Heuristic Play, Uncategorized

Treasure Baskets and your baby

I love watching and supporting babies exploring Treasure Baskets.  Seeing the delight in their faces as they explore textures, tastes and smells that are so very different to the plastic that so many toys are made off.   Treasure Baskets have always been a part of my BabyBeans classes since they began in 2007 and as Jellybeans Music enters it’s 13th year of classes, new baskets have been created over the summer just waiting to be explored and loved.

I first discovered Treasure Baskets during my training to be a Montessori Directress back in the 1990s and I fell in love with them immediately.  When I became a mum,  Treasure Baskets became part of our world and my three babies and I spent many, many happy hours sitting contentedly together while they emptied and explored the contents.

So what is a Treasure Basket?  Essentially it is a low, wicker, round basket crammed full of objects full of different textures, tastes and smells, that can be found all over the house and in nature. From pine cones to wooden spoons. Lemon squeezers to doorstops. Silk scarves to leather purses, these baskets are full of wonder and delight as they are emptied, loaded, explored and mouthed.

Why is this sort of play important?  Treasure Baskets allow babies to discover and learn things by exploring every day objects, not toys.   Have a look at the toys in your house.  The majority are probably brightly coloured plastic or wood and while they can stimulate some of the senses they are unlikely to create opportunities for babies to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.  When a baby is exploring a Treasure Basket, this play is described as Heuristic, quite simply the interaction between everyday objects and a baby/child.  The term Heuristic was coined by Elinor Goldschmeid in the 1980s  and this way of playing encourages eye hand coordination, fine motor skills, muscle control and creativity and imagination.

Interested?  Intrigued? Here’s how to build your own Treasure Basket just for your baby

Find a low flat container – your baby will be exploring this container and will tip it over so ideally something they can lean on safely.  Wicker is perfect due to it’s texture but a cardboard shoebox is also a great way to start

Have a look through your kitchen drawers and around your home. Everything you need is already there!  Wooden spoons, shiny metal ladles.  Wooden egg cups, wooden curtain rings.  Nail brushes, loofahs, shells, keys, pine cones.  The list is endless, use your imagination and don’t forget smells, lemons, limes, oranges.   Your baby will examine, squeeze, shake, mouth, drop, shake, rub items so remember to check for safety and cleanliness.

Pop them into the container, turn the TV or music off and show the box to your baby.  Sit quietly next to them but don’t interfere with their play.  Smile as they show you what they’ve found, name it but don’t take over.  This is their play and you are there to give them confidence and security.   If you watch closely, you’ll see when they’ve had enough and at that point take the basket away for another time.

So what are you waiting for?  Use your imagination and let your baby discover our amazing day to day world

 

 

 

 

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5 ways to make your maternity leave rock

Congratulations on the birth of your baby but now the flowers and cards are beginning to go floppy, how are you planning to spend the next few months?   Here are some ideas that might make this very special time even better as you get to know and fall in love with your baby

 Your baby is beautiful and you obviously want to remember as much as possible of their early months, but don’t forget to be in the picture yourself.  So, you might not like how you look at the moment but I promise, you will look back in years to come & not notice how your hair looked or the extra pounds you were carrying.  You’ll just see photos of you and your baby and you’ll focus on the love shining out of both your eyes, not your t shirt with baby sick on it.  And, while we’re on the subject of photos – not every single minute needs to be recorded, be present, build the memory from how it feels not just from behind a camera lens.

Don’t put pressure on yourself.   Some people slip back into their teeny tiny jeans immediately, always have perfect hair & make up and find time to not only tidy the house but cook organic food & probably arrange flowers as well.  Some people don’t and it really doesn’t matter either way.  Motherhood is not a race, it is not a competition.  Make the most of the time you have with your new baby to get to know them and fall in love with each other.

Take time to be ‘you’ not just ‘mummy’.   Yes, you are a mummy now and yes, you love your baby and want to make the most of every precious moment but you are also still you, so don’t neglect yourself.  If running makes you happy, once you’ve had your postnatal check with the Doctor, start gently running again.  If baking cakes makes you happy, bake cakes.  If you love reading, read books.

