Do you take your little ones to any pre-school classes? There are lots of different ones to choose from and it can be hard to find out exactly what you're in store for, so hopefully that is where I can help. I've been visiting a couple of different classes over the last few weeks, and I'll be posting photographs and details about them, so it should help you to decide if any of the classes are right for your baby or toddler.
First up is Little Learners. I've followed the Little Learners's account on instagram for a while now, so I knew from their photos that messy play was a big part of their sessions. We had wanted to go along to their incredibly popular pre-school festival during the summer but unfortunately already had plans the day it was held, so it wasn't until Halloween that we got to accept their invitation to try them out.
The main thing which seems to set Little Learners apart from the other pre-school classes is their focus on 'mark making'. The classes have been designed by an early years teacher, to encourage children to practice 4 main shapes which are used in numbers and letters. Messy play is used as the backdrop, so as opposed to having your toddler writing lines and lines of text, they are simply practicing drawing a straight line in foam, or a zig zag in chocolate sauce or a swirl in multi-coloured rice. Loads of different colours and textures are used to try and meet the needs of all of the different types of learners. The idea is that if kids get used to these shapes, as they grow and learn they'll be able to put them together to make number and letters, basically that they'll learn to write through play.
Little Learners run regular weekly classes, as well as special parties for Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Summer. On the day of the party we arrived at the hall to find it full of children in fancy dress. Classes are suitable from 5 months to 5 years, so there was a mix of babies and older children. The regular classes usually have between 15 - 18 children, but the parties and events can hold a bigger capacity, and there were probably 25-30 kids at the party we were at. It did feel busy, but with the halloween themed music playing in the background and the chatter from the kids it was a good atmosphere for a party. The host told us how the session would work, what mark the kids focus on (it was Ziggy the monster mark, which is a zig zag) but that we'd start with a little dance whilst they judged who had the best costume, before moving on to the messy play.
We had dressed our two up as a pumpkin and a bat, and they were mega cute, clearly the competition was fixed as we didn't win it! Thankfully all of the kids were given a little treat anyway, so they couldn't care less, it was only us parents whose pride was dented. As soon as the fancy dress competition was over we stripped the kids off, and changed them into their scruffy clothes that we'd been advised to bring, and then the mess began. And wow what a mess it was.
There was a really good range of activities for the kids to take part in. All of the space in the big hall was taken up with different messy play stations, ranging from the not too messy, huge roll of paper where kids could colour in, scribble or make hand and foot prints with paint, to the incredibly messy, please don't make me pick up you up afterwards kind of messy in vats of chocolate sauce and spaghetti for the kids to sit in. Lots of it was halloween themed, like the pumpkins, spider's nests, bats and bobbing for apple stations. My toddler, never one to miss an opportunity to look like he's never fed at home, spent 10 minutes of the party just taking bites out of each apple in the bobbing tray. I must say that after the first station, I'd all but forgotten about the marks we were meant to be making so we were a bit more free-style with the play and just let the toddler and baby do what they wanted, but I think that in the smaller regular classes there is more interaction with the host and more of a focus on the learning aspect than there is at the parties.
During the party I chatted with Rachel the founder of Little Learners who gave me some more information about the regular classes. Each class starts with a 5-10 minute welcome where the character of the week is introduced, and the mark is made in different ways such as dancing with ribbons or parents tracing the marks on their children. The rest of the session is then spent exploring the various messy play activity stations, before finishing off with a tidy up and cool down which also incorporates that week's mark, such as massaging the shape of the mark onto little ones backs. Parents are given information about how to continue teaching the mark at home, and each child who is booked for a full 4 or 5 week term gets an online learning journey with photos & videos from the term showing their progress and development. The regular classes can be booked in blocks of 4 or 5, or there are some drop in places available.
We really enjoyed our party, it was great that the activities could be enjoyed so much by both my toddler and my baby, as usually places we go tend to be geared more towards my toddler, with my baby looking on. We'll be keeping our eye open for the Christmas parties being held near us.
What classes do you go to with your toddler or baby? Any that you'd like to recommend?
Disclosure Policy - We received a complimentary entry to the Little Learners Halloween Party in return for an honest review. Unsurprising all of the random blabber and chuntering on in this post is my own. See the about us section of this website for the full corporate speak disclosure policy.