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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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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Why adults love ‘their’ Jellybeans time too

One of my favourite things about being Chief bean (apart from the obvious, I get to hold the jellybean!) is seeing the happiness and enjoyment on the adults faces as well as the babies and children.  It’s very important to me that you enjoy yourself in class which is why as a business, I take such great care with my music choices and aim to always have a relaxed, friendly class style.  These classes build communities, tribes, clans, call it what you will, of people with shared experiences and that is a wonderful thing.  Over the last 10 years, I have watched so many friendships start and blossom in class and in this ever changing world,  it is now possibly never been more important to connect in the ‘real’ world.

Parenting is hard work, isn’t it?  Whether you are a new parent with a baby that doesn’t sleep much or a ‘been there, wearing the covered in food t shirt’ parent of a 4 year old, (and all the variations in between), there are days when you crave human contact with someone who isn’t totally dependent on you.  Days when you just want to talk to someone who can say something other than ‘peppa’ or ‘no’.  Days when you want someone to say ‘are you ok?’   It’s for those days (as well as the great days when your offspring are perfect) that my Jellybeans Music classes are there for you.  You can rely on not just me but the class to be there to support you whether that is a sympathetic hug (if you’re a huggy type of person) or smile of acknowledgement if you are having a hard day or the highest of high fives in celebration of happy news!  We’ve all experienced the highs and lows of parenting.  We all have a story about the huge poo that went everywhere.  We all know what it is like to love and adore a tiny person so much but to feel a bit scared at being in charge.   It is those common experiences (as much as being told by a bossy Chief bean to get up and wriggle – I get embarrassed too sometimes) that bonds the jellybeans tribe together when you first meet and afterward it is having been together singing and having fun which you remember when you meet up in the supermarket all those years later – yes, I hate to tell you, but most of you will still be able to sing the Jellybeans song ten years from now as a certain duo who will remain nameless demonstrated in Stamford Waitrose only last week!

I like to think our Jellybeans Music classes are little break from life.  In class, it is all about you and your child having fun together, enjoying each other’s company.  I work hard to eliminate ‘flash’ points from the child’s experiences ie sharing issues – ever wondered why there are so many instruments? – so you will get time with your child enjoying themselves and you know you can trust me to always step up to the mark if you want parenting back up.  Class is a time where you are not balancing you, your child and the million other things that need doing.  It is not unusual to see adults suddenly either physically slump for a bit as they relax into class or suddenly brighten as the cares of the days slip away for a while and it is a rare day when everyone doesn’t leave with a smile on their faces.  Class is also a chance to escape from the ever pinging notifications on a phone and as all my classes are happy, fun places, it is easy to feel the happy vibe and get swept along.

But, I hear you all cry, you discourage us from talking to each other during class!   Yes, I do ask adults not to chat when we are singing or listening but music jam is not just about exploring instruments or playing with your child,  it’s designed to be a social time for everyone, a time for us adults to support each other, laugh together and make friends – after all, circle dancing or maraca shaking are great conversation ice breakers!

And finally, please don’t underestimate the skill that you will learn in class to sing your way through just about any parenting ‘thing’ you can imagine!   Just as important, if not more important, than the ability to create a dressing up outfit out of nothing, being able to spontaneously sing a song created just for them, all about them, will make you a super hero in their eyes.   What do I mean?  Remember the Lazy baby song?  Instead of ‘what shall I do with my lazy baby, throw you on the bed & tickle you’ try swopping it up to become ‘What shall I do with my smelly baby.  Throw you on the mat & change your nappy’  always remembering the golden rule to use their name if at all possible rather than the word baby!   Mashing up lyrics is one of my favourite music games and I love hearing the variations jellybeans adults have come up with – shake & stop becoming brush & stop to make teeth cleaning easier being a particular favourite so I’d love to know what you’ve invented.

So what do you think?  Have I covered why you love ‘ your jellybeans’ class?  I’d love to know so please do leave a comment.

ps Deep down would you really just like the chance to hold a cuddly bean and get a sticker?!  If so, just ask!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Jellybeans Music met Harry & Meghan

The week has finally arrived when the nation will assemble on their settees by 9am on Saturday 19th May, probably still bleary eyed and in our pyjamas to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and I am very much looking forward to it – it’s been a long winter, they are in love and it will be beautiful to watch.  But, and this is the but, and it’s a big one,  how do you translate a Royal Wedding into the world of the Jellybeans Music early years music classes and is it even appropriate to do so?