Get out and experience the world of Baby Swimming and Massage.  All three of my boys loved swimming from when they were just weeks old.  You can either join a baby swimming business or pop down to your local pool.  Just make sure the water is nice and warm.  Babies love being in water and it wears them out beautifully for a nice, long nap afterwards.  If the thought of being in a swimsuit brings you out in a sweat, what about learning Baby Massage and enjoy some very chilled time together.

And last but by no means leastcome to BabyBeans and soak up the music and laughter which will become the soundtrack of you and your baby’s early years.  From calming massage and lullabies perfect for sleeping, cosy bedtime, to giggly, bouncy lapsongs, we’ve got it all and lots more beside, you won’t believe how much we pack into 45 minutes.

And finally, if you don’t feel ‘you’, you don’t feel ‘in love’ with your baby, that is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about, you are not ‘failing’.  If you can, talk about your feelings with people you trust and make an appointment to see your doctor

 

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Stop singing Mummy, Daddy be quiet

Hands up everyone who has ever been told to stop singing along by your child?  Yep, it happens to each and everyone of us who have ever spontaneously dared to sing along with whatever your child is listening too.  It might be a film, it might be their beloved Jellybeans Music Wriggly Giggly CD, it might an advert, it doesn’t really matter to your child, you are interrupting them in a way they don’t like and aren’t happy about.  

But, they are not channelling their inner Simon Cowell, they are not trying to hurt your feelings – they aren’t really old enough to recognise that you will be upset or irritated, they are still primarily egocentric.

Remember how you cheered when your child took their first steps and became a walker?  Remember how you supported your child as they worked out how to deal with separation anxiety?  It’s time to support and cheer your way through yet another developmental stage, the emergence of Independence and trying to stop you doing something they don’t want is part of that.

So next time you are happily singing and you are told in no uncertain terms to ‘shush’, try not to feel too upset or offended – easier said than done I know, I wasn’t allowed to sing at home for years when my 3 boys were growing up.  As one decided it was ok, singing with mum was acceptable, the next one would hit this stage and it would be back to silence on my part again.

Instead why not try these strategies

  • When you are told to stop singing, ask them to join in with you.
  • Give them a choice to direct how you are going to sing together eg do you want to sing the first bit and I’ll sing the second?
  • Let them feel involved in the decision making – “Shall we sing fast or slow?”
  • If they really won’t let you sing, agree to stop for that track but make it clear you really love the next song and will be singing the next song

There appears to be no research indicating that if your child restricts access to music it means they are either not musical or indeed a musical genius.  It is all about independence and gaining control over their environment.   I wish you luck and remember like all early childhood stages, it will pass.  You won’t be banned from singing forever by your small child.  Before you know it, they’ll be a teenager and you will be banned all over again because you are tragically too old and uncool to sing along or the music will be so awful you really won’t want too!

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Loving the lullabies

Ever since time began we, as a species, have been rocking our little ones gently each and every night.  Indeed it is arrogant of us, as 21st Century parents to assume it is us who have ‘invented’ the lullaby.  Cast your mind back, what song did your parents or grandparents used to sing with you every night?  My mum always sang ‘Mockingbird’ to me whilst my Dad favoured a more, shall we shall, broadminded approach, his favourite rugby song!  <BLOG_BREAK>

A few years ago, I was involved in a research project which  involved me asking two very simple questions to everyone in my Jellybeans Music classes – do you sing a lullaby to your baby/child everynight and if yes, what is it?

Wonderfully the majority did sing a song (and read a book) and unsurprisingly Rutland and Lincolnshire Jellybeaner parents, like the majority of UK parents, favour Twinkle Twinkle.  Sometimes though, wouldn’t you like a change?  Nothing too radical obviously, I understand you really want your little one to relax, settle and sleep but why not sing Twinkle Twinkle then snuggle up, rock gently and listen to one of these beautiful lullabies from around the globe before you very gently lower them down ……..

1.  Shang Shang Typhoon – Moonboat

2.  Mike Whitla – Onawa’s Waltz

3. Veronique Le Berre – Bonne Nuit

4.  Mark Erelli – Lullaby 101

5.  Rosie Thomas – Tomorrow

I hope one of these makes your heart sing, your eyelids weary but if you are a Twinkle Twinkler for ever, why not use the tune and change the words?

‘Little one it’s time for bed.  

Time to rest your weary head.

Have a wash and change your nappy

Snuggle close and let’s be happy.

Little one it’s time for bed.  

Time to snuggle up with Ted

What’s your favourite lullaby?  I’d love to know.  Are you a traditionalist or are you a make it up as you go sort of lullaby person?

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Myth Busting – what doesn’t happen at Jellybeans!

I have no doubt that if you have taken the time to click through to read this that you are either already totally a fan of Jellybeans Music classes or you are more than a little curious about why grown ups willingly agree to sit on the floor (chairs are available if floor sitting is hard) and sing nursery rhymes tunelessly together with other adults whilst your baby either sleeps or your toddler explores their surroundings.  Go on, admit it, if you’ve never been to a music class, I bet you have lots of opinions about ‘what we do’, so, are you ready to go music class myth busting?

Music classes only sing songs which everyone knows so they’re not worth the money

Ok, maybe some music classes only sing songs which you already know but that is most certainly not the case in my Jellybeans Music classes.

Yes, hands up, we do sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ – the children would be so sad if we didn’t – but there currently another 156 songs in the repertoire that we sing, the majority of which are Jellybeans Music originals.  Yes, many may use melodies you are familiar with but hand on heart, I know that you will never ever have sung ‘Clap your hands to the music beat’ or ‘The Sneezing Song’ before as they were written and recorded just for my classes.   Did you know that we also use music from all over the globe?  From South America to Australia and everywhere in between.   We’ve even been known to indulge in a bit of punk and glam rock, bet you didn’t expect that.  Our music is feisty, it’s gutsy, it’s got attitude and style and plinky plonky sounds are just not Jellybeans

So that’s the music covered, singing songs is just the beginning of the magic of a Jellybeans Music class.  As an early years Montessori teacher, I make sure that every single activity we do has a solid basis in childhood development.  I spend a lot of time increasing my knowledge and keeping up to date with latest research, especially on infant brain development, so yes, for example, the children are chasing bubbles but they are also working on visual tracking, language development, breath control, emotional impulses, muscle coordination to name but a few as well.  All my classes support the Early Years Foundation Curriculum and prepare the child for school.  Bet Youtube doesn’t do that!

 

Music class leaders just switch on the Ipod and pretend to sing along while being extra smiley

Hmm, not me.  Yes, I smile a lot – I love leading my classes and when you’re singing all day long and moving around your body is constantly releasing the feel good endorphin serotonin, so yes, life feels pretty epic, it’s a physical truth.  Yes, I use an Ipod and yes, I do sing with it but I am a classically trained vocalist so pretty much always in tune and a lot of each class playlist that I create is either instrumental backing tracks or music to jam away with instruments to.  Yes, you’ll hear Kevin the male vocalist as well as Fiona and Rowena, but that’s essentially it.   I intentionally use those voices to relax people into singing at the beginning of each class then slowly but surely the backing vocalists disappear as the voices of the class both adult and child emerge.  Did you know that it is in early years that your child will discover their voice?  Their musicality?  They need to be able to hear their own voice and those of others around them which is why, yes, we do also sing totally unaccompanied and with just me playing either the guitar or ukulele.

 

I can’t sing and everyone will know and stare at me

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say enough times, that there are very few people in the world who can’t sing – and to be honest most that can’t think they can – but hand on heart no one is ever made to sing or expected to sing in class if they feel uncomfortable.  Most people in class will sing and will sing loudly, quietly, fast, slow, have a whale of a time and feel much better afterwards.  I always say you have the most beautiful voice as far as your child is concerned, it’s the voice they want to hear and the voice they are tuning into so give it a go when you are ready.  The rest of the class will all have insecure moments vocally but are so focused on themselves and their child, they’ll never be listening out for you

 

There are a few instruments that the children aimlessly hit and squabble over, some of which are grubby or broken

Let’s be clear here, I hate grubby instruments and spend time every single day of my working life checking for breakages, cleaning and sterilising.   Babies and children mouth everything so I intentionally only use high quality, expensive, tuned, percussion instruments which are incredibly sturdy.  There are no wooden instruments with splinters and paint chipping in my world.  There are over 200 instruments in the Jellybeans kit and BabyBeans have their own instruments (another 100) and it is very rare that children are unable to share – sometimes they need a little guidance – and Music Jam time is huge fun and very noisy.  We all play the instruments, we all drum, we all shake, we build towers, we roll rainmakers, we spin.  We play while absorbing the different rhythms that are guiding us and yes, at the end, the children tidy every single instrument away within 126 seconds.

 

My baby will either just sleep or cry all the way through

Yes, I won’t pretend, very small babies may well sleep through their very first few BabyBeans classes.  Equally babies have ‘off’ days just like us when it seems all they do is cry. But that really doesn’t matter. What is important is that you are out of the house, meeting people who are going through the same life experience and having time out of the ‘day to day’ slog of parenting.  By coming into class, you will be learning the songs you can use the rest of the week making playing with your baby, helping them to relax and sleep better using your new musical knowledge.  Before you know it, baby dancing and baby swinging will be essential tools in your parenting armour as will the download of songs and rhymes which accompanies every BabyBeans term.

 

My child won’t sit still unlike all the others’ so it will be embarrassing

In early years, how the child reacts and explores music is very physical, an almost unconscious response.  It is a time of intense physical development as well as social and emotional.

I chose all my halls with great care, thinking ‘how would a newly walking child try and escape, what can they climb’.  So, you can relax in the knowledge that my halls are pretty much like Fort Knox although you do need to keep a watchful eye obviously!   It really doesn’t bother me at all if they wander around the room, they are still listening to the sounds and rhythms, they are still taking part, they just want to be up and moving and I respect that.  There is a lot of movement within all the songs we sing, we jump, we roll, we wriggle, we clap, we fly to name but a few activities and it is my job to adapt any ‘plan’ to what is happening in the room so some weeks and worry about it, not yours

 

No one will talk to me – I’m not that sort of person

So who do you think goes to music classes?   I just know that in my classes everyone is welcome and valued.  Male, female, mums, dads, grannies, granddads, aunties, uncles, childminders, single parents, divorced parents, happily married parents, cohabiting parents, same sex parents, breastfeeding mums, bottle feeding mums, cloth nappy users, disposable nappy users, shall I go on?

Jellybeans Music classes are for everyone who wants to share time with their child having huge amounts of fun safe in the knowledge that they are supported in their parenting lives and the children developmental needs are being addressed and met.

 

I still don’t know if it’s right for me

Only one way to find out, book a trial class.  I don’t offer free trials at Jellybeans Music because I believe that what I do is worth every single penny.  I am a very experienced and trained professional musician and early years teacher.

But just so you know, Jellybeans Music classes cost £5 a class, payable in advance with discounts for siblings and no charge at all for under 1s if they are accompanying their big brother or sister into class.

So what are you waiting for?  It’s almost September, classes are filling rapidly, why not book today and find out for yourself whether Jellybeans Music classes are for you

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Who’s behind the camera?

Who takes the photos in your family?  Who is the one ‘capturing the moments’?  Who is the one saying ‘smile’?

If it’s like here, then it’s always me.  I’m sure Mr J does know how the camera on his phone works, but he never uses it (unless it is a direct order from me as in, mine’s run out of battery, photograph this now as happened at Charlie’s graduation!) which means I rarely turn up in photos.

When our boys were small, mobile phones didn’t have cameras, to be honest, mobiles were still large, brick like things.  Unbelievably when Charlie was born in 1995, digital cameras were not a ‘thing’ so in my hospital bag, I had a camera and 2 rolls of film which we then had to send away for processing.   I spent an absolute fortune photographing Charlie when he was a baby, but I turn up in maybe a handful of photos from those years although I was with him 24/7.   Likewise, when Sebasti was born, he was photographed a lot, especially with Charlie but me, I’m again a shadowy presence who pops up occasionally.   I do exist in the photographs of Tobias being born thanks to a very camera enthusiastic doctor who decided to thoroughly enjoy taking shots of my C section with our camera, but I don’t tend to have those out on display in the living room!

And now, cameras are everywhere, photography is easy, no more hauling around the huge camera, it’s the age of the selfie.  My dog is photographed incessantly by me, she has developed a ‘look’ now of ‘seriously, can’t we just get on with it’.

I was always embarrassed by my appearance when the boys were small, so I didn’t exactly want to be photographed with them.  They were (and still are to me) gorgeous individuals and I was (still am as they now tell me) the tubby, short, tired looking one with dodgy hair.  But I do regret that I’m not there in the photographs.  I know I laughed a lot with them.  We played a lot.  We sang a lot.  We baked, we painted, I loved their toddler years.  I wish I had photographs that I could look at of the days that we just sat on the settee for hours and hours reading books.  I almost wish, I said almost, that I have photographs of the tough days, the days I cried because it is so hard being a mum.

