Wow this post has been a long time coming!
I never thought that writing a sponsored post could make me so emotional but (and I’m sorry, Steven!) Sophie-Rose’s time at Sparkanauts, her play-gym, has been such a big part of her mental and physical development these past four months that finally putting it all down in writing took me a lot of effort, a lot of reminiscing and maybe a little bit of tears.
We first heard about Sparkanauts last year around November when Mama A of GrowingwiththeTans introduced us to the wonderful Steven at Sparkanauts. He told me they had holistic classes for physical and mental development for bubs as young as 5 months at their playschool / gym at Toa Payoh Safra, and encourage Sophie Rose and I to try it out.
I’ll admit that I had a lot of resistance to even trying it out. I told my husband it was too far away, that I don’t feel like sending her for “classes” so young, said that I didn’t dare to drive all the way to Toa Payoh, etc. But when I finally sat myself down and asked myself why I didn’t want to send her, the answer was that I was in self-denial about her not being able to hit a lot of her physical milestones on time.
Sophie only really started doing tummy time very late around 4-5 months old because K and I were terrified of her dying of SIDS (first time parents, forgive us) and as a result at 6-7 months had not even showed any indication of creeping or trying to crawl, even. She would howl every time she was put on her tummy and could just lie there for 1/2 an hour bawling angrily while other babies were already crawling, creeping, or even starting to pull themselves up on their own!
It caused me a lot of tears and sleepless nights. I remember so much frustration when I tried to force her to start crawling by propping her up on all fours and then having to even walk out of the house when I couldn’t take the crying. Mentally, I was in a bad place, I felt like a lousy mother and everyone around me was asking why Sophie Rose hadn’t started to crawl yet.
Even my PD, who was reassuring at first, did express to me that he was a little worried that Sophie would slouch a little while sitting up, a sign that her spine was not strong enough to hold her body up properly – this can affect their ability to swallow, to start talking etc. I was shell-shocked and so so very worried.
I went for a few other trials at other play gyms, and was discouraged – the rooms were tiny, teacher to student ratio was frankly awful, the teachers couldn’t tell me what I could do to improve her mobility, and there seemed to be no real lesson plan or focus – every session there were new students coming in and out and it was all very disorienting.
So when she was 7.5 months, I decided to go for a trial session at Sparkanauts. Physical development wise, that was the best decision I could have made for Sophie Rose.
We’ve been going to Sparkanauts for about four months now and I feel ready to do my review about it because I think its been sufficient time for me to honestly and openly share about our experience and our decision to keep going. I’ve also been asked by many Mamas what gyms or classes I send Sophie too but I’ve refrained from commenting because I think 1-2 months is too short a time to give a good answer or judgement.
The first lesson was quite nerve wracking for me. I had no idea what to expect!
Steven, Teacher Rachel and Teacher Lynette were absolute darlings and put me at ease immediately. From the first day when I first told them Sophie’s and my names, they have always called us by name and remember us – I felt this was a wonderful touch because it helped me know they took time and effort to personally get to know every Mama/Papa and baby pair and keep close tabs on their development.
They make eye contact with Sophie, speak to her directly, and right from the start, she was comfortable with them carrying her, no crying at all! I was amazed – I think it is down to the secure and confident way they handle her, because with most strangers Sophie will first cling to me for a few minutes before allowing herself to be held.
So here’s our experience, plus a giveaway at the end which you won’t want to miss 🙂 !
Huge, Clean, extremely well equipped classrooms
And then I saw the classrooms and was blown away!
They are huge, very very clean, full of bright happy primary colors and educational toys. A real play gym, if you will ! The photos really speak for themselves:
All different sizes of foam mats, wedges, stairs, etc for physical activities, extremely baby and child proof – the kind of environment that would make any little child excited and ready to have some fun 🙂
Excellent Bubba-Teacher Ratio
I was further impressed to see that each class has at least 2-3 teachers present at each time, making it a ratio of about 1 teacher to two babies at the very most. This ensured that everyone received ample attention and every Mama was attended to if she was fumbling or having problems during a physical or educational activity with her baby.
The first time I attended class, I was completely lost, but within 10 minutes, with some guidance from the teachers, Sophie Rose and I had gotten into the rhythmn of things – instructions were easy to follow, every activity was explained clearly to us beforehand (singing, hand actions flash cards, using musical instruments) that there was no problem following or “catching up” at all. Instantly felt at ease and that’s very important for me because I have some social anxiety 🙂
Professional and very experienced teachers
This is absolutely the most important part for me and I can safely say that Sparkanauts has excellent instructors.
Teacher Rachel, especially, has been so instrumental to helping Sophie Rose develop properly.
Now I’m sure that some of you must be thinking Sophie was given extra attention because we were sponsored lessons there after our first trial. The answer is yes, she was given more attention, but only because she needed to catch up with the rest of her Cadet class. I have observed the teachers very closely over the past few months and their focus is always on prioritizing struggling babies or Mamas, not just me and Sophie.
