Any regular readers of the blog will realise that we are HUGE Rainbow Factory supporters. We have been slowly working our way through the “We Are Mini” classes. To read about Mini Heroes follow this link and to read about Mini Einsteins (as at May 2017, no longer running) follow this link. This post is about the Mini Princesses class.
** This class is not being run by the Rainbow Factory at the moment **
The aim of the Mini Princesses classes is to teach the children about how to understand their emotions. Also, to let them use their imagination and generally be better people but being kind and courteous. Just think of it as classes to make them better people both to themselves and others.
While it is called Mini Princesses, in reality, there is nothing gender specific about it. Whilst I have not seen a boy in the class, there is absolutely no reason why boys wouldn’t get as much out of the classes as girls.
So the class is a mixture of movement/dancing, games, crafts and the famous Rainbow Factory story thrown in for good measure. As the class is only an hour long, as you can imagine, the tempo is fast paced. As such, the children are not kept around waiting or stuck doing the same activity.
The classes are probably suited for those between the age of 3 and 8. Heidi is 3 and for one of the bigger classes, it was good to see her being stretched and challenged by some of the tasks which were aimed at the older children. Any younger than 3 and I feel as though they are not going to cope. This is because they won’t have the concentration or perhaps the ability to understand the concepts being delivered. Because it is aimed at slightly older children, this is perhaps the first class which I have watched from the side rather than take part. This is a very strange feeling indeed!!
A little word about the Fairy Godmother, Emma. As with all of the Rainbow Factory staff, she is always eager to talk to all the children. This involves getting to the child’s height, with so much enthusiasm and always with a smile. As I have said previously, while the classes at the Rainbow Factory are good, it is the staff that make them great.
You may ask why are there no photos. Well, the classes are quite intimate and I felt that taking any would spoil that. Besides, if I took any at the last class, they would just be a blur because Heidi was constantly moving because she was so excited about the class!
We have been to “Mini Einsteins” from the beginning and as the “We are Mini” brand has been launched, I thought that it would be a good idea to do a bit of an Mini Einsteins update. If you want to read a somewhat “serious” experience of our first Mini Einsteins class, you are probably best reading this post (Mini Einsteins – Rainbow Factory)
** This class isn’t being run by the Rainbow Factory at the moment **
However, in a vain attempt to be creative, I thought that I would go all poetic and write about our story so far..
We started in June
going to our favourite science class
We learnt about solids, liquids
and even some gas
At first there was just us two,
and a helper with Professor Ellen
We learnt about vegetables, plants
and fruits such as melon
As the group grew,
so did our knowledge
Some of the topics took me
straight back to college
We learnt some long words,
and learnt to predict
We knew that the lesson plans
had been professionally picked
They learnt why things went up
and why things went down
They learnt what would float
and then what would drown
The classes were different
in fact they are unique
I think I’m turning Heidi
into a big science geek!
We have used household items
to blow up balloons
We have used vibrations
to play nifty tunes
We have tested our senses,
our taste, hearing and sight
The children were blindfolded
to see if they could still write
Joining the class was one of
the best things we’ve done
So why don’t you come along
and join in the fun!
While the post is slightly “jokey” – the class is seriously, seriously good, especially if you are wanting to challenge your child a bit and get them interested in science and generally learning. On the back of this, we have really explored both the activities and sought out some good science museums.
It is pitched at the right level for a to 5 year olds (there is an older class as well) and last for an hour, which is more than enough! The staff are so friendly and welcoming and you never know, you might learn a thing or two as well!!
To find out more about Mini Einsteins and the rest of the “We are Mini” classes, go to http://www.wearemini.co.uk/ or check out their Facebook page (search for “We are Mini”) or Twitter site (@wearemini). I hope you enjoyed this Mini Einsteins Update!!
So the turn of the calendar brings with it a new suite of classes held at the Rainbow Factory – under the “We are Mini” banner. We were invited to the “Mini Heroes” taster session and it was the usual Rainbow Factory creativity, mixed with boatloads of enthusiasm and the key ingredient of learning.
** Class is not currently running **
The Mini Heroes activities are sure to be different each week. However, there was a warm-up exercise and a structured walk through the venue solving a problem. Then the group split into 2 and alternated between a craft activity and a couple of physical activities.
