Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gymboree Play & Music update

Little Bean and I finally attended our free introductory Play & Learn class and it was great. We are definitely becoming members. I'm not sure who had more fun out of the two of us. I had such a blast jumping around, dancing and singing. It's all good because a dozen other Mums were doing it too. Little Bean loves music and dancing so mat time was his favourite part. All the staff seem to really love kids and to love their job, which is the most important thing to me. They just oozed joy and enthusiasm, which rubbed off on the kids and had them feeling great too.

I would have loved to get some photos but I was so busy having fun, I forgot all about it. The equipment was set up completely differently to the last time we were there. The big inflatable tubes were set up as swings and as tunnels. They added a net that the kids could walk or climb up. There was a little gang plank for the kids to walk along or bounce on.

To see my previous post and photos from our first visit to Gymboree, go here.

Each class has a theme. Our theme was "Side by side". It was all about promoting co-operation and socialisation. Most activities were done in pairs or groups, and the kids were encouraged to wave to each other and say hi at each step of the activity. Little Bean amazed me by doing so many things that I didn't think possible for him. The main thing I learnt from the class was to stop underestimating Little Bean's abilities. He is so much more able than I ever gave him credit for.

In my previous post, I forgot to mention that Gymboree Play and Music has locations in 33 countries.

The Vietnamese locations can be viewed here.

In Australia, they only have locations in Queensland so far. See here.

International locations can be found here.

Sensory Tub - Rice & Animals

We tried our first sensory tub last week. I figured that since we live in Vietnam, why not use the local staple food and play with rice. Little Bean had a blast.

This activity packed nicely into a tub with a lid. Easy to pack away and bring out again as needed. Great for days when I want a ready-made activity at short notice.

 Little Bean had fun just unpacking the box and exploring the items. I included some small squeaky animal toys, a large baby spoon, a Vietnamese style soup spoon, a small plastic bowl, a cup, a jug and one of his stacking cups.

He watched as I hid the animals in the rice, then it was his job to find them. We did this a few times until he lost interest.

Then I pushed the cups and bowl into the rice so that they wouldn't fall over. I showed him how to pick up rice with his hand and sprinkle it into the cups, which he copied. Then I showed him how to scoop rice with the spoons into the cups and let him try it. Mostly, he just wanted to scoop it on to the floor. He also did some pouring from the cup into the tub.

This activity kept him amused for around 20 - 25 minutes. I learnt that if you do an activity like this, don't put pants with cuffs on your baby. If you didn't notice that the cuffs were full of rice, I imagine you'd get it everywhere. Luckily I noticed as we leaving the bathroom.

Doing this first sensory tub activity has strengthened my resolve to make a sensory tub table. I'll buy a cheap wooden table and cut a hole out of the middle that I can slot the tub into. It was a little hard on my back doing this activity on the floor and at times it was difficult for Little Bean to balance and maneuver around. I think it would be much easier for him to do whilst standing at a table. Then we'd also have the surrounding table top to use during the activity as well.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What we're doing this week

This post is a little late going up. We got Little Bean some beautiful new wooden toys last week. They are made by Win Win Toys, a Vietnamese company. I want to buy 90% of their toy catalogue.

This pull-along crocodile wriggles along with a caterpillar-like movement and makes a clacking noise. However, it doesn't work on the wooden floor in Little Bean's bedroom. The wheels can't get enough traction. It works on his playmat and on the carpet in my room though. He likes to just carry it around and chew on the string and bead.

Little Bean loves music so it was a no-brainer to start his musical instrument collection with this rainbow coloured xylophone. It was a fast favourite and he quickly learnt that it sounds cool when you run the stick across the keys instead of just hitting them.
I loved this ball-run toy and couldn't wait for him to want to play with it. After only showing him twice how to put the balls on the top ramp, he has it sussed and played happily for ages. He has since found alternative uses for the balls.

He has lost some interest in stacking his bowls and cups this week. Instead, he has been using them with the balls from his ball-run toy. He puts the balls in them, tips them from one bowl to another and covers the balls with them.

He's still loving his sensory balls. He's really gotten the hang of kicking the big red ball around now. I was also going to pack his inflatable roller toy away as he hasn't shown much interest in it for a week or so, when he suddenly started playing with it again. It has bell filled balls inside and he loves the sound. He's lays on top of it and rolls over it to the floor on the other side. He's also been kicking it around. Kicking really seems to be a big thing for him at the moment.

