Play & Learn at Gymboree

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The past few weeks feel like they just flew by in a blink. I've been focused on the move to a new house, which has been both exciting & exhausting. The month has been full of big changes, which not only includes a new home, but an upgrade from a baby to a toddler, too! Joaquin has been the epitome of a bundle of nonstop energy, especially with newfound freedom in terms of mobility. He has been walking, stumbling, attempting to run, climb stairs, seats, & whatnots, skip over small barriers - whew! It's tiring just even describing it, haha!

With this level of physical activity, we once tried if he would enjoy Gymboree, since they have a play area with all sorts of fun obstacles that are kid-friendly & safe, and he loved it. We found it interesting, too, that he would easily come up to other children playing there. I thought, I sure hope he doesn't lose that enthusiasm when it comes to socializing with other kids, since we noticed an increased shyness & anxiety when he meets new adults. So I inquired with the classes available for his age that Gymboree offers, and suggested to my husband to try how Joaquin would develop if he's constantly around other people since, on a daily basis, it's just us 2 that he gets to associate with.

Teacher calling on Joaquin again :)
The first day, he was all for the play & none for the listening. He kept on walking out on the group to do stuff on his own and the teacher had to constantly call his attention. We found it quite funny that it was as if he was the pasaway kid in class, and I was glad that the teacher took it lightheartedly & didn't force any of the activities on him. In terms of socializing, he had no problems whatsoever playing with his classmates. We had enrolled him to 8 sessions of the level 3 play & learn class, and we've attended 5 sessions to date & we've surprisingly seen some improvements from the first class. Now, Joaquin joins in when the crowd is called by the teacher for the day's activities. He follows simple instructions like "kick the ball", "slide down", and "step up". He no longer wanders off, but I did notice he still gets restless in parts where we have to sit in a circle & sing along with hand gestures & such - probably too boring for him? Haha! He does however, seem to enjoy the physical drills, bubbles & parachute activities a whole lot.

exploring tactile toys with Teacher Jam

warming up to the teacher on his 1st day
The class levels are done by age group. For level 3, each class consists of staple activities like opening songs that include some actions that I suppose "warms" the kids up - bouncing them on their feet, swaying them from side to side, and twisting them gently to the beat; playing with tactile toys while the parent/s/guardian describes the sensation (soft, hard, rough, smooth, etc); bubble time where the teachers blow bubbles on the kids to enhance hand-eye coordination; and parachute time where the tots sit under the parachute and watch it "fly" on top of them, which I guess serves as sort of a quiet, cool down time as it's done towards the end of the class.

Joaquin under the parachute, watching it "fly" above them

another parachute activity during
one of the following classes
The teacher explains the objective of the class at the beginning of each session - this one being meant to develop fine motor skills & large muscle groups (legs & arms), while also focusing on improving 2-way communication. Almost half of the class is dedicated to physical exercises which slightly vary with each session. The equipment in the play area are moved around to build new activities where the kids may have to climb up, crawl through, walk/crawl over, etc. so they're kind of like stations in circuit training. 

Joaquin & classmate Livi attempting to "borrow"
the bubbles from the teacher
catching bubbles
I find that the activities are most effective with the kids when there's no more than 5 or 6 of them. Anything more than that which we experienced was just too chaotic - kids getting bored because they had to wait too long for their turn, other kids losing focus because there's too many people around - you get the picture. Taking aside that bit of a negative observation, there's a lot of good stuff to say about the class, teachers & the place. Activities are well thought of & carried out; teachers (1 primary teacher & 1 aide) as well as the other staff are very professional - never saw them flinch & lose patience even on the very difficult kids (& some can really throw a good tantrum); they have good communications skills & can impressively keep that smile through the entire session with extremely hyperactive toddlers; the play area is made as safe as possible & most importantly, kept clean. I also love that they have their own restroom, diaper changing station & small lounge where you can nurse if you're still breastfeeding like me.

2 of the activity stations during Joaquin's
1st class - riding the air log (above) &
holding on to the swing (below - he hated
this! LOL)
If you're interested to enroll your child, you can visit the Gymboree branch nearest to you. I would suggest though, that you take a trial class before going in for an enrollment to see how much your kid would be into it. The trial costs P500, deductible from the enrollment fee if you do decide to go for it. Before enrolling in any class, you're required to pay a separate membership fee (annual/lifetime) which comes with GymPlay coupons of 1 hour each that can be used in any branch. If your kid has a class for the day, he/she has unlimited use of GymPlay. They have other perks as well like freebies that come with signing up & exclusive activities for members, among others. Again, it may not work for you or your kid so I'm stressing out the benefit of doing a trial first. I'll let you know if there are updates by the end of our class period. Have a Gymboree day!

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