Stories, crafts and jumping around take centre stage at a toddler group in York

TEN toddlers totter around the room, struggling to pull on their imaginary astronaut outfits for a space walk.

Next, they are told to add boosters to their boots. Suddenly, they start going "whoosh", taking giant leaps around the room.

Later, they all crowd under a colourful canopy, which their parents lift high over their heads then let drop: this is their spaceship for their intergalactic journey.

The noise levels vary from excited to very excited as the children become fully immersed in their adventure.

Welcome to Hoglets, the weekly story and drama class for babies and toddlers, billed as "theatre fun for little folks".

Captain for the day is Mama Hoglet herself, Gemma Sharp, who set up the business three years ago.

Gemma is a trained actress and wanted to keep doing something theatrical when she took a career break to have her children: and so the idea of Hoglets was born.

Each session combines storytelling with craftmaking, play and song.

But this is storytelling with a difference. It's more of a performance as Gemma musters all her theatrical skills to bring the story of the week to life. Gemma internalises the storybook, learning the words as if it were a script for a stage play. Each character is given its own voice – and the kids love it.

Today, the tale is The First Hippo On the Moon, by David Walliams. It sets the tone for the theme of the day: space.

Next the coloured pencils come out, alongside used loo rolls and card. Children clamour for Pritt sticks and little pairs of safety scissors as they throw themselves into the task at hand: making a mini space rocket.

Each session begins and ends with the Hoglets song, as each parent and child takes it in turn to say their name and say hello and goodbye.

Little Iris Green is two and a half and has been coming to Hoglets for more than a year. Dad Stuart says it is one of the highlights of her week.

"Iris has really grown in confidence in her interacting with other children. When she first came, she was like a rabbit in the headlights with the bigger children.

"It is great for socialising. She also really likes the songs and storytelling. When we go home, she will sing the songs we have learnt at Hoglets. She really has got so much out of it."

Sunil Auplish, has been bringing his two young daughters, Sian, four, and Inga, three, to Hoglets this term. The family have recently moved to York and Sunil says they have struck it lucky finding this group. "It's like a TV programme – there is a nice variety of things for them to do. Time goes by very quickly and they are never bored. We have three kids and have been to a lot of classes – this seems to have all the best bits combined into one."

Like Iris's dad, Sunil thinks Hoglets is a great way for his daughters to meet other children their age. "They are spending time with other children. We are new to the area, so it is good for them to socialise and start making new friends."

Gemma runs her classes at three venues: on Mondays at St Lawrence's Children's Centre and Clifton Children's Centre and on Tuesdays at Knavesmire Children's Centre. Sessions are split into two age groups: newborn to walking and walking to five.

The 36 year old is mum to Beatrice, aged three, and Berowne, five months (both names are from Shakespeare, a passion for Gemma and her actor husband Andy Curry).

She thinks the Hoglets recipe is unique. "It's a bit different. This is something that you do with your children. It is bonding time. It gives parents the opportunity and the environment to be silly with their kids. And the idea is they can take that home with them."

Creative play and storytelling are important ingredients too, she adds. "The two most important things you can give to a child are imagination and confidence."

Classes are booked in blocks of 6 for £21 – £3.50 per class. Newcomers can book a single trial class for £3.50. Find out more at: