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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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!

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How your child learns

‘Is there any point to coming to a music class?’

Does this sound familiar?

Is there any point coming as my child just won’t sit still?

or

Is there any point continuing as my child doesn’t join in, just stares at you?

Yep, I get asked this so often and my answer never, ever changes, it will always be a big, loud YES because how your child responds to class depends on how they learn.  Broadly speaking there are three main learning styles visual, kinesthetic or auditory but do you know which learning style your child mainly adopts?  And what about yourself?

Let’s start with the big balls of energy, the Kinesthetic learners.  They are the ones who are whirling, bouncing, toddling around the room, exploring the corners, the plug sockets.  They love being lifted, dipped, spun, swirled but may will resist loudly being brought back to a lap.  These jellybeans are not being disruptive or rowdy.   They are not ignoring what is going on.  They simply learn best when they use their entire bodies so as long as they are safe, let them experience the music physically and try to resist the urge to get them to ‘sit down and pay attention’.

Hands up who has a child who sits and watches everything very intently?  A child who will stare at either your mouth or mine while we are singing?  This child is not choosing not to ‘participate’ or is ‘unsocial’.  This child learns best when they visually focus intently on what is going on in the class.   To help them really maximise their learning, these are the children who appreciate big exaggerated facial actions when you sing and will watch your body move to the beat, so stamp, clap, tap purposefully.  Please try not to interrupt them when they are focused by trying to get them to drum with you or sing with you.  I have no doubt that the minute they leave the room all through the week, they sing, they move, they re-enact what they have experienced at home.

And last but by no means least, the auditory learners.   This child will be singing both in class and at home, although they may well be telling you not to sing along with a CD so they don’t have to cope with two different auditory sources.  These are the children who may avoid direct eye contact preferring to gaze away or be unfocused but they are not necessarily shy, they simply learn most effectively by focusing on what they can hear.    I know it is hard but as long as they are safe, let them be and try not to interrupt their focus.   These are the children who will be loving pauses in music play eg shake and stop and at home they will love simply clapping and tapping out a beat with you and ear whispering games.

But as with everything, we are more than just one thing; we are not mono sensory so please don’t focus too much on just supporting your child’s primary learning style.  In the same way that your child needs a balanced nutritional diet, they need a balanced sensory diet and that is easy, peasy – all our classes are naturally full of multi sensory learning opportunities giving you both kinesthetic, auditory and visual stimulation and support, so you both get a full brain/body experience with music every single class.

 

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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?