During my four and a bit years of Motherhood I have been to my fair share of baby groups. I loved Jo Jingles and was sad to see it end, but the other groups like baby sensory have been a bit hit and miss for me.
I much prefer the traditional playgroup style groups – those held in church halls and staffed by volunteers and where entry is a nominal charge of around £1.50. These groups, I have found, let the children explore the toys and equipment at their own pace and in their own time. If they want to join in with the craft activity, fine. If not, then that’s fine too. At one of our favourite playgroups, Mr H would ALWAYS play in the toy kitchens. We used to ‘eat’ many a meal from that kitchen. These groups are where I have made friends with other mums too. The free flowing nature of the play means that I can sit back and relax a little and observe the children get stuck in.
Mr D and Miss E were invited to try out a new group launched this month called Mini Sparks. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, to be honest, but was quite intrigued so today, we went along to the Wilmslow session to find out what it is all about.
I was intrigued by the Mini Sparks session as they have the aim to ‘ignite your child’s natural desire to learn through exploration and discovery’. This is something that I firmly believe in and I just love watching the children do. I find it fascinating how despite being so similar in many ways, Mr D and Miss E are very different in the way they approach certain activities. With Baby Sensory I used to get frustrated that as the children were showing an interest in certain things it would soon be packed away to move onto the next activity.
When we arrived at the Wilmslow session we were warmly greeted by Claire who is the owner and leader of the Mini Sparks sessions. I was really impressed with Claire – she is clearly super passionate about the importance and role of play in the early years and it was great to see her own son there too. Unlike the franchisees of baby sensory and the such, Mini Sparks is completely independent and unique.
We took our muddy shoes off and the children were invited to take a sticker with their name on. We then had a quick look around at the various bits set up and then took a spot in the centre of the room with the other children.
Claire led a lovely welcome song and a second short song to get the children all warmed up and then they set off to explore the various stations set up around the hall. The theme this month is maths and so the children could set about making patterns and creating shapes as well as counting. There was also a weighing station set up and Mr D and his friend soon set about trying to get the scales balanced.
Miss E seems to be a bit out of sorts at the moment, possibly just overly tired, and she wasn’t too interested in playing with Mr D and his friend but soon set about playing with the large paper and pens and the tangram puzzles.
Claire gently worked her way around the room, engaging easily with the children and letting them explain what they were doing and helping to tease out and extend their understanding. The play was very free, and as the children started to pile everything into the play den it didn’t matter. I’ve been at groups where play leaders have got irritated when toys have been moved from a designated play area – not at all free flowing for the children.
We really enjoyed the Mini Sparks session and it ended with a goodbye song and some bubble blowing, which the children enjoyed. Claire also provided a series of leaflets to help us think of ideas to do at home with our children which is an excellent idea. I’ll be looking at a couple of these in the coming weeks as we play.
What I really liked about Mini Sparks was that the children were completely allowed to interpret the equipment how they wanted to. It was ‘play’ in the true sense of the word, and I’d love to see a slightly longer session in the future as I know all the children were so engrossed when it was time to say goodbye. We will be booking onto the February session – most likely Wilmslow again and I can’t wait to see what the children get up to.
Mini Sparks is run by Claire who is a qualified Educational Practitioner. Sessions currently run in Bramhall, Hazel Grove and Wilmslow. More information about the sessions can be found here. You can also see more from the sessions on the Mini Sparks facebook page and Instagram feed.