So, don’t be like the ‘old me’.  Be like the new me – boys and I have a daily selfie routine.  Yes, I look tired in 95% of the snaps, rarely am I wearing make- up.  These are certainly not staged and filtered pictures, but these are the reality images of our family lives, wearing pyjamas at 4pm because days have been busy, covered in soil from gardening, asleep on the settee, falling over in mud, hugging, laughing, crying even and I’m proud to be in every single one.

Ps Obviously 99% of the time I’m still the one behind the camera, old habits die hard, and the photos on the bookcase are of my boys, dog and husband but I’m trying, baby steps and all that

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Sing Love Me

Keen eyed readers may realise that this is not a new blog post – I used to blog regularly when my boys were young then stopped as they objected to being identifiable.  But, this was one of the most popular blog posts I ever wrote and to be honest it is as valid today as it was back in 2011 and when I thought about rewriting it, it felt a bit like reinventing the wheel

Jellybeans HQ has not been it’s usual noisy, happy place recently.  Our youngest son is poorly with earache.  He has been suffering since thursday when we went swimming and he got ‘water in his ear’.  We’ve been giving him the painkillers every two hours for what feels like years already and the nights have been awful for all of us – bringing back all those memories of having a small baby/toddler in the house who wouldn’t sleep and as he is now 8, these are not memories we like revisiting very much!  We’ve been to see the emergency Doctor but nothing is helping and every time he accidentally touches his ear, he demonstrates that he has inherited his mother’s ability to ‘belt it out’.

However, as I ran his bath last night, he crawled onto my lap and I instinctively gently began rocking him from side to side.  He smiled and snuggled in closer, then I heard the words, I haven’t heard for a long time, “sing love me mummy”.   I started singing ‘his’ song and I felt his whole body relax.

Singing to your baby and child is a natural, organic process, one which we, probably instinctively, remember from our own childhood.  There in no right or wrong way to do it.  As I always say in classes at Jellybeans Music, your baby/child thinks your voice is the most wonderful sound in the world because it is you, the person who loves them.  Here are some of my favourite ways I’ve used music at home with my boys from babyhood onwards.

  • Choose a song which will become your ‘special’ song to use in times of stress.  Whenever the boys were ill as babies or fell over, comforting or just felt sad, I sang ‘their’ song.  Having 3 children meant I had to think of 3 different songs but it was worth it as each child knew it was a special thing just between us.  It doesn’t have to be a lullaby but ideally should be gentle and soothing in feel and a song which you feel happy to croon in public if necessary.  It doesn’t even need to have words.  It can be soothing just hearing repetitive notes. Stuck for inspiration?  Why not experiment with ‘Daisy, Daisy’ or ‘Skinnamarink’ and take every opportunity to insert their name in to the lyrics .
  • Have you got a ‘Wake Up’ song?  When my eldest son was little, I always used to sing a song as I opened his curtains, giving him the auditory cue that the day had begun and continued it with the younger two.  I sang a song from the film ‘Singing in the Rain’ and changed the words.  Almost sixteen years later, I no longer open their curtains to wake them up but the song is still heard regularly in the house and is now sung by all of us.
  • Don’t forget tidying up music!  New comers to class are always amazed at how well the children tidy up as soon as they hear the tidying up music.  Unfortunately they rarely believe me that it is nothing to do with the actual music but it is the auditory cue that the children are responding to.  The children very quickly learn to associate the activity of tidying up with the music so rarely have to be told to tidy up.  This is an easy one to introduce into your home.  Choose a piece of music you like (you are going to be hearing it a lot!) and tell your child that when they hear the music you are going to tidy up together.  It will not work on the first attempt, it won’t work on the second, but within a week, the activity and music will be linked but you must be consistent on this one and tidy up as well!

As always I’d love to know your thoughts and would love to know your favourite soothing songs or tidying up songs.

ps  The words to our ‘Wake Up’ song are

Good morning, good morning.

You’ve slept the whole night through

Good morning, good morning to you”

pps  Jellybeans HQ tides up to the Kaiser Chiefs ‘I predict a riot’ which always works a treat in the morning to get shoes on ready for school!