Jasmine: So, we’re always on the lookout for baby-friendly activities, and my cousin Steffy recommended the Infant & Toddler Atelier, saying that I would love it.
As a working mum, it’s quite hard for me to bring Dilly to playgroups and mummy meetups as most take place in the morning or afternoon, but a glance at the Atelier’s Facebook pictures validated Steffy’s opinion so I took her up on her offer when a free-er afternoon rolled around.
Verdict: Dylan and I liked it so much that we brought Daddy back with us the second time round (so he could pay for a drop-in package haha)!
For a comparison of the Reggio Emilia and Montessori philosophies, click here.
Andrew: I was so inspired when I saw photos of Dylan’s first visit there with Agnes that I really wanted to find time to bring him there too. When I went there, they had this set of ‘rules’ for parents there, which were more like tips on how to make the most of this experience. (Jasmine: OH. I didn’t even know that. All I thought of was PHOTO TIME.) The one I remembered was just to let your kids play without interfering, allowing them to explore on their own. Liked that part the most because we didn’t really have to worry about him wandering off into ‘dangerous’ corners – the whole place was so baby-friendly that we could just let him crawl around and play. The problem was that he was a little clingy during our second visit and didn’t venture too far from us.
Jasmine: Dylan’s first stop was the light table. The light tables were brought in from Italy, and are great for exploring colour, translucency and shape. I’ve also seen light tables used elsewhere for painting and sand art, which I’d love to try with Dilly someday when I get/ make my own light table! *hints Andrew for budget*
Jasmine: This time, I sat Dilly on the table itself so he could reach the other higher tables which had different coloured lights. The Blue House had also switched out some of the manipulatives from the previous time around, so Dilly got to play with new ones.
Jasmine: A similar area was the one with a visualiser, to give kids a different perspective of their surroundings. When I came the last time, the visualiser was pointed at some blocks so the child could see the movement of the blocks, projected in real time.
Andrew: I thought this was a genius play area. Dylan is always attracted to screens, so he liked it, plus it isn’t a screen which is harmful to his eyes (like iPad or TV). Frankly, I enjoyed it a lot too - seeing ourselves in the ‘big screen’.
Jasmine: Next up, the make-believe areas!
This area, simulating a home, was one of Dilly’s favourite places the last time, and it proved to be a hit again. Yes, much clanging was produced, but to my surprise, Dyl did something he couldn’t do the previous time- place the lid squarely atop the pot.
I also like the Reggio Emilia idea of “interrupting” play with an unexpected object. Instead of equipping this “kitchen” with exact replicas of food, cardboard discs and cardboard tubes were put in, to free up the child’s imagination instead of limiting it to “this is a piece of bread” or “this is a hotdog”.
Jasmine: The same idea of “interrupted play” was present in the traffic area.
Jasmine: While this Ikea mat is a staple in most playgyms, Blue House paired it with wooden cars, unfinished wooden blocks, a “ramp” for cars made from half a cardboard tube and a tunnel/ bridge that used to be half a tire. Nice combination of textures!
The sorting station
Jasmine: Another big thing Blue House had going on was the infusion of recycled materials. This homemade sorting station included a box with holes punched out for babies to drop balls into, and an egg carton which babies could use to sort different-coloured bottle caps.
Jasmine: Dyl already loves to “hide” himself in a corner of our dining room and have us “find” him, so these reading nooks were natural extensions of that.
Andrew: There was also a bag of musical instruments, which Dylan got quite occupied playing with – until he started putting them into his mouth and gnawing on them like a chicken drumstick and we had to relegate the toy to the box of ‘things for washing’. 🙂 Glad to know they keep up a good standard of hygiene here as I’m sure quite a number of kids gnaw on the toys.
Jasmine: By far, the big winner of today was the Yakult pit. The recycled version of the standard ball pit, Dylan was happy not just playing in there, but moving the bottles up to the mirrored surface for more play, and putting them into and taking them out of a nearby basket on a coil.
Andrew: Am amazed that it’s so simple to create a fun playing area for him. Am now exploring how we can create a similar area in our own home for him! Too bad Jas no longer drinks Yakult – which I recall used to be her staple when we first married – oh, how our diets have changed. 🙂
Jasmine: Oh, but we did something clever, which was to tell my mum about it, and the doting grandmother immediately responded that she already had 10 Vitagen bottles and would start building up her collection. Haha, granny love!
In addition, mirrors are used strategically in Reggio Emilia to enhance inquiry and construction of self-image. Mirrors are placed under the work surface or in front of it, so the child can see what is under the materials or see himself at work, lending another perspective to the task at hand.
Jasmine: Also love how odd objects (CDs, keys, twigs) are suspended overhead for another dimension for exploration.
Other random pics of fun:
Jasmine: In conclusion, this was what we liked about Blue House:
- Creative use of natural and recycled materials, allowing for open-ended imaginative play
- Strategic use of mirrors to enhance inquiry
- Combination of hard and soft play surfaces (unlike other playgyms where everything is cushioned and padded)
- Lots of natural light and space
- Stylishly color-coordinated, proving that childrens’ spaces can be beautiful and stimulating, while the soothing gender-neutral tones allow children to focus on their explorations (unlike the garish primary colours that dominate playgyms)
- Diaper change station and toilets within the Atelier itself
- 5 min walk from Pasarbella (not exactly related but thought foodies might like to know)
- That amazing light table