term human characteristic: imagination. We can travel mentally through time and space, to explore a range of possible futures.

Mums and Dads, you have no reason to fear pretend play in your children! This play benefits all areas of your child’s development including their ability to express and regulate their emotions, their creativity and logical reasoning. Join in with your children’s pretend play, help them guide their storyline, and allow them to expand their knowledge of the world around them by playing “Let’s pretend to be’’.


A week in the life of a busy Early Years Coordinator supporting families in Edinburgh

14.09.2018 - 14:00

“A family who have recently been affected by domestic abuse. Helping a family get furniture. Reading the ‘Hungry Caterpillar’. Working with Health Visitors and Social Workers . . .  .” read about a week in the life of a busy Early Years Coordinator supporting families in Edinburgh



In the morning, I come into the office, reply to emails and check my diary for the week. My first visit is with a mum with significant mental health problems with two children aged 3 and 2. We are nearing the end of our support with this family and they have recently moved into permanent accommodation. I support mum to make some phone calls about acquiring furniture. We then complete a nursery application form for her younger daughter. The rest of the visit we play with the children and after building the ‘hungry caterpillar’ jigsaw the children ask to read the story three times!

After lunch I am off out to visit a family I initially met the previous week. A mum with a 4 year old and new baby twins. She is struggling to cope with the older child’s challenging behaviour and feeling increasingly isolated. Together we make a support plan and create goals to work towards in the next three months.  She wants to be more confident managing all the children when going out, someone to talk to about her worries and to deal with the challenging behaviour more effectively. Mum says she feels better talking from talking to someone without feeling judged and we arrange another visit for the following week.

Just enough time to go back to the office, file some paperwork and update family case notes.



My morning today consists of meetings, starting with the monthly team meeting. In this meeting all staff members provide an update on their work from the past month and we discuss recent developments for Home Link. Then I attend Home Link’s Edinburgh team allocation meeting where all new referrals are allocated to coordinators. We then discuss families and volunteers on the waiting list and the families currently receiving support, to ensure all the families are receiving the best service suited to their needs. Afterwards we have time for a quick team lunch outside in the sunshine.

In the afternoon I head off to a family consisting of a mum and her three children aged 10, 4 and 2. This mum has struggled with poor mental and physical health and a previous abusive relationship. We play outside today and make bubbles which the kids love. We have a look over mum’s support plan and decide to start working on one of her goals, which is to start accessing more amenities in the community with her children. The family can often find themselves isolated due to mum’s mental health. We make a plan to attend a local park next week- mum and the children are looking forward to it.



 I start my day in the office updating family case notes. I then prepare resources for the Stay and Play Group in a local community centre. We’ll be painting today so I pack a bag with various colours of paint, brushes, rollers and of course some glitter! The group is busy today with 17 children aged 0-5 from the local area attending with their parents. The children have a wonderful time creating murals with the different colours and tools, some of the children opt to paint their hands and feet making handprints and footprints! After everyone is cleaned up the children sit around the tables for a healthy snack. Following a period of free play we gather around for our Bookbug session. Today we read ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ and finish with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.


I begin my day with a visit to a family with a toddler and 7 month old baby. The mum has post-natal depression and no local friends or family. This family have been matched with a Home Link volunteer for 4 months now. We chat about how things have been going and review her support plan. Mum is excited to tell me about all the places she has been with her volunteer including a play group, soft play and Bookbug at the library. She met another mum at the Bookbug session who lives in her area and she is delighted that they have plans to meet for coffee. The rest of the visit I help mum to complete an Eligible 2’s Application form for her son which she hopes will get him a place at the local Early Years Centre.

In the afternoon I have a Multi-Agency Meeting for a family who have recently been affected by domestic abuse. I meet with mum, the Health Visitor, the key worker and newly allocated Social Worker. We discuss the recent events, safety issues and create a Child’s Plan establishing the roles for each professional. Afterwards, I have a coffee with mum in the local community centre. She shares that she has been very stressed over the past couple of weeks and now feels better about the increased level of support for her and the children. I agree to meet with the family the following week before returning to the office to complete paperwork



I have an initial visit this morning to meet a newly allocated family. The family have three children under five and the middle child has recently been diagnosed with autism. The mum is feeling over whelmed with her three children and feels she is struggling with no other support and low mood. We discuss matching the family with a volunteer and the type of support a volunteer can offer. I complete all the relevant paper work with mum and arrange to get in touch in the next few weeks when I have a suitable volunteer with the family. I head straight to another home visit to carry out a play session with a mum and her 2 year old son. We spend the time singing songs, reading stories and playing with animal puppets. Both mum and the little boy really enjoy the session.

In the afternoon I return to the office to meet a volunteer for his Support and Supervision.  He has been matched with a family for 2 months and although he is enjoying it he feels that all they do is chat over a cup of tea.  I am able to feedback from the family who say the volunteer is being brilliant and the mum really looks forward to his visits and feels so much better afterwards. We look over the family’s support plan and discuss activities for the next few weeks. 

Then I update all case notes from the week. I use this time to make appointments with families and return any calls I have missed during the week. I also look over my diary for the next week and update my calendar.