Mini Princesses – Rainbow Factory

** This class is not being run by the Rainbow Factory at the moment **

Any regular readers of the blog will realise that we are HUGE Rainbow Factory supporters and we have been slowly working our way through the “We Are Mini” classes. To read about Mini Heroes follow this link and to read about Mini Einsteins (as at May 2017, no longer running) follow this link.

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The aim of the Mini Princesses classes is to teach the children about how to understand their emotions, use their imagination and generally be better people but being kind and courteous. Just think of it as classes to make them better people both to themselves and others.

While it is called Mini Princesses, in reality, there is nothing gender specific about it and while I have not seen a boy in the class, there is absolutely no reason why boys wouldn’t get as much out of the classes as girls.

So the class is a mixture of movement/dancing, games, crafts and the famous Rainbow Factory story thrown in for good measure. As the class is only an hour long, as you can imagine, the tempo is fast paced and as such, the children are not kept around waiting or stuck doing the same activity.

The classes are probably suited for those between the age of 3 and 8 – Heidi is 3 and for one of the bigger classes, it was good to see her being stretched and challenged by some of the tasks which were aimed at the older children. Any younger than 3 (or nearly 3) and I feel as though they are not going to have the concentration or perhaps the ability to understand the concepts being delivered. Because it is aimed at slightly older children, this is perhaps the first class which I have watched from the side rather than take part – a very strange feeling indeed!!

A little word about the Fairy Godmother, Emma. As with all of the Rainbow Factory staff, she is  always eager to talk to all the children, particularly at their height level, with so much enthusiasm and always with a smile. As I have said previously, while the classes at the Rainbow Factory are good, it is the staff that make them great.

You may ask why are there no photos – well, the classes are quite intimate and I felt that taking any would spoil that. Besides, if I took any at the last class, they would just be a blur because Heidi was constantly moving because she was so excited about the class!


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Mini Einsteins

** This class isn’t being run by the Rainbow Factory at the moment **

We have been “Mini Einstein-ers” from the beginning and as the “We are Mini” brand has been launched, I thought that it would be a good idea to do a bit of a refresh of the class. If you want to read a somewhat “serious” experience of our first Mini Einsteins class, you are probably best reading this post (Mini Einsteins – Rainbow Factory)

However, in a vain attempt to be creative, I thought that I would go all poetic and write about our story so far..

We started in June
going to our favourite science class
We learnt about solids, liquids
and even some gas

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Homemade lava lamp with Alka Seltzer

At first there was just us two,
and a helper with Professor Ellen
We learnt about vegetables, plants
and fruits such as melon

As the group grew,
so did our knowledge
Some of the topics took me
straight back to college

We learnt some long words,
we learnt to predict
We knew that the lesson plans
had been professionally picked

They learnt why things went up
and why things went down
They learnt what would float
and then what would drown

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Taking Mini Einsteins knowledge into nursery

The classes were different
in fact they are unique
I think I’m turning Heidi
into a big science geek!

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Using cabbage juice at home to work out the acidity of items

We have used household items
to blow up balloons
We have used vibrations
to play nifty tunes

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Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda

We have tested our senses,
our taste, hearing and sight
The children were blindfolded
to see if they could still write

Joining the class was one of
the best things we’ve done
So why don’t you come along
and join in the fun!

While the post is slightly “jokey” – the class is seriously, seriously good, especially if you are wanting to challenge your child a bit and get them interested in science and generally learning. On the back of this, we have really explored both the activities and sought out some good science museums.

It is pitched at the right level for a to 5 year olds (there is an older class as well) and last for an hour, which is more than enough! The staff are so friendly and welcoming and you never know, you might learn a thing or two as well!!

To find out more about Mini Einsteins and the rest of the “We are Mini” classes, go to http://www.wearemini.co.uk/  or check out their Facebook page (search for “We are Mini”) or Twitter site (@wearemini)

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Mini Heroes – 2/1/2017

So the turn of the calendar brings with it a new suite of classes held at the Rainbow Factory – under the “We are Mini” banner.

