Since Libby was 13 months old, we have been going to a ballet class every Wednesday. Both girls adore ballet and it has done so much for their confidence, particularly for Libby who has progressed to a stage performance group within the same ballet school.
This half term, the ballet class has moved to a different day when we are unable to go. This has thrown me a bit. I’ve spent so long trying to do the right thing and take them to an educationally or developmentally beneficial group each day that in the absence of our usual routine, I wasn’t sure what to do.
I had a look around for other groups on a Wednesday morning and there’s not much going on. So I thought as a one off, we’d go to the little soft play area at our local garden centre.
I’m not a huge fan of the big soft play areas at the moment because Lia is just the wrong age for them. She’s too little to manage most of the big play areas but a bit too old to have much fun in the baby area.
In the little garden centre soft play, things are a bit different. Lia is still too small for it really, but with just a few children about and an area where she can always see and hear me, she’s happy enough to give it a go.
So, this has become our new routine. Each week we head to the soft play. The girls have an hour or so in there, we get them some lunch and then they go back in for a few minutes before it’s time for Libby to go to nursery.
And doing this has made me realise that all the time I’ve been worrying about making sure they were doing something structured and beneficial, I’ve been getting it all wrong.
In the last three weeks that we’ve been going to soft play once a week, Lia’s physical development has been remarkable.
This is the little girl that couldn’t get herself over the tiny step into the ball pit, and was too scared to go down the slide on her own.
The same little girl that now climbs all the way to the top of the platform, two floors up. She plays there happily, running around with all the bigger children and sliding down the slide.
At home, she can easily climb onto our dining chairs now, something that she wouldn’t even have tried before.
So it turns out the freedom to just run around and play was just as important as all the structured learning. We’d still go back to the ballet class if it was an option, but in the absence of ballet, I think I’ll just let them have fun.