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Five Minutes with Better Place's Haleema

14 March 2024

We spent five minutes with Haleema Khathoon, Senior Community Engagement Lead for our Better Place project, who chatted to us all about the outdoor activities that they run for expectant parents and families with 0-3s.

For the last six years, our Better Place project has been working its magic across parks and green spaces in Bowling and Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton, installing new toddler play equipment, trees, sensory plants, sculptures, free little libraries, innovative and interactive features and much, much more.

Alongside the physical improvements, a team of Better Place Community Engagement staff work tirelessly to put on events and fun activities for families across all of the outdoor spaces in the Better Start Bradford area.

This team is led by mum of one, Haleema Khathoon, who took time out to chat to us about her outdoors role.

Five minutes with Haleema

In your role as Better Place Senior Community Engagement Officer, what do you do?

I manage a small team of community engagement staff and together we organise and run all of the community engagement sessions and events across all of the Better Place sites throughout the year.

The sessions involve a variety of activities including messy play, planting, arts and crafts, pop-up farms, riding on wheelies and so much more. All of our activities are designed to encourage families to get outside and play whatever the weather, and help families with babies and toddlers develop physically, emotionally and mentally. We have something to suit everyone.

How would you describe Better Place to a young child?

Better Place has put in lots of new and fun play equipment at parks, nurseries and outdoor spaces in Bradford, and we now come out to play with families at these playgrounds by bringing along messy play, bikes, fun family games, painting and crafting.

During one of our outdoor sessions at Bradford Moor Park a little girl said her very first word ‘splash’ at an outdoor messy play session.

What has been your biggest project ‘wow’ moment so far?

During one of our outdoor sessions at Bradford Moor Park a little girl said her very first word ‘splash’ at an outdoor messy play session when she was using different utensils for pouring foam and water – it was so lovely and emotional, both the mum and I got very teary.

The mother shared with me that she was concerned regarding her daughter’s speech and language development and once she had watched how I interacted with her daughter to encourage language, the mother was adamant that she would bring her outdoors more to play as she could really see the importance of how play can help build her daughter’s vocabulary.

What’s your favourite outdoor play activity and why?

I love nature crafts. It takes you into a realm of peace and concentration, gives you a connection with nature, uses your imagination and involves a mini hunt to find the perfect natural resources for the craft.

Apart from your own project, which Better Start Bradford project do you like, and why?

Better Start Imagine is fantastic – they encourage great interactions from parents and children at their sessions. They have worked with us numerous times, bringing their rhyme time sessions to our outdoor events or with us taking nature related activities indoors to their sessions.

Who inspires you most and why?

My daughter – she helps and encourages me to be the best version of myself, she makes me feel like I can make a difference and succeed. She’s only two, but I am determined to show her the beauty of the world and for her to capture that beauty and lead it. Children are the future!

We had 457 toddlers out in all weathers in our last quarter!

Knowing what you know now about your project, would you have done anything different in the early days?

I wouldn’t have been as worried if families would join me in the rain and cold – last quarter we had 457 toddlers out in all weathers! Educating families on wearing the right type of layers and supporting them to understand it’s okay to get a little dirty or to come out in the cold and rain has been an amazing achievement for myself, the project the community and most importantly the little tots.

What have Bradford families got to look forward to over spring and summer?

We have so much going on for families! We have lots of upcoming planting sessions, forest school sessions and bird box workshops, as well as two pop-up farms at Bowling Park and Bradford Moor Park and we’ve got another amazing lantern parade coming up at Horton Park in the summer – so watch this space! Keep an eye out on the Better Start Bradford events page.

 And finally … what three words summarise your project?

 Appreciation, laughter and creativity.

About Better Place

The Better Place project is responsible for identifying and overseeing improvements to local parks and outdoor spaces in the Better Start Bradford area with the aim of providing a healthier and happier environment for babies, young children and families. The project is also finding ways to reduce exposure to harmful traffic fumes for pregnant women and small children.

The Better Place project is a Better Start Bradford project that is being delivered in collaboration with Bradford Council, Bradford Trident, Groundwork UK, Public Health, voluntary and community sector groups and local people.

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