He's been wanting to carry his basket of wooden blocks around one-handed. It didn't work with the shallow basket and they kept spilling out. I got him a new deep basket with handles and he's been carrying them everywhere.

His discovery basket contents haven't changed. I realised that in the photo of it, there's a small round wire sieve I didn't mention last week. This was part of an old discovery basket that he found laying around and put in there himself. He loves the feel of the wire mesh.

I didn't change as many things this week as I originally planned. Instead, his natural curiosity found new ways to use old things. Next week, his sound sensory bottles will be taken out as he's currently showing minimal interest in them. I think I'll replace them with visual sensory bottles.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gymboree Play & Music

I've been searching for a playgroup for Little Bean, so I took him to Gymboree Play & Music in District 1 yesterday for a free trial class. We got stuck in bad traffic so we were too late to join the class though. However, this gave us plenty of time to talk to the staff about schedules, fees and the like. We did get to watch a Play & Learn class and a Music class in progress. There was a Free Play session after that, so Little Bean got to have a play anyway and he loved it. It's baby heaven. They've rescheduled our free class for Thursday, even though I was late, which was lovely of them. We can't wait.

Gymboree offers classes designed to aid the  physical and cognitive development of children aged 0-5 years old. They offer Play & Learn, Music and Art classes. For older kids, there are also Sports and School Skills classes.

Little Bean went straight for the various balls on offer and ignored the playground equipment for the first 10 minutes. The playground equipment is awesome. Little Bean might have been hesitant, but I was dying to check it all out. Everything is very high quality and surrounded by safety mats. There was such a wide range that I think there would be something to keep even the fussiest child amused.

Little Bean had fun going up and down the steps and he tried out the ramp. But he kept trying to get off the ramp by swinging his legs over the side. Not a good move when your feet aren't even close to touching the floor. The red climbing steps caught his interest but were a little beyond his ability yet.

He liked the ramp with the wooden knobs on it. It was a little tricky to navigate but he did really well.

These little cubbyhole boxes were great. He wasn't really into them until I put a ball inside a box for him to get. Then he cruised around in there quite happily. The boxes have interesting shaped holes cut out of the sides which he could look through and poke his arm out of.

I was very surprised when he crawled up the green foam wedge. I thought that it would be too steep but he made it look easy. Once he was on top of the boxes, that was where he stayed. There are cool pegs in the box walls that he could move through slots in the wood. There is also a steering wheel and that was his firm favourite.

Overall, I think Gymboree Play and Music is definitely a place we'll be returning to. The fees are on the high side as far as kid's activities go in Vietnam but considering the location and high quality, I'm happy to pay it. You pay a small membership fee and then purchase a class package deal. The bigger the package, the better the deal. For example, if you buy the 45 class package with 5 free classes, the class fees drops to around 320,000 VND (AU $15) and you get 20 Free Play sessions that you can share with friends.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Little Bean's Montessori inspired bedroom

Little Bean has been living in a half finished bedroom for the past year. We had just been too short on time and/or funds to complete it. I'm happy to say that we've finally finished it. Hooray! Here are some pictures of his new Montessori inspired room. It's not completely Montessori as we're short on space and I've had to incorporate his non-Montessori toys into the area as well. But, overall, I think I've followed as many of the Montessori principles as I was able to at this point in time.

The owl decals were put on the walls soon after he was born, before I researched Montessori,  and unfortunately, can't be removed without damaging the wall paint. I know that Montessori recommends that only a few high quality pieces of art be hung on the walls, so we commissioned this beautiful felt owl picture from FancyNancy ART. You can see her creations here. I can't hang it at his eye level yet as he just wants to pull it to bits.

FancyNancy is uber talented and will do a customised piece for you. I think she's been doing a lot of "Frozen" Ice Princess pictures lately.

I would have loved to have more natural wooden furniture in his room but practicality didn't allow for it. We found this lovely wooden cot for a great price and put in wood flooring, wooden steps and a wooden safety gate. We bought plastic drawers for storage as plastic items are super cheap here and it is much easier to keep plastic mould free in the super humid environment of a Vietnamese wet season. I've found that it can quickly build up on the backs of closets and large furniture that is against the walls, even if you leave a gap behind them. Definitely not a problem that I wanted to worry about in a baby's bedroom.

At the moment, Little Bean is still using a cot and mosquito net, both of which are heading out the door soon. We've just done a heap of "baby-proofing" in preparation for his big boy floor bed. We've moved all of the powerpoints to high on the walls, put in a safety gate and put safety latches on all the drawers. Since I can't keep him out of the nappy bin, I put a safety latch on that too, even though he can't reach it. In theory anyway. I'm sure he will find a way soon enough. I hope he gets over his fascination with bins soon. It's a bit gross at times. Like when he hands you something stinky out of someone else's bin and is all happy because he just gave you a present. 

 I love this bamboo rainbow mobile. It spins in the breeze from his fan. You can twist it or flatten it at will, so I'm going back to buy more of them to use in craft activities. I think they would look great wrapped around some baby formula tins that I could into drums and sorting toys.

We put this cute safety mirror in his cot. I found this gorgeous Taggies toy at Baby Bunting. It has a squeeker inside and has kept him amused on many a long car trip. Baby Bunting is shopping heaven for new Mums with the itch to buy cute things. That's me!

We put in a shelf under his window to store his Montessori activities and toys. We'll change these out regularly so he doesn't get bored. I couldn't seem to get a good shot of it. In the daytime, the sunlight was making the photo glarey, and at night, the photos were coming out too dark. I'm really going to have to study up on my camera if I'm to put lots of good photos in my blog posts.

Down on the floor, we've put a basket of wooden blocks and a discovery basket on a cute playmat. I'll be talking more about discovery baskets in the coming weeks. We're trying to teach him to keep messy toys like wooden blocks on the playmat. I'm looking for a good mat that we can use as a Montessori activity mat. As his room must accommodate both Montessori and play elements, I would like to separate the two by getting him used to using an activity mat as soon as possible. Two different mats, two different purposes.

He loves his nappy change mat. We mostly do nappy changes whilst standing now so it has become more of a play item. He loves dragging it around by the strap and flipping it over and over. He also like laying down on it for a little rest or to have a bottle.
I love this cute child-sized table and chair. I found them at a local baby store. They're made by Win Win Toys, a Vietnamese company. They make great wooden toys, many of which I'll be showing you in the coming weeks. Their toys are excellent quality at cheap prices. I LOVE THEM!!! In comparison to prices for wooden toys at Australian Montessori online stores, they're around half the cost, often less.
We plan to make a few additions in the near future. As I said earlier, we're getting Little Bean a floor bed. We'll be adding a self-care area with a mirror and a place to hang a couple of outfits. I thought about including a place for washing his hands and face here, but I'm worried about water on the wood vaneer floor. I think I might put that in the bathroom for now. Once he's mastered it, it may make it's way to his self-care area. We'll also hang some family photos on the wall. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What we're doing this week

Now that we've nearly finished Little Bean's bedroom, I've set up some Montessori inspired activities for him along the window ledge shelf. He's free to play with any of the activities at any time. He also has some toys on his play mat. You can see his Montessori inspired bedroom here.

He's going through a phase where he's obsessed with stacking things and putting things in and out of containers. With this in mind, I went shopping and bought some plastic bowls of various sizes that he can stack inside each other. I also got some baby food storage jars that stack on top on each other. He's loving them. He's also really got the hang of his Fisher Price stacking rings toy this week.

I put a mix of natural and coloured wooden blocks in a basket for him. He spends a lot of time just putting them in and out of the basket. He quickly got the hang of stacking the blocks, knocking them down and eagerly doing it all over again.

As a sensory activity, I made up six plastic bottles with contents that make a wide range of sounds when shaken. I used cut up drinking straws, rice, split mung beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and Little Bean's favourite, some small bells. He's been shaking up a storm. I'll make some visual sensory bottles next.
He also has some fabric books which include a range of fabrics, crinkly pages and squeekers. He loves his Noisy Little Blue Train book. He can press a button that makes train sound effects. We got his soft toy lion out of storage too. He lost interest in it so we packed it away for a while. The time away has made it interesting again. Like his fabric books, it features a range of different fabrics, crinkly plastic and squeekers, as well as some chew toys, which a teething Little Bean love right now.
On his play mat, we have a discovery basket that will usually be themed. This week it has some sensory toys: his lion, a rattle, a rubber sensory ball and a small soft velvet ball. He's teething at the moment so there's a teething toy. He loves playing peek-a-boo games using blankets, towels and clothing, so there is a muslin wrap in there too. He loves me flinging it up in the air and letting it land on him and cover him up. 

The plan is to change several, or perhaps all, of the toys and activities weekly, depending on his interest level and ability. I have some great sensory activities planned which I will share with you as they happen. I'm excited about starting some art projects with him soon.