From the get-go, Teacher Rachel asked me very specific, very clear questions about Sophie’s stage of development – is she creeping, is she crawling, how much tummy time does she do a day, who is her main caregiver, what exercises we do with her, how she responds to being placed on her tummy, how strong is her neck, her fine motor skills, etc.
I was very impressed. Its the first time any of the teacher’s took such a concerted and educated approach to finding out more about Sophie Rose. Not just that, but during the class, she will speak to me as she observes Sophie during physical activities, giving me tips on improving her crawling, how I can support her with my arms and palms, what I am doing incorrectly, and she can even tell me how fast or slow Sophie is progressing to a very accurate degree.
For instance, after taking her tips and pointers on how to use my arms and cupped palms to encourage Sophie to go on all fours, and practising at home, she told me the following week that she saw improvement and felt Sophie would be ready to crawl in about 2 weeks’ time, and indeed, after sticking to her recommended routine and methods, she started to crawl in a record 2 weeks from barely being able to creep along her tummy – all it took were the right instructions.
Teacher Rachel was also able to identify exactly which muscles Sophie was using rightly or wrongly, and when I was expressing concern over her not walking yet, very firmly told me that its better that she build her core muscles by crawling more first so that she can improve her fine and gross motor skills and walk better as a result.
Firmness, to me, is a sign of confidence and expertise. I felt like I could trust and rely on her opinion and that Sophie was in good hands.
She will also not hesitate to tell me off if I am breaking her rules – for example, I sneakily tried to motivate Sophie by offering her snacks during Physical Activity to make her crawl faster and -oops- our snack pack was confiscated because Teacher Rachel believes that we should motivate children to enjoy the activity for what it is instead of for rewards.
And just look at how much confidence Sophie has developed! The first time we went on the Trapeze, she had to be supported and burst into tears (7.5 months)
This is her just two weeks later, starting to smile but still straining to hold herself up with support from Teacher Rachel:
And this is her at 11 months, confident, laughing and with a great grip and much stronger core muscles! She’s even able to lift her legs up in the air and kick excitedly while hanging!
When I see how happy and more confident she has become, interacting with the teachers and other babies, I feel so gratified and happy that I decided to go for that first session after all 🙂
Lessons: Well-planned, fast-paced, fun activities with great variety
The first time I went for the Baby Cadet class, I came away completely exhausted!
It was one activity after another, each lasting maybe 5 minutes before we moved on to the next one:
Welcome Song x Activity Song (with musical instruments) x Flash Card Greeting x Flash Card Lessons x Physical Activity x Hanging (Trapeze) x Crafting x More Physical x Peekaboo Parachute !
While I wasn’t immediately sold on the use of flash-cards, I could see how it helped in the long term.
By making the babies point something out and identifying it to them, the teachers helped develop a strong sense of curiousity and a questioning attitude. Sophie Rose’s favourite question today is to ask “What is this?” while pointing and she never fails to observe minute details of things around her. The flashcard activity, which I also practice at home, I believe, helps them to focus and interact and observe better.
It was explained that its because our babies have very short attention spans. I can definitely believe that, Sophie gets bored super easily at home and moves on quickly from one activity to the next, and she was very stimulated and excited. Its normal the first few sessions for babies to get cranky or fall asleep from sheer exhaustion because they aren’t used to being stimulated for close to an hour, but after 3 to 4 sessions Sophie Rose was fully awake and absorbing everything! Her favourite parts are the Hanging and Singing activities, she went from just stoning at Teacher Rachel to happily shaking her bells and castanets and humming along.
Mesmerized at Puppet Story Telling Time
“I can play a Peek-a-boo!”
I enjoy the activities very much too – although its also a test of how unfit I am during physical when I’m panting after a few lunges and spinning exercises. The transition to each exercise is always seamless and flowing – no stumbling around or confusion.
At the end of each class, there’s also one of my favourite parts – a sharing session where the teachers will share their observations on our babies’ development and improvements, as well as some techniques on baby massage or tips on how to better observe or communicate with them on a daily basis. I find this very thoughtful and meaningful.
Many of my other Mama friends (not sponsored) also send their children to Sparkanauts after hearing about the changes it made for their children and couldn’t recommend it enough to me after I posted about Sophie attending her first lesson there. If you’re worried about your child’s mental or physical development and would like her to get some social interaction as well as the support of teachers who can aid you in helping him or her reach her milestones (saving you a ton of frustration), I would unreservedly recommend that you go for a trial at Sparkanauts to see what they can do for you!
In fact, Sophie Rose and I are reaching the end of our free term but we intend to sign up (out of our own pocket) for more classes because we love it so much! This is with K’s blessing, of course. He has attend a few of the classes with us and also feels they have helped Sophie so much !
Here are the classes available:
And Sophie is still in Baby Cadet classes, which are once a week 🙂
Sparkanauts has also kindly given us:
Two Sparkanauts trial class passes worth $58 each for our readers. THANK YOU!
To take part, simply click to enter the RaffleCopter contest below and follow the instructions: