Merry Christmas from Culture Tots!
It's amazing to be coming to the end of the first year of Culture Tots. Thankyou for being a part of it. We're going to have a first birthday party in January - I would especially like you to come along and celebrate with me. My favourite moment this week was testing a new rhyme at Toddle Songs:
Four little gingerbread men sitting on a tray,
One jumped up and ran away,
Singing "Catch me, Catch me, Catch me if you can,
I run so fast I'm the gingerbread man!"
It has all the ingredients for a brilliant toddler game - including lying down on the floor, jumping up (lifted high in the air by mummies in this case) and then 'running' round the room - the older ones at full speed and full of giggles, and the newer toddlers doing beautiful steps holding onto mummy's hands.
A big change this term has been switching to monthly membership rather than bookings per class. We've built up a lovely little community of Culture Tots members, and most people take their little ones along to more than one class. One toddler sometimes comes with grandparents, sometimes with mum and sometimes with dad, depending on the day of the week! It seems to make the most of the fact that my classes overlap in age groups - so toddlers can enjoy Toddle Songs, take a break for the wonderful toys in the World of Wonder, and then come back for some classical music at Tiny Maestros, for example.
Next term, I'm going to continue with membership as the main payment option for weekday classes, but I'm also introducing a 'trial membership' which will cost £10 for 3 weeks, so families can get a real feel for Culture Tots. Toddlers especially take a while to settle into a class, and I find that it's about week 2 or 3 when they really start to join in. These trial memberships will be like regular membership - you can attend as many classes as you like during the week, without the need to pre-book. I'm not going to offer a free first class any more, but there'll be a few free taster classes throughout the year - keep an eye on the Facebook page for more information!
First, though, we have our Christmas classes! Tomorrow's our last 'ordinary' class before the Christmas special, but with the World of Wonder decorated as a Winter Wonderland, it's anything but ordinary! Do pop along if you can - if you've never been before, it's your last week to come along for free, before I switch to the new system in the new year! Christmas Special classes must be booked in advance unless you're a member - book at www.hoop.co.uk/culture-tots.
Monday 11th December
Join us in the Winter Wonderland at the World of Wonder, Hull Community Church Newland Avenue! Free if it's your first time, or drop in for £6. Stay for tea, coffee and play before/after class, and join in with as many classes as you like.
10.00 Toddle Songs
10.45 Sensory Songs
11.15 Tiny Maestros
Thursday 14th December
Taster Session during Circle Time at Gems Playgroup, Kings Church, Beverley. (Playgroup runs 9.30-11 - all welcome.)
Friday 15th December
Christmas Jumper Day at Willerby Methodist Church! Wear your Christmas jumpers to our Christmas Specials for Sling Songs and Tiny Maestros and support Dove House Hospice. We'll have tea and homemade cake after class - donations towards Dove House welcome. If you're not a member, advance booking's essential - book at www.hoop.co.uk/culture-tots.
1.00 Sling Songs
1.30 Tiny Maestros
Saturday 16th December
Christmas Specials at Rock Up! Get out bright and early, and tire those babies and toddlers out so they'll be happy in their prams for a morning of Christmas shopping… Soft play and café to enjoy afterwards - soft play is just £1 extra. Pre-booking essential.
9.00 Toddle Songs
9.50 Sensory Songs
Monday 18th December
Christmas Specials in the fabulous World of Wonder. Throughout the morning, volunteers from the Time Bank Hull and East Riding will be hosting mince pies and tea, so it's a great chance to find out more about the Time Bank and you can even sign up too! I can often offer free classes in return for Time Bank credits, so it's worth looking into getting involved if you want to save more money on classes! Pre-booking essential.
10.00 Toddle Songs
10.40 Sensory Songs
11.20 Tiny Maestros
On the subject of Christmas, if you're looking for gift ideas, I offer gift vouchers, and I also have collections of instruments, scarves and shaky eggs for sale! Get in touch for more details and I can bring them to class. Gift vouchers start at £10 for 3 weeks of classes (for families who haven't been members before.) Do drop hints to grandparents etc! I'm also happy to offer gift vouchers in exchange for Time Bank credits, so if you have spare credits and want to treat a friend, let me know!
As you may know, I have a few other strings to my bow as well as Culture Tots! I'm launching a new Facebook page to promote my violin teaching, so if you've always fancied playing the violin, have a little one ready to learn or know someone who might be interested, take a look at 'Inspire Violin'. I'm going to be running a series of group classes for children called 'Discover the Violin', which build up core musical skills and introduce children to the violin - no violin is needed, so it's a great way to test out whether regular lessons are right for your child.
I'm also starting an exciting programme of small group tutorials in English for school children. My big idea is university-style tutorials in literature for GCSE and A-Level students, but a friend has persuaded me that small group lessons full of fun and games could be great for primary aged children too. I have a PhD in English literature, a Masters from Oxford University and years of experience with private tutoring, as well as experience running university tutorials, so I'm well qualified. Please share and follow my page, 'Inspire Tutorials', if you know anyone with school aged children!
