Heads up Gateshead, there is a new pre-school class in town. The team from Piccolo Music have responded to popular demand and now offer classes on the other side of the river, and you can find them every Friday morning at the Winlaton Centre.
Have you been to a Piccolo Music class before? They are different to any other baby groups that I've been to. The class is based around music and movement, and I think the best way to describe it is professional. Professional but relaxed. Confused? Read on, surely I'll make some sense at some point wont I?
I used to go to Piccolo Music's classes in Heaton all of the time when I was on maternity with my toddler. But as we went to baby sensory and massage over that way too, it felt like I was forever trekking to Heaton or Gosforth. Since then I've noticed quite a few more baby classes and groups are basing themselves in Gateshead, which is great news for people like me who live that way on. So I was really pleased when Piccolo asked if we'd like to come along and try their classes at the Winlaton Centre. I hadn't been sure if I was going to be able to make the class myself, or leave it in Mr Sprog's capable, but generally very full with baby and toddler paraphernalia, hands, so I asked fellow blogger Kerry from An Honest Pregnancy...and Beyond to try it out too.
Kerry is a first time mum to gorgeous baby Annabelle, who is 7 months old. Like a lot of first time mums Kerry has got a jam packed baby schedule of swimming classes and rhymetimes so whilst this was her first visit to Piccolos she knows her baby groups. This is what she thought.
"Forget any other baby singing class you've been to, these women are true pros! I'm talking the full works: harmonies, instruments, original songs and a little dancing thrown in for good measure. This was my first time at a Piccolo class, and I was greeted with a smile, a relaxed atmosphere and a cup of tea- that I actually managed to finish! They mixed classic nursery rhymes alongside their own catchy songs, and although I had to do that awkward mumbling thing when you don't know the words, I cottoned on after a few choruses. Annabelle loved the interaction, tickling and of course Piccolo the penguin! At £5 per lesson, it's a bit pricey, but these guys are award winning, and if you introduce a friend you get your second class free. Well worth a visit!" Kerry from An Honest Pregnancy...and Beyond
As it turned out I did manage to squeeze a visit in to Piccolos myself and I was reminded of all the reasons why I'd loved these classes first time around. The classes are sociable. They are on a bigger scale to most baby groups, and as you can see from the first picture there can be lots of children there. They are held in big halls though so there is plenty of space to park buggies, places to sit and for the kids to run around. All of the classes are drop in - hurrah. There is no need to sign yourself up for a term, only for your baby to decide that the only time they want to nap is right in the middle of your expensive pre-paid for classes. Or if you are planning on going, but get sidetracked with a poorly toddler you don't need to begrudge the fact that you're losing any money. I much prefer drop in classes, but they seem a bit of a rarity in the baby class world.
Piccolos have two types of classes, Piccolo chicks is primarily for babies up to walking age, and Piccolo Waddlers is for toddlers and their baby siblings. Kerry went along to the chicks class, and we went to the waddlers. Both classes have got a nice relaxing start, with a cup of tea that you don't even need to make it yourself - bliss. There is a bit of socialising time built into the start of the class, time for you to catch your breath, let the kids go off an explore and a real plus for me - it means you don't need to worry too much if you are running late.
After enjoying the rarity of drinking a cuppa whilst it's actually still hot, it was time for the music to start. The class is lead by the three brilliant singers and musicians from Piccolos. During this class they accompanied their singing with a guitar, but when I've been there in the past they've had other instruments too. I want to say maybe a flute? But don't hold me to that.
It makes sense, but the music is what sets them apart from most other groups. You won't catch these three sticking on a CD and leaving the singing to you. The trio are so professional, they are mega upbeat throughout the whole session and the music is loud enough that you don't have to feel embarrassed singing along. I got properly into one song with some harmonies, and started imagining myself joining some 'Glee like local choir, completely forgetting for a couple of minutes that I have zero musical ability.
Most of the songs they sing are their own, rather than the typical nursery rhymes that you'll hear most places. Whilst it does mean, like Kerry pointed out, that you dont know the words at the start, they are all very catchy so you can pick them up quickly. You can also buy CDs of their music to play at home or in the car. We were listening to our CD over the weekend, and now, as I write this post I'm humming along to one of their songs.
All of the songs have actions, so there is a lot of movement incorporated into the class. I was knackered after the session we went to. Lots of songs involved parents sitting the babies or toddlers on our knees, tickling or doing specific actions with them. Don't worry, if like I often am, you're outnumbered by kids. The singers were helping any parents with more than one child by running through the actions with one of their little ones.
Our class involved clapping, stomping, running, singing loudly, singing quietly, singing quickly and slowly. It's been a while since I was at a group like this with my little boy, and it was really interesting to see how much he's come on in the last couple of months. One of the songs gave instructions to do actions, then stop and stand still. It was very cute to watch him listening and trying to follow along. They learn so much at this age, than even in just a couple of months, there was a real difference in his understanding.
As well as all of the dancing and singing, about half way through the class out came the instruments, which both of my two loved playing with. The class finished off with a bit of a lullaby and all a cuddle with mum or dad.
It was a really lovely class. I feel like I get something out of this class as a parent because the musicians are really good (and of course that all important cup of tea). So to me it's more appealing than some of the more traditional kids groups. My baby and toddler both had a ball to.
I'm so pleased that Gateshead is starting to get more classes, and Piccolos is one of the best out there. If you haven't tried it yet, but fancy it, then they have a 'bring a friend for free' offer on at the moment, where you'll get your second class for free if you bring someone else along to try it too. Because of that socialising time at the start it's a great class to try with a friend, or if you're looking to meet other mums in the area as unlike some other full on groups there is time for a quick chat at the start.
All of the details about their classes are available their website which can be accessed here: Piccolo Music
Whilst this post has been about the Gateshead classe, they also offer weekly classes in Heaton, North Shields and Whitley Bay.
Disclosure Policy - We received a complimentary class with Piccolo Music 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.