When William married Katherine in 2011, we celebrated the marriage in classes and shops and towns throughout the land were full of red, white and blue wonderfulness.  Even very small children were aware of flags fluttering everywhere.  They were desperate to hold and learn how to wave flags and the majority wore red, white and blue clothes a lot!  Shops were festooned with the memorabilia of the happy couple and the nation was on tenterhooks of excitement.   This time around, although we all wish them a lifetime of happiness, and I really do (especially after having been smiled at by Prince Harry in Grantham A&E once) it would seem the nation is far more relaxed about the event – the shops are not full of their faces, the flags are not flying down the streets and I haven’t heard of a single street party, which begs the question, if I decide to ‘theme’ a week of classes around a wedding, what if anything will that mean to the children and surely the whole point of the classes is to support their developmental needs?

So, here’s the deal.  It’s a huge ‘yes’ from me to the Union Jack, red, white & blue parachute for listening time where we’ll be listening to the traditional nursery rhyme ‘Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, where have you been’.   It’s an even bigger ‘yes’ from me to flag waving – thinking fast/slow tempos, gross motor skills, impulse control skills and we can extend the use into peek a boo time.  It’s even a possible ‘yes’ from me to heart shaped balloons on the lycra as the week goes on and wedding fever builds but this is a wedding where singing about the 5 corgis on the bed, or the wheels on the royal carriage going round and round, just doesn’t feel right if I’m creating a class thinking like a toddler.

What do you think?  Are you sad we won’t be singing about the corgis and twirling princesses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bubbles, Bubbles

It is no secret at Jellybeans Music that I love bubbles probably as much as babies and toddlers.  I love watching the tiny babies focus on the bubbles swirling above their heads.  I never tire of toddlers trying to catch and blow them and hearing early talkers say the word ‘ubble, ubble’ as soon as they see me, still gives me goosebumps.  But did you know that I use bubbles not just because I love them but because they are a fanastic early years development tool?

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As soon as the bubbles come out, I always start talking about how blowing bubbles can help to build mouth & jaw muscle tone and support breath control, all essential for speech development but did you know that bubbles also support mathematical developmental? It’s not rocket science but if you encourage your child to count the bubbles with you, you are helping them learn to apply the number labels to actuals.  Discuss what shape the bubbles are – again, words like circle, round are introduced in a ‘real’ way!

Watching the bubbles float and fly around the room is a real workout for your child’s eyes.  Very small babies will be learning to use both eyes simultaneously to focus upon the bubbles, whilst slightly older babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers will be reaching up strengthening motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination as they reach for and try to pop the bubbles.  One of my boys really didn’t enjoy messy play – not for him playing with spaghetti and baked beans but he really enjoy the ‘feel’ of bubbles and I think bubbles encouraged him to try new tactile sensations.

Finally, don’t forget it can be very relaxing just watching bubbles floating slowly down to the ground, so even the quietest child can enjoy a cuddle watching them.

But, bubbles are not just for Jellybeans – don’t forget to enjoy them at home together.  Why not try blowing bubbles over your baby/child while they are in the bath?  The bubbles will float and land both on the water (bubbles pop on dry surfaces!) and your child, giving a fun, visual, sensory experience.  Or, if you have a play tunnel, why not blow bubbles through the tunnel?  This will encourage your child to crawl through the tunnel and help to develop their sense of spatial awareness.

Take your bubbles outside and watch how high they fly!  Add a couple of drops of food colouring for extra pretty bubbles and try catching these coloured bubbles on paper!  I could go on and on, but perhaps the best tip of all, is to always have a small pot of bubbles in your handbag for those days when your small one is just restless and you have lots and lots to do.

Bubbles, bubbles fly around.

Bubbles, bubbles touch the ground.

Bubbles landing on my nose.

Bubbles landing on my toes.

Bubbles, bubbles fly around, bubbles, bubbles touch the ground