We were invited to the “Mini Heroes” taster session and it was the usual Rainbow Factory creativity, mixed with boatloads of enthusiasm and the key ingredient of learning.

While the activities are sure to be different each week, there was a warm-up exercise and a structured walk through the venue solving a problem before the group split into 2 and alternated between a craft activity and a couple of physical activities.

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Craft time making a mask and shield!

After that, the group came back together to do the structured task – learning how to use the “999” service. Even though Heidi is 3 1/2 years old, I have been hesitant to teach her how to do this, but seeing how she very nearly got the concept today has given me the confidence to carry on teaching her this. Sometimes these activities are more for the parents benefit to show that their child is able to do them. However, the session is only the start of it, as the “lesson” must be carried on at home for it to sink in!!

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Don’t you hate it when you go to a party and there is someone there with the EXACT same outfit!!

The “learning” themes are focused around First Aid and general life skills which might seem a bit advanced but at this age, and having seen it in action, it does feel like a perfect time to get started.

While the theme is “Heroes” and staff and children were dressed in all sorts of outfits, there was not one mention by staff of actual superheroes on TV/books – it was all about what a hero did, and the qualities of a hero – it was good to see the staff not go down the easy or safe route…

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“Apprentice” Superheroes!

As the theme is “Heroes” it does attract itself to boys more than girls – however, there is absolutely nothing gender specific about the session so even if your child is not uber into superheroes, it doesn’t really matter.

One thing to note is that there were around 25 children there (it was Bank Holiday Monday) and if your child likes one to one attention (I have one of them!) it might not be totally for them. However, there were 4 staff taking the session, so it never felt out of control.

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Strike a pose!

In terms of age ranges, I don’t think any child under 2 1/2 years old would be able to keep up with the activities or take in the information. However, I’m sure the excellent staff would be able to help out if you drop them an email before booking. It did last 1 1/2 hours which was really good for the older ones (and value for money!) but you might just have to keep an eye out for tiredness if you have a younger one (or a grumpy one in my case today!)

The sessions are to be booked in advance in 6 week blocks, as are the other “We are Mini” activities. Given the popularity of the taster session, I would book quickly! For more information, please check out the “We are Mini” or “Rainbow Factory” Facebook pages. There are other classes within the “We are Mini” banner, which are available via the above pages.

Full Disclosure 1: We were invited to attend the session free of charge

Full Disclosure 2: I was the parent of pretty much the only child not in fancy dress – I feel like a terrible parent 😂


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Pyjama Drama

As the welcome song goes, “it’s lots of fun” and “it’s for everyone”, which is true, but it did take me a while to warm up to it, but I’m glad that we stuck it out!

If you don’t know, Pyjama Drama is a preschool drama (obviously!) class where the class act through a different story each week – however, I have yet to see anyone wear pyjamas! The class starts off with various warm up songs and then the make-believe happens, and it is sometimes hit and miss, but when it is clicks, it is really good to watch!

To get the most out of Pyjama Drama, your child needs to have the confidence to leave your side and join in, even a little bit. I’m pretty sure every class will have its introverts and its extroverts and the more outgoing (who tend to be older) will act as a magnet for the others to join in. However, it can be that some just sit and watch, and while they will be learning by watching, the ones who are more active are going to get the most out of it.

At the beginning, I said that I wasn’t sure about Pyjama Drama and that is because I didn’t quite “get it”. As I didn’t go every week (because of having to work to pay the bills etc!), it did look like organised chaos and I didn’t really see how it was benefiting Heidi.

But then it all clicked into place…

While she was confident before, her confidence has grown even further (perhaps too much?!) and her imagination has increased exponentially as a result of having structured classes to develop it. This is because while the leader has a plan for the make-believe story, the children can shape it to however they feel. If one of them wants to be a cat, then the story shifts to involve a cat etc and somehow the story reaches its end point with a few diversions along the way!

When at home, she carries on the Pyjama Drama ethos of being imaginative and creative and playing old fashioned make believe. Sometimes she will spend an hour being a dog, other times she will play doctors and thanks to Pokemon-Go, she has pretended to play the make-believe game, even going as far as to pretending to carry a phone in her hand and flicking, while getting someone else to be a Pokemon!!

Heidi started the classes when she turned 2 and has been doing them for a year now and as long as we can balance nursery/childcare provision, we will be taking her for as long as we can. This, along with going to places like the Rainbow Factory (read one of the many links here), really give Heidi the confidence, creativity and imagination that I sorely lack, and hopefully mean that when it comes to starting school, she is confident and able to do all the things that she wants to do at school.

There are loads of Pyjama Dramas around the UK and so go to http://www.pyjamadrama.com and see if there is one near you!


 

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About Me!!

Having done this semi-seriously for about 6 months, I thought that it would be a good idea to explain a little about me and my situation!

I am a very part-time blogger and very full-time dad and professional who lives near Leeds and this is my creative escape route, where I can look back at the days out and adventures that me and my little girl have and smile.

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I am a single parent going through a separation at the moment and I know that being a single parent can be difficult, and it can be difficult to have the confidence to go out and about (regardless of if you are a mum or a dad).

This is another reason why I set up the blog, so anyone reading it can feel a little bit more confident in going out and about, knowing that I can do it.  This is the reason why I try to include information about pushchair access and baby changing facilities, as those things used to freak me out a little when I went out and about on my own. By the way, I wasn’t someone who was born to be a dad, and I always have self-doubt!

If I had to recommend three places/things to do with a toddler in the region, firstly, it is extremely difficult as there are so many things hidden about which you never see, especially if you don’t have children. However, if I had to choose, they would be:

Boomchikkaboom (formerly Baby Rave North) This as probably one of the first places we went together and seeing a small business do really well. Their upbeat classes are something completely different to the traditional parent/child groups and are perfect for parents who still want to feel young!!

Rainbow Factory This has seemingly been our second home for the last 6 months. Something completely different and they can’t do anything wrong in our eyes The staff are absolutely amazing and make the place magical! Seeing Heidi’s confidence shine through here is so good to see, and the staff are perfect at nurturing it.

Rhythm Time This was the first structured class we went to and never looked back. The classes were brilliant and the social nature of the classes mean that we have made really, really good friends from the class. Even after not doing the class for a few months, Heidi still asks for the Rhythm Time music on in the car and has started asking to go back to the classes!

As we are semi-regulars to these, or have been in the past, I know that while their activities are top notch, they are really brilliant people as well and have really helped Heidi develop and become the person who she is today.

As mentioned above, I work full-time as an accountant, which means that my quality time with Heidi is generally limited to weekends and days off, and so I try to make the most of them! Also, because of this, my posting onto the blog is a little infrequent at times – I am certainly not one of these pseudo-full time bloggers!! However, I like to try and reply to messages as quickly as possible.

If you want to contact me or follow me on social media, the various links are below:

Email: info@leedsdad.com

Twitter: @leedsdad

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/leedsdad

I will promise not to flood your newsfeeds with hundreds of posts a day!!

Finally, I am PR Friendly and so if you have something that you think that we would like to attend/try/know about, please feel free to get in touch using the above details. Hopefully your company/brand/experience would benefit from my honest and open writing style.

I love to read your feedback and comments and all feedback is gratefully received!

All the best

Matthew (aka Leedsdad)

Totfest – 12/6/2016

So for the second year in a row, we went down the M1 to Sheffield for the Little Sheffield Totfest event.

The beauty of taking boatloads of photos and reminiscing is that you play the game “I can’t believe that was a year ago!” and that was exactly what happened when I realised it was Totfest again!

In short, Totfest is an open air event just for toddlers, with lots of free activities, taster classes and mini attractions. Obviously, for us to drive an hour to go, it must be good!

There seemed to be more at this years’ Totfest, although it may have been to do with the torrential rain in the morning last year, although this year the rain waited until the afternoon!! The weather gods certainly don’t like this event!!!

However, for toddlers, there are loads of things to see and do and we easily spent a couple of hours at the event before being beaten by the weather.

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In terms of the activities, there were Alpacas, skunks and meerkats that the children were encouraged to stroke, as well as kiddie golf and a fire engine. There was also story telling for the older ones, but we never got round to it. Speaking of animals, there was a huge dancing and singing chicken – I have no idea why,  but it was entertaining nonetheless!!

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Giant singing chicken!!

There was also a couple of free play areas with garden toys so that the little ones could run about and be, you know, children.

However, the best part is the structured classes, in part because they are under cover!! Seriously though, it is really good to go to these classes to get a flavour of if they suit your child. We experienced Pyjama Drama last year and because of it, we joined soon after.

There always seems to be a mix of classes and while we obviously gave Baby Sensory a miss, we did Minimovez and as per usual, Heidi was at the front of the class, thinking that she knew all the answers and acting like the oldest in the class!!!! (A little embarrassing!) The class was really upbeat and fast moving and so it was ideal for those who had a bit of energy to burn off, and obviously, really good on their feet. It was so good, Heidi wanted to go to the next session, before flaking out halfway through, due to exhaustion!!

We also tried Baby Spanish, which is probably more suited for toddlers, as well as adults!! I think for us, this might be something for us to tackle when Heidi can concentrate a bit more and is happy to sit still – but this is the beauty of these taster sessions!

This event has become a highlight to go to each year now and given good weather, I am sure that it will grow and grow, especially as there isn’t anything similar in the region!


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Boomchikkaboom (13/3/2016)

We have long since been a huge fan of Baby Rave North (see one of my very early posts here) and for the first time after the rebrand, we went to Boomchikkaboom – this time for a Preschool Workshop, called “Around the World”.

Hosted at the wonderful Mumspace at Mothercare, Crown Point in Leeds, we made our way in the rocket lift (don’t forget the rocket buttons outside the lift!) to the private room and for once, we got our timings right so I wasn’t emotionally blackmailed to buy the entire stock of the Early Learning Centre upstairs!

As everyone made their way in, the toddlers ran about and turned a perfectly set out room into a complete mess! However, they tidied up well (why don’t they do that at home!) and soon we were underway…

I have to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect before it started. The “traditional” Baby Raves were brilliant but they are clearly for the younger end, but knowing the guys behind Baby Rave/Boomchikkaboom, it was always going to be good. And it was.

The children are encouraged to act their way through a story – in our case it was going on an adventure to a number of different countries –and do some of the things associated with it, such as pretending to pack a suitcase, going on an aeroplane and eating some local foods. My particular favourite was the “baby massage” as it meant that I could actually keep Heidi in one place and feel like I was getting involved!!

Having always been really hands-on helping Heidi through her activities, this is a perfect opportunity to let go a little bit and so she can be more independent. However, I do feel like a bit of a spare part at times, and a little sad that I am not needed quite as much!! I can’t imagine what I’ll be like when she goes to school!

It is certainly more “grown-up” than a Baby Rave and while the shakers and pom-poms are still used, there weren’t any nursery rhymes and the music was used less as the children acted out the scenes.

To get the most out of it, your child needs to be good on their feet as there is a lot of running/movement and want to be creative with their mind. I think that anything from 2 to 5 years of age would be ideal to be honest.As a result, make sure whichever event you book is age appropriate for your child.

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Using the parachute as a tent

All in all, the workshop lasted 45 minutes and included the famous parachute and foam! It was really good fun and now I’m trying to work out the next time I can go to a Boomchikkaboom event.

If you have never been to one before, just give it a try. They are completely different to everything else that is out there, from new borns upwards, and really uplifting and energising.  You will be hooked on them, like we are!

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Is this the largest parachute in Leeds?!

PS You may wonder why all the photos are of foam and parachutes, it was because I was either having too much fun watching/taking part or Heidi was moving around too quickly for a decent picture!

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You WILL have this foam blown in your face!