My reading habits have certainly changed since becoming a mum! Personally, I yearn for those days of sitting out in the sun in peace with a book. I studied literature through to PhD level and was tutoring literature full-time when my daughter was born, so reading novels has been a way of life for a very long time now! Nowadays, though, serious book-reading is really tricky when Isabelle's awake as she either wants to join in or distract me. However, I've rediscovered audiobooks, and got through some wonderful books listening to them unabridged in the small hours of the morning while somebody was keeping me awake... I've also found myself pondering the literary theory behind classics like the Gruffalo and Spot Goes to the Farm!
I set up the Culture Tots Book Club to help mums connect around a shared love of reading - whilst acknowledging the realities of life with a small child! Each month, we choose three books to look at - a fiction book, a 'parenting' book (I use the word very loosely) and a children's book.
This month we've picked Pride and Prejudice for our fiction book, which is great because it's freely available on ebook, so you can read it on your phone if you end up stuck under a sleeping baby, and there are a few ways to get the audiobook very cheap or free. (See below!)
Our 'Parenting' book is the wonderful book of poems and diary entries by Hollie McNish about pregnancy and new parenthood, called Nobody Told Me. Hollie McNish is a bit of an icon for breastfeeding mums because of her poem Embarrassed, which passionately defends the rights of mums to nurse in public, rather than hiding away in the toilets. The whole book is a really real and raw look at the journey of becoming a mum, and I'm looking forward to reading it - I'm sure there will be lots to discuss!
The jury's still out on our children's picture book for this month's discussion - it shouldn't take too long to read, at least! Join our Facebook Group if you have any suggestions!
If you fancy reading along with us, do join the Facebook group. Any mum is welcome - there's no need to live locally, as I'm hoping the group will be a great discussion space, although we'll also have monthly real-life meetups in Hull and East Riding.
I've become a bit of a geek about finding ways to get audiobooks cheaply, so if you fancy trying audiobooks as a way to fit reading into mum life, read on! (I'm trying out using affiliate links here for the first time - but you'll notice I'm still showing you the free options!)
You can find the free Kindle book of Pride and Prejudice here. Once you've downloaded the free ebook, you should get a link to add Audible Narration to your purchase, which is around £2.99 (this is a workaround to get a cheap audiobook!) The two will synchronise so you can read a bit on Kindle then switch to audio. This is brilliant for fitting reading into life - I can read for ten minutes on my Kindle when my daughter is napping, then pick up my phone to read a bit more when she wakes up and wants a feed, then put the audiobook on to continue with the story as I get her food ready. Each version syncs pretty immediately with each other, so you don't lose your place.
You can also get the audio version of Pride and Prejudice free for a month if you get a free trial to Kindle Unlimited. The Kindle unlimited version is here. With Kindle Unlimited, you get a free trial for a month, and access to lots of free ebooks and audiobooks which you 'borrow' on the Audible/Kindle apps. I say lots, but it's a bit of work to wade through them to find which are decent. There are lots of classics with free audiobook companions, and since each is about 20 hours long, you'll have a busy month! You can click straight through to your account and cancel the free trial, if you don't want to end up paying.
You can also get Pride and Prejudice audiobook for free on Borrowbox, which is a free app that Hull mums can access through the library. Only one person can 'check out' an audiobook at once, though, so if you read it, click 'return' when you're done!
You can buy Nobody Told Me here. The Kindle version is not too expensive, and you can 'add audible narration' for £3.99 if you purchase the Kindle version. I'm pleased to have a paperback version to read, though, as nothing beats a real book.
I think anyone who looks after a new baby quickly works out that singing, movement and cuddles are a winning combination! When my baby was little, I spent hours pacing up and down, jiggling her and singing the same song again and again until she settled to feed or sleep. The sling was a wonderful discovery for us, giving her a secure and familiar place to snuggle up close when she felt overwhelmed, and to watch the world from when she felt curious. As she got bigger and the sling became an integral part of our life, we realised how much fun you can have with games and songs in the sling. My baby is 18 months now and she shrieks with laughter if we go up and down with the Grand Old Duke of York, or sing tickling or peekaboo songs. It's such a lovely way to interact with her - face to face and close enough to kiss her or for her to reach out and touch my face. (Or attempt to steal my hat... Her favourite joke!) And the experience of singing for her must be richer for being so close in the sling - feeling the vibrations of my voice as well as hearing it and watching my face as I sing...
I have designed Sling Sing especially to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities for fun and interaction when we sing to our little ones in the sling. So there are songs with actions that work well with baby in the slings - both familiar and new songs. There's a fair amount of movement, to keep babies happy - quite a bit of walking round the room, and gently bouncing up and down, although all at your own pace of course! And there are lots of sensory experiences for the little ones to enjoy - like bubbles, colourful parachutes and scarves, and fun animal puppets… The class is very much designed to promote close interaction between child and parent, and there are lots of opportunities to make our little ones giggle!
What do you think? Does that sound like a class your baby or toddler would enjoy?