Thursday, October 1, 2015

Baby Book Club

  


   I really enjoy creating activities for Tennyson. It's become a passion of mine to find creative ways to excite and engage him in interesting books and activities. (Plus, it keeps him productively occupied and out of mischief!). 

     Recently, I've been considering extending our "tot school" to others. (Because when you find something you really enjoy, you want others to enjoy it as well). I wasn't sure if others would be as enthusiastic about the idea, though. Everyone does things differently, and we seemed to be the only ones without a large amount of toys and in free play all day. But, to my surprise several people signed up to attend!

     It was a good first gathering that I think everyone enjoyed. It also provided me with several points of insight to consider for our next gathering. We had five children 0-3 years old (and five more 0-9 months old). The children played for a bit after they arrived. Then, we sat down to enjoy our book and snack. I read Corduroy by Don Freeman as they nibbled on their teddy bear crackers, strawberries and cheese sticks. By the end of the story, there was only a couple of children left sitting at the table, mine and a three year old. I realized that perhaps the story was too long for the age range. (We're up to beginner reader stories with Tennyson, but I wonder if it would be better to go back down to simple board book stories for the group?) Most of the children were scattered about playing with toys, but I decided to try to introduce our group game of having them find some large colorful buttons on the floor (like Corduroy!). It was no use, the pull of the nearby playroom was too strong. (Even my own child had wandered away to the toys). So, I told the mamas about the other activities and encouraged them to explore them with their child. That didn't work either. 

      I think one of our greatest challenges was that the home we were gathering in has a very large toy collection (one mom commented that being there was like a residential Toys R Us! haha). The toy room pull was too powerful to compete with, especially with children unaccustomed to sitting down and focusing on a more hands-on activity. While I am grateful for the hospitality and generosity of the mama who opened her home for us to gather in, I think a new location would be better for future gatherings. Fortunately, the public library offers a community room which is just a basic room with tables and chairs. This space would allow us less distractions, places to set up activities in stations, and then a play area nearby for a free play time afterwards. 
    
     The second area for improvement would be parent-child interaction. I had really hoped that this would be a "mama and me" book and activity opportunity (perhaps I should change the name from to "Mama and Me Baby Book Club?"). One aspect of our home tot schooling is the one-on-one time Tennyson and I get to have. These moments have come to be so meaningful for us both! I had hoped that the same would be achieved in our group setting. I've learned, though, that it's hard to break the tendency to send the children to "go play" with toys while the mamas chat. (This is good, and even necessary, but not helpful at a book club gathering). This time I set the activities up high, which necessitated the moms to introduce the activity to the child. I think next time I'll set them up on the children's level so that their natural curiosity will lead them to it and to draw in their mama's attention.   

     The kids got an opportunity to play, hear a story, and socialize which are all good things. But the book club component of the gathering kind of got lost. Hopefully we can make a few changes and continue to enjoy this opportunity. 

     David and I talked this afternoon about the baby book club idea. We talked about creating this event elsewhere when/if we move. I liked the idea of having a group for activities, especially since we intend to homeschool. We've also talked about using this group idea to reach out to children who may not have an early literacy influence in the home. We could create a bag with the book and all pieces of the activity and even parts of the snack to give away. So many ideas! So much potential! I'm very prayerful that this baby book club idea may be a success!

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