After that, the group came back together to do the structured task – learning how to use the “999” service. Even though Heidi is 3 1/2 years old, I have been hesitant to teach her how to do this, but seeing how she very nearly got the concept today has given me the confidence to carry on teaching her this. Sometimes these activities are more for the parents benefit to show that their child is able to do them. However, the session is only the start of it, as the “lesson” must be carried on at home for it to sink in!!
The “learning” themes are focused around First Aid and general life skills. This might seem a bit advanced but at this age, and having seen it in action, it does feel like a perfect time to get started.
While the theme is “Heroes” and staff and children were dressed in all sorts of outfits, there was not one mention by staff of actual superheroes on TV/books. It it was all about what a hero did, and the qualities of a hero. It was good to see the staff not go down the easy or safe route…
As the theme is “Heroes” it does attract itself to boys more than girls. However, there is absolutely nothing gender specific about the session. So even if your child is not into superheroes, it doesn’t really matter.
One thing to note is that there were around 25 children there (it was Bank Holiday Monday). So if your child likes one to one attention (I have one of them!) it might not be totally for them. However, there were 4 staff taking the session, so it never felt out of control.
In terms of age ranges, I don’t think any child under 2 1/2 years old would be able to keep up with the activities or take in the information. However, I’m sure the excellent staff would be able to help out if you drop them an email before booking. It did last 1 1/2 hours which was really good for the older ones (and value for money!). However, you might just have to keep an eye out for tiredness if you have a younger one!
The Mini Heroes sessions are to be booked in advance in 6 week blocks, as are the other “We are Mini” activities. Given the popularity of the taster session, I would book quickly! For more information, please check out the “We are Mini” or “Rainbow Factory” Facebook pages. There are other classes within the “We are Mini” banner, which are available via the above pages.
Full Disclosure 1: We were invited to attend Mini Heroes free of charge
Full Disclosure 2: I was the parent of the only child not in fancy dress – I feel like a terrible parent 😂
As the Pyjama Drama welcome song goes, “it’s lots of fun” and “it’s for everyone”, which is true. However, it did take me a while to warm up to it, but I’m glad that we stuck it out!
If you don’t know, Pyjama Drama is a preschool drama class where the class act through a different story each week. However, I have yet to see anyone wear pyjamas! The class starts off with various warm up songs and then the make-believe happens. Sometimes hit and miss, but when it is clicks, it is really good to watch!
To get the most out of Pyjama Drama, your child needs to have the confidence to leave your side and join in, even a little bit. I’m pretty sure every class will have its introverts and extroverts. The more outgoing, who tend to be older, will act as a magnet for the others to join in. However, it can be that some just sit and watch. Whilst they will be learning by watching, the active ones are going to get the most out of it.
At the beginning, I said that I wasn’t sure about Pyjama Drama and that is because I didn’t quite “get it”. As I didn’t go every week (because of having to work to pay the bills etc!), it did look like organised chaos. As such, I didn’t really see how it was benefiting Heidi.
But then it all clicked into place…
While she was confident before, her confidence has grown even further (perhaps too much?!). Her imagination has increased exponentially as a result of having structured classes to develop it. While the leader has a plan for the make-believe story, the children can shape it to however they feel. If one of them wants to be a cat, then the story shifts to involve a cat. Somehow, the story reaches its end point with a few diversions along the way!
When at home, Heidi carries on the Pyjama Drama ethos of being imaginative, creative and playing old fashioned make believe. Sometimes she will spend an hour being a dog, other times she will play doctors. Thanks to Pokemon-Go, she has pretended to play the make-believe game, even going as far as to pretending to carry a phone in her hand and flicking, while getting someone else to be a Pokemon!!
Heidi started the classes when she turned 2 and has been doing them for a year now. As long as we can balance nursery/childcare provision, we will be taking her for as long as we can. (Update: We stopped when Heidi was 3 and went to nursery) This, along with going to places like the Rainbow Factory (read one of the many links here), really give Heidi the confidence, creativity and imagination that I sorely lack. Hopefully, this means that when Heidi starts school, she is confident and able to do all the things that she wants to do.
For the second year in a row, we went down the M1 to Sheffield for the Little Sheffield Totfest event.
The beauty of taking boatloads of photos and reminiscing is that you play the game “I can’t believe that was a year ago!”. That was exactly what happened when I realised it was Totfest again!
In short, Totfest is an open air event just for toddlers, with lots of free activities, taster classes and mini attractions. Obviously, for us to drive an hour to go, it must be good!
There seemed to be more at this years’ Totfest (2016). However, it may have been to do with the torrential rain in the morning last year. However, this year the rain waited until the afternoon!! The weather gods certainly don’t like this event!!!
However, for toddlers, there are loads of things to see and do. We easily spent a couple of hours at the event before being beaten by the weather.
In terms of the activities, there were Alpacas, skunks and meerkats that the children were encouraged to stroke, as well as kiddie golf and a fire engine. There was also story telling for the older ones, but we never got round to it. Speaking of animals, there was a huge dancing and singing chicken. I have no idea why, but it was entertaining nonetheless!!
There was also a couple of free play areas with garden toys so that the little ones could run about and be children.
However, the best part is the structured classes, in part because they are under cover!! Seriously though, it is really good to go to these classes to get a flavour of if they suit your child. We experienced Pyjama Drama last year and because of it, we joined soon after.
There always seems to be a mix of classes. Whilst we obviously gave Baby Sensory a miss, we did Minimovez. As usual, Heidi was at the front of the class, thinking that she knew all the answers and acting like the oldest in the class!!!! (A little embarrassing!) The class was really upbeat and fast moving and so it was ideal for those who had a bit of energy to burn off. It was so good, Heidi wanted to go to the next session, before flaking out halfway through, due to exhaustion!!
We also tried Baby Spanish, which is probably more suited for toddlers, as well as adults!! This might be something for us to tackle when Heidi can concentrate a bit more and is happy to sit still. However, this is the beauty of these taster sessions!
This event has become a highlight to go to each year now. Given good weather, I am sure that it will grow and grow, especially as there isn’t anything similar in the region!
We have long since been a huge fan of Baby Rave North (see one of my very early posts here). For the first time after the rebrand, we went to a Boomchikkaboom class. This time for a Preschool Workshop, called “Around the World”.
Hosted at the wonderful Mumspace at Mothercare, Crown Point in Leeds, we made our way in the lift to the private room. For once, we got our timings right so I wasn’t emotionally blackmailed to buy the entire stock of the Early Learning Centre upstairs!
As everyone made their way in, the toddlers ran about. They turned a perfectly set out room into a complete mess! However, they tidied up well (why don’t they do that at home!) and soon we were underway.
I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect before it started. The “traditional” Baby Raves are brilliant but they are clearly for the younger end. However, knowing the guys behind Baby Rave/Boomchikkaboom, it was always going to be good. And it was.
The children are encouraged to act their way through a story. In our case, it was going on an adventure to a number of different countries. They were encouraged to do some of the things associated with each country. This included pretending to pack a suitcase, going on an aeroplane and eating some local foods. My particular favourite was the “baby massage”. This meant that I could actually keep Heidi in one place and feel like I was getting involved!!
Having always been really hands-on helping Heidi through her activities, this is a perfect opportunity to let go a little bit and so she can be more independent. However, I do feel like a bit of a spare part at times, and a little sad that I am not needed quite as much!! I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when she goes to school!
It is certainly more “grown-up” than a Baby Rave. Whilst the shakers and pom-poms are still used, there weren’t any nursery rhymes and the music was used less as the children acted out the scenes.
To get the most out of it, your child needs to be good on their feet as there is a lot of running/movement and want to be creative with their mind. I think that anything from 2 to 5 years of age would be ideal to be honest. As a result, make sure whichever event you book is age appropriate for your child.
All in all, the Boomchikkaboom class lasted 45 minutes and included the famous parachute and foam! It was really good fun and now I’m trying to work out the next time I can go to a Boomchikkaboom class.
If you have never been to one before, just give it a try. They are completely different to everything else that is out there, from new borns upwards, and really uplifting and energising. You will be hooked on them, like we are!
PS You may wonder why all the photos are of foam and parachutes, it was because I was either having too much fun watching/taking part or Heidi was moving around too quickly for a decent picture!
The initial reason why I set up this blog was to share my thoughts and experiences of being a dad. There was a hope to inspire parents to see and do new things with their child(ren). They say that the hardest part of a journey is the first step. That is certainly true when it comes to being a parent. For me, my first step was signing up to Rhythm Time classes.
Back in the spring and summer of 2014, my Saturday mornings consisted of taking a then 1 year old Heidi down to the park in her pushchair, walking round the park and then pushing her back up the hill, which felt like a mountain, while she slept! There was nothing particularly wrong with that in the nice summer mornings but we needed more. We needed to socialise, we needed to see other people (big and little!)
Working Monday to Friday meant that this was surprisingly difficult and we struggled to find something. At this point Heidi was 16 months old and had just started walking in a straight line. In the class there were about 14 other children, all of whom seemed older, more developed and knew what they were doing! How would we cope?!
Heidi was still on a bottle and these other children were playing musical instruments and everything! Being a single dad in this situation, I reverted back to the best backup plan – I brought my mum along! Entering a new environment is stressful enough for adults, let alone children. As such, I felt no shame in bringing backup and it was a brilliant decision! It just made things a bit easier and more relaxed for all of us.
After the first Rhythm Time class, we were hooked! For the rest of the weekend, we were singing the songs we had in class, or at least trying to remember the words and tunes! As soon as I hit work on Monday, I would be looking forward to Saturday morning again. It gave us both something to look forward to and let us interact with others.
As Heidi didn’t go to nursery, she would potentially go all week with seeing a child her age. However, the classes have really brought her along socially as well as her confidence. The classes are really good in terms of sharing, tidying up and those kinds of things. One reason why Heidi has developed so much is because of what happens before and after the class…
As the venue is set up in good time, it enables the children is play in the open space before class. It sounds really simple. However, at another class we go to, the teacher doesn’t arrive until 5 minutes before the start. This means there is no time for social interaction and for the little ones to burn off some energy before class. Also, if they see that the teacher has taken the effort to set up and prepare, the children take it more seriously and get more out of it. Some of my best memories have been before the actual class watching the children have free play, while talking to other parents.
In fact, talking to other parents has been one of the best things about joining the class. Yes, breaking the ice is difficult but children are a great conversation starter. After all, you have something in common straight away! I have learnt so much from others about things that are happening, things to avoid, how potty training is going etc etc. That support is invaluable. There is a brilliant guide to “surviving” these classes, which is written from a dad’s point of view, but it applies to everyone I think (Survival Guide for Dads). In fact, at the Saturday class, there is an even mix of mums and dads. This is really, really good to see and means any dads don’t feel out of place!
I realise that I have not actually mentioned the class yet. Generally it is 30 minutes of songs, music and dancing/movement. We get a CD at the start of the term, which is a lifesaver on car journeys and generally most of the songs on there are used in class. We took the approach of “you get out of it, what you put in” and so we went through the CD time and time again so the songs were familiar. This also meant that we could spend the time in class enjoying the activities, rather than not knowing the words/songs! The CD is quite good quality. However, I am not sure I would have it on in the car by myself!
Every Rhythm Time class is similar but different. The “hello” song is the same for the term, but generally a couple of the activities will be the same as the previous week. However, some will change as you work your way through the lesson plan (yes, it is THAT organised!). No two classes feel the same and the time flies! Oh, and the singing is actually singing from the teacher in the main and not just taped! However, parents are not expected to sing!
The general theme of the Rhythm Time classes is encouragement. There is no wrong way of doing things and there is no pressure. If the child doesn’t want to copy a rhythm pattern into the microphone, it doesn’t matter. If the child wants to look out of the window, it doesn’t matter. At the beginning, I was too stressed out that Heidi was going to be run over by an older child or cause a disruption. However, I have relaxed a bit and if she wants to play with her friends away from the group, that is fine as there is no pressure.
As time has moved on and Heidi is one of the oldest in the class, she has developed the confidence to do most of the activities by herself. She especially likes being at the front of the class, which is fun to see. However, she will always come running back with a huge grin on her face after doing her rhythm pattern or finding Arabella, which is a beautiful sight.
One thing that I had better say is that it does require some commitment. As you sign up for a term, it is obviously in your interest to make as many as possible, but also it helps the development of the child. Although you can swap classes, we have never missed one, partly due to good health (!) but because it gives us a reason to get up on a Saturday morning after spending the week at work!
This post was inspired by a tweet I saw from The Best Start twitter account (@thebeststart) announcing their 2015 show in Halifax (The Shay Stadium) and I had not realised that it was a year since I went with H and given the impact it had on the last 12 months, I had to talk about it.
Rewind 12 months ago – H was 15 months old and we spent the weekend going for a walk to the park on a Saturday and then spending Sunday going somewhere. We didn’t have any particular plans and we didn’t go to any classes or groups or anything really as there is very little on a Saturday/Sunday for working parents. However, as a result of going to the show, we picked up a leaflet and saw that one of the exhibitors had a class on a Saturday relatively near – fast forward 12 months and H has come on so much as a result of the classes, she has got the best friend in the world and I have other ‘mum and dad’ friends to talk to and share the parenting experience and these classes are the highlight of the week.
I would not have got this if I hadn’t “plucked up the courage” to go to the Best Start Show. I use that phrase because going into an exhibition as a single dad, carrying a child is a bit unusual! There are either mums carrying/pushing children, mums/dads to be or mums and dads with children – which is what you would expect and so it feels a bit strange (NB – these are internally generated feelings, everyone was lovely there!). Anyway, part 1 of this post is to encourage everyone, regardless of circumstances, to go to this event (or similar) it might just be the best thing you ever did!
Part 2 is actually talking/explaining about the exhibition. There are about 20 stands in a banqueting suite, and apparently, there is a breakout area for specific talks although we never got to that stage, so it isn’t massive, but certainly not tiny. My advice would be the following:
Listen to your child. This is much easier if they aren’t yet born!! You may find talking to a stall holder very interesting, but if your child wants feeding etc, you might be best to have a few minutes out.
Don’t take a pram/pushchair if possible. The venue does get busy and unless you are an expert driver with the patience of a saint, please think about leaving it in the car. Obviously needs must, but think about it!
Have a plan. Do you want to hear about weening, or take part in a demonstration class or have your childs photo taken etc? There are big queues for some things therefore discuss what you want before you go
Talk!! The stallholders won’t bite! They obviously want to sell their products, but they are a wonderful resource to tap into, even if you are not specifically interested in their product
Get leaflets. Tied into the one above, if you can’t talk to a stallholder because of a queue, get a leaflet. they can help you later on, when you get home and have time to digest it all
As I say, going to this event was a turning point for me and I hope that a few people have similar success stories from it going forward because it is a wonderful event and hopefully in the future it will go from strength to strength, even though I know in the next year or so, me and H will be too old for it!!!
The usual weekend preview is to follow, but tomorrow is an event that I wish that I could go to with H and that is “Rave in the Park” in Charlie Cake, Armley, Leeds, LS12 3RP, held by Baby Rave North (http://www.babyravenorth.co.uk – Facebook/Twitter as well) at 10.30am and 1pm. The event is free and the weather looks to be set fair so there is no excuse not to go…
As my colleagues at work can attest, I am a fully fledged Baby Raver with H. We have been to about 6 events in various locations and while it sounds a bit strange, the concept really works.
If you have never been, it is an upbeat baby/toddler session to upbeat songs and adults and toddlers are encouraged to dance and sing along. While some of the songs are classic nursery rhymes, some are call and response which is good fun, and the best part of it (for the kids at least) is the environment in which is is held. The room is dark with bright disco lights and this creates sensory overload for the youngsters (clearly not applicable for the outdoor event!) One problem with the dark room and bright lights is that is is a nightmare for taking decent photos!!
You are best advised to book ahead and the session lasts for just under an hour, which is a good length of time for the little ones. When I took H for the first time, she was so exhausted afterwards, she slept for 3 hours straight in the middle of the day, which shows how it stimulates the kids.
As I said, we have been to about 6 events, a few have been held in Mothercare at the Crown Point Shopping Centre, which is an ideal location, but the best one was a free Hip Hop event held in November time at Leeds City Museum. As it was a Saturday afternoon, we took the grandparents down as well to see the event and they loved it too, and by doing that, it gave them the confidence to go to these types of things if H wanted to go at a time when I couldn’t go. Also, by Leeds City Museum opening their doors at the event, we have found it to be a hidden gem in the city (more on a future blog post!). There are numerous different events from the mini-baby raves to the Christmas raves and the themes of the raves seem to change quite often, which keeps things fresh.
Sometimes when you go to these events, you wonder if the little ones actually enjoy it and for Baby Rave, I certainly know that H loves it. I know this because whenever she sees her disco ball, she tries to put it on (NOT advisable for kids to play with plugs!) and wants the lights turning off so we can have a DIY baby rave while she dances around. Granted, it is nowhere near as good as the real thing, but what can you do?!
Anyway, put Baby Rave North on your to-do list, regardless if you have a 3 month old or a 3 year old – you won’t regret it!!