I was pretty excited with our plans yesterday with Jada, our 16-month old baby. A full 16 months of breastfeeding and staying home with a mom who works from home is enough to make her very attached to me that she even rejects her daddy most of the time... don't even ask me about her acceptance to strangers or even relatives... not even atuk or nenek can get close to her for more than 20 seconds without her pushing them away!
In view of this, and the fact that she has gotten very demanding to the point of a need for constant attention when mommy's in the middle of work, I decided it is time for Jada to socialise with other children her age, that she needs to be independent (to at least play on her own while mommy works nearby) and the need to understand that mommy cannot always meet her demands. Thus, we've started to look at several nearby nurseries where I intend to send her to at least for 2-3 hours a day during the initial stage, eventually leading to a half-day of play/development session every day. That would really help her gain some self-confidence and the ability to understand that mommy wants her to learn some independence.
Since I don't think a nursery could accommodate such a demanding baby, I thought of enrolling her to some play/music courses for babies to start her off slowly rather than do something too drastic. As her mom, I know her too well... that she'd do something at her own free will and not when she's forced... she has always been that way since the day she was to be born.
So, last Thursday we went over to Tropicana City Mall nearby where we live, and headed over to Gymboree. Jeanette, the administrator, was very helpful in answering all my concerns and queries, and even allowed Jada into the play area just to test her out. Jeanette was really good with Jada although the little one truly didn't welcome whatever stuff Jeanette was doing. I liked the atmosphere and Jeanette's warm demeanor was truly commendable. We instantly booked a trial class on Sunday (that's yesterday). Although I initially planned to put Jada on muzikgarten, I accepted Jeanette's advise to put Jada on a play course first, for her to face her fears in meeting strangers and let her explore new territories safely.
A day before yesterday, I googled up some reviews on Gymboree (which were written some 2 years ago) and found a couple of negative remarks. I took note of them but didn't want to consider them that seriously. However, I was a little worried and shared it with Mr Hubby but we decided to experience it before deciding on anything.
So, in we went again yesterday and after 5 minutes or so, we realised that the reviews I read were true albeit them being written years back. Over time, we also realised that the programme wasn’t suitable at all for Jada especially since she has not been exposed to such rigorous activities before. Apart from that, there are other points which contributed to some few concerns that we weren’t entirely happy about.
The main issue perhaps was the lack of time for one particular activity for a beginner like Jada to familiarise herself and be assured that the activities are actually fun. Those other toddlers in that play group were all boys with the youngest being 20 months old. At 16 months old, Jada was an early entrant to the group. No single effort to make her feel welcomed by the facilitator was also a contributing factor to Jada not warming up to any of the activities – the kids were made to climb the slide, walk on a narrow wooden plank that’s unstable and asked to participate in grabbing colourful hand-pieces and place them into a basket.
As the time for each activity was so limited, even before Jada could finish walking along the wooden plank, she was supposed to already move on to slide down. But how can we make her enjoy the activity when she started to cry at the wooden plank and every other kids already moved on elsewhere? There weren’t anyone who’d encourage Jada to finish her task, and the facilitator didn’t communicate to the children or parents on a personal level. In the end, our objective to have her explore on her own was thwarted as she reverted back to her introvert self and grabbed for my boobies for comfort.
Don’t get us wrong… we weren’t spoiling her at all. We wanted her to enjoy the lessons and so we would take her in when she needs the assurance as we want her to feel that we are not pushing her to do what she doesn’t want to do. So, as soon as she calmed down, we encouraged her to move on to other activities – which the kids were already climbing stacks of colourful steps and jumping down towards a plush orange material. I tried sitting on the orange thing and she seemed to be interested with the cushiony substance but as soon as we took her to the steps and made her jump, the heavy bout of crying and screaming started again.
Then, everyone converged into a small circle where the facilitator blew bubbles, clapped and sang for the next 10 minutes. Jada just watched everyone reach for the bubbles and burst them but was probably very cautious to mix in. However, when everyone started singing and clapping, she began to warm up and participated in the activities. At the end of that last session, she happily got into this parachute-like material while daddies and mommies pull the colourful material in circles.
it was a total turn off when the facilitator pronounced Jada's name, "JA-EY-DAA"
When we saw how happy she was, we decided to put her onto the slide again just to see whether we've kinda warmed up her engines. We were wrong into thinking that she would because again, she started to scream.
Jeanette saw that and tried to soothe her but I guess it was a little too late. Jeanette even blamed us parents for allowing her to cling on to us when she cried, which I truly detested because I know how many times I reminded Mr Hubby to not pick Jada up, and to let her discover her abilities. However, this was her first time and it seemed unfair for us to just let her cry out loud without giving her any assurance.
Therefore, I had to tell Jeanette that the lesson may not be suitable for Jada. Jeanette didn’t even bother to ask about my concerns and suggested that I come back for their music class next Sunday since I mentioned that I'd like to enrol her into a music class.
My take on Gymboree Play programme for Level 4 (from 16 to 22 months):1. Each section (the play, the clean-up, the strength training and touch & singing) is too short especially for a baby who’s never done this before. No amount of assurance can soothe her since that task is given to her parents and not the facilitator. For me, it defeats the purpose of wanting her to mix around with other kids when all she wanted to do was to cling onto me.2. Two-thirds of the session seemed too rigorous for a beginner like Jada. For a baby who’s hardly done any jumping and even so afraid to step down our split-level kitchen though it’s only an inch difference, I expected something milder for a start. Maybe they should have one beginner session just to allow her to familiarise herself to the surrounding and have more time to focus on what she was supposed to do rather than simply following what everyone else had to do.3. At the end of the session, we were a little surprised to note that the supposedly 45-minute course ended much sooner than that… probably it lasted only a good ½ hour. Thus, we were quite disappointed.4. It would be better if the facilitator in charge would introduce herself and have personal contact with each toddler. And much better if a little bit more special attention is given to a new entrant like Jada, at least for the first two sessions. Having her parents constantly at her beck and call doesn’t help her learn anything quicker.5. If you’re looking for interaction among kids, then this programme is also not suitable for your child since that doesn’t occur at all and even parents themselves do not mingle with each other. The only parents we talked to was a little apprehensive to answer our question on the age of their cute boy. So, if that didn't make you comfortable, how do you think your baby would feel?6. As much as Jeanette seemed to understand kids quite well, you must not just take her advise for an expert. I have always believed that as parents, you would understand your children’s needs best. So, do not commit too soon and go for trial classes in other early development centres to see which one fits your toddler’s needs best.
Next up, I guess we would be checking out other centres. Seeing how well she responded to the short musical session, I am starting to trust my initial instinct to have her warm up to a music programme. Muzikgarten, perhaps?