“Maison Verte-UK” a Welcoming Place were Words meet Play

The MV-UK provides a service for pre-school children (aged 0-3 years) and their families. It is welcoming, informal, non-bureaucratic and offers a safe and trusted space for families together with professionals.

MV-UK is inspired by the work of Françoise Dolto, the popular French psychoanalyst who, together with her team, created the first Maison Verte in Paris in 1979. This major social project, supported by the Foundation of France (established by Charles de Gaulle and André Malraux), created 30 such centres during the 1980s, in a spirit of ‘prevention rather than cure’. This programme gave rise to optimism and a tradition that has since caught the imagination of parents and professionals across and beyond France.

The aim is to introduce infants into a stable and safe social environment where they can explore with others the rules and excitement of joining in with society. With small steps both children and adults begin to explore the pathways of separation and social engagement.

What about the parents ?

Each mother, father, caregiver, or expectant parent can use the environment in their own, individual way. Here is an opportunity to take your mind off the everyday problems of life, in the company of other parents and practitioners. You will be able to relax with your children while reflecting upon  your relationship with them.

illustration from book of Francoise Dolto used by maison verte-uk.

What is The Maison Verte-UK Project ? 

 MV-UK we have now opened a centre in the Borough of Islington, London. This unique combination of highly trained professionals (from different fields of care) and an informal and welcoming style (no need for booking or registration) is central to our mission.

Our team includes social psychologists, psychoanalysts, group analysts, social workers, teachers and special needs practitioners, as well as trainees and voluntary workers from the community. Three welcomers work at the centre, and their job is to spend time, to listen and to respond to the children and the adults during play activities and conversation.

What about the infants ?

The children, from very tiny to almost school age, are offered an environment between home and school. There are toys, drawing materials, water games, and spaces for play and for rest. There are the other children, and the other adults, as well as the special Welcomers with whom the infants can discover the rules and the space to explore from a point of view that is not just that of their parents. This subtle process of socialisation prepares both the parents’ and child’s earliest separations.

The centre is a place where infants and adults enjoy an experience of conviviality that is respectful of family identity. It is a space where children’s play and the grown-ups’ words meet – a space halfway between the warmth of a family and the outside world.

A dialogue that includes the child, the parent, and the practitioner is encouraged, and by taking account of the degree of independence the children have already acquired, they are enabled to make contact with other children and adults, and to freely experiment in this small ‘outside world.