So the initial reason why I set up this blog was to share my thoughts and experiences of being a dad, and hope to inspire parents (mainly dads) to see and do new things with their child(ren).
(The other was so I would have something to show Heidi when she was older about all our adventures)
They say that the hardest part of a journey is the first step and that is certainly true when it comes to being a parent and for me, my first step was signing up to Rhythm Time classes.
Back in the spring and summer of 2014, my Saturday mornings consisted of taking a then 1 year old Heidi down to the park in her pushchair, walking round the park and then pushing her back up the hill, which felt like a mountain, while she slept! There was nothing particularly wrong with that in the nice summer mornings but we needed more. We needed to socialise, we needed to see other people (big and little!)
Working Monday to Friday meant that this was surprisingly difficult and we struggled to find something. It was only when we went to the Best Start Parent/Child Exhibition when we struck gold! I have written about the event here; but in all the leaflets, we came across Rhythm Time and saw that they did a Saturday class in Cleckheaton and so I wrote an email asking for details – very, very soon after, an email came back and we were booked onto our free trial!
At this point Heidi was 16 months old and had just started walking in a straight line and in the class there were about 14 other children, all of whom seemed older, more developed and knew what they were doing! How would we cope?! Heidi was still on a bottle and these other children were playing musical instruments and everything! Being a single dad in this situation, I reverted back to the best backup plan – I brought my mum along! Entering a new environment is stressful enough for adults, let alone children and so I felt no shame in bringing backup and it was a brilliant decision! It just made things a bit easier and more relaxed for all of us.
After the first class, we were hooked! For the rest of the weekend, we were singing the songs we had in class (or at least trying to remember the words and tunes!) and as soon as I hit work on Monday, I would be looking forward to Saturday morning again. It gave us both something to look forward to and let us interact with others.
As Heidi didn’t go to nursery (and still doesn’t) she would potentially go all week with seeing a child her age but the classes have really brought her along socially as well as her confidence. The classes are really good in terms of sharing, tidying up and those kinds of things, but one reason why Heidi has developed so much is because of what happens before and after the class…
As the venue is set up in good time, it enables the children is play in the open space before class. It sounds really simple, but at another class we go to, the teacher doesn’t arrive until 5 minutes before the start and so there is no time for social interaction and for the little ones to burn off some energy before class. Also, if they see that the teacher has taken the effort to set up and prepare, the children take it more seriously and get more out of it. Some of my best memories have been before the actual class watching the children have free play, while talking to other parents.
In fact, talking to other parents has been one of the best things about joining the class. Yes, breaking the ice is difficult but children are a great conversation starter – after all, you have something in common straight away! I have learnt so much from others about things that are happening, things to avoid, how potty training is going etc etc and that support is invaluable. There is a brilliant guide to “surviving” these classes, which is written from a dad’s point of view, but it applies to everyone I think (Survival Guide for Dads) In fact, at the Saturday class, there is an even mix of mums and dads, which is really, really good to see and means any dads don’t feel out of place!
I realise that I have not actually mentioned the class yet, but generally it is 30 minutes of songs, music and dancing/movement. We get a CD at the start of the term, which is a lifesaver on car journeys and generally most of the songs on there are used in class. We took the approach of “you get out of it, what you put in” and so we went through the CD time and time again so the songs were familiar. This also meant that we could spend the time in class enjoying the activities, rather than not knowing the words/songs! The CD is quite good quality although I am not sure I would have it on in the car by myself!
Every class is similar but different. The “hello” song is the same for the term, but generally a couple of the activities will be the same as the previous week, but some will change as you work your way through the lesson plan (yes, it is THAT organised!) No two classes feel the same and the time flies! Oh, and the singing is actually singing from the teacher in the main and not just taped! (However, parents are not expected to sing!)
The general theme of the classes is encouragement. There is no wrong way of doing things and there is no pressure. If the child doesn’t want to copy a rhythm pattern into the microphone, it doesn’t matter. If the child wants to look out of the window, it doesn’t matter. At the beginning, I was too stressed out that Heidi was going to be run over by an older child or cause a disruption, but I have relaxed a bit and if she wants to play with her friends away from the group, that is fine as there is no pressure.
As time has moved on and Heidi is one of the oldest in the class, she has developed the confidence to do most of the activities by herself, at the front of the class, which is fun to see. However, she will always come running back with a huge grin on her face after doing her rhythm pattern or finding Arabella, which is a beautiful sight.
One thing that I had better say is that it does require some commitment. As you sign up for a term, it is obviously in your interest to make as many as possible, but also it helps the development of the child. Although you can swap classes (if there are spaces) we have never missed one, partly due to good health (!) but because it gives us a reason to get up on a Saturday morning after spending the week at work!
For more information, Facebook “Rhythm Time Bradford and Calderdale” or email email@example.com (you’ll be sure to get a response in super quick time!)