Two new play sessions have been set up to give babies who have needed neonatal care a place to help them thrive once they head home.

In addition to sensory toys and play resources to help them develop, the groups will give parents and carers a place to find friends and support each other.

Led by children’s community nurses and nursery nurses, the families will be able to chat to them about their worries and concerns and seek advice.

NICU Stars as been set up in South Tyneside, while Little Treasures has launched for those living in the Sunderland area.

They are aimed at babies aged two and under and are free to join.

Ann Long, Clinical Team Manager for Children’s Community Nursing for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which has set up both groups, said: “These sessions have our nursery nurses on hand and lots of resources to support families.

“The aim is to encourage the development of babies who have additional medical needs after they have left a Neonatal Unit. They will also give parents and carers a place to come together.

“Some families can feel anxious going to playgroups as their baby may have had a different start to life.

“Some of our babies have extra needs and the sessions are very much set up with that in mind.

“We know groups just like these have been a help to families when they’ve been set up in other places.

“We want to make sure the children in our area have the chance to reach their potential and get the best possible start in life once they’ve left hospital care.”

The South Tyneside group meets at Horsley Hill Family Hub, which is attached to Seaview Primary School, in Norham Avenue North, South Shields.

It is held on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 1.15pm to 3.15pm.

A donation from the League of Friends of South Tyneside District Hospital has helped buy toys and equipment to help its launch.

The sessions are led by children’s community nurses, Amie Swindon, Anne-Marie Abbott and Janet Talbut.

Places can be booked by emailing stsft.stnicustars@nhs.net.

Sunderland’s is held at Thorney Close Family Hub, which is part of Thorney Close Action and Enterprise Centre in Thorndale Road.

It is hosted on the second and fourth Thursday of the month from 1pm to 3pm.

It is led by nursey nurses, Claire Cook and Tina Pitchford and children’s community nurse, Paula Mulvaney.

Places at this group can be booked by calling 0191 561 4127.