Yesterday I took DD (darling daughter) to a Toddler Sense taster session run in Freemantle by the lovely Charlene. I love taking my DD to activities, but she is a very spirited 21 month old so we tend to be restricted to active events. Nobody is ever impressed when story time at the library is interrupted by my shouts of “come back, stop running!” so Toddler Sense sounded perfect.
If you’ve never heard of Toddler Sense before, it is the sister group of Baby Sensory, a national franchise for parents to help their babies explore and develop their senses through play. The sessions are run throughout Southampton and bridge the gap between Baby Sensory and playgroup/nursery. The activities are specially scripted to appeal to children between the ages of 13 months and 3 1/2 years.
We arrived nice and early to find music playing and an entire hall full of soft play equipment – including a bouncy castle and hula hoops. The 20 or so children there immediately got stuck in to playing and DD barely noticed I was in the room – always a good sign! Within five minutes toddlers were walking along planks, learning how to spin a hula hoop, and following the coloured mats on the floor. Very entertaining ways for them to work on their gross motor skills.
Suddenly, the children stared transfixed as a crocodile entered the room (*SPOILER ALERT*: It was Charlene in costume). Mr Crocodile danced, cuddled, and held hands with the children for a few minutes before waving goodbye and disappearing. DD was very excited and I saw at least one other child signing the word for crocodile so it certainly made an impression!
When the 20 minutes playtime was up a tidy up song was played and all of the children helped the parents to move the soft play equipment out of the way to make room for the structured session to begin. This was very popular with the parents; as teaching children how to do housework from an early age was always going to be!
We sat in a square for the lesson which included activities such as holding on to the elasticated chain in a group as we sang a song, using pom poms to demonstrate sweeping up a spider, and pretending to be Bob the Builder making a house with MegaBlox bricks and toy tools. At first I was a little concerned about DD being given a hammer, toy or otherwise, but it seemed to go OK in the end. Nobody ended up in hospital anyway.
At the end of the session Charlene debuted her finale; holding streamers in front of a wind machine whilst throwing balloons, petals, and bubbles in front of it. The children were wide eyed and very excited at seeing everything float up into the air and drift back on top of them. There were a few tears as the things were packed away.
Then all too soon we were singing the goodbye song and putting our shoes and coats on. Charlene came round and thanked us all individually for coming along, which was a very nice touch. She was very friendly and great with the children. Personally I think that anybody capable of handling 20 toddlers deserves a Sainthood, but that is a little beyond my powers.
The session was great fun and educational with it. As well as improving gross motor skills, the activities encouraged children to get involved in decision making (choosing their own instruments), following instructions (tidying up, retrieving things as asked), and social skills (mixing and playing with other children).
The sessions were fantastic and I hope to be able to take DD to more when the term starts after Christmas.
You can find out more about Toddler Sense here.