Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Bibinogs Preschool trial class

We’ve been toying with the idea of sending EV to a playgroup for some time now, but have been resisting it as we felt she was still too young. Now that she’s almost two, we felt it’s time to check out some of the playgroups out there. Location was important, as was the date of the class, as we were looking for something that is convenient to get to, and also allowed us to accompany EV. And of course, the enrichment centre needed to have programmes that catered to toddlers EV’s age. We narrowed to two choices: Julia Gabriel Centre For Learning and Bibinogs Preschool. We decided against Julia Gabriel, as theirs was a twice weekly programme on a weekday and weekend. Weekends are no problem, but weekdays are. Our work doesn’t allow us to take time out so often, and also, Julia Gabriel’s two branch locations also make it difficult for either side of grandparents. While we know of Julia Gabriel’s good reputation, we had to opt for another because it didn’t fit our criteria. It’s EV’s learning and development, so we wanted to make sure we found a programme that allowed us to be as involved as possible, instead of leaving it to our parents, or even the helper, to accompany her half the time.

Instead, we looked at Bibinogs, which is located at Serene Centre and UE Square. It is a relatively new preschool, so we weren’t sure of its reputation. But we decided to give it a trial, we were curious about the Intelligences@Play curriculum outlined on its website, claiming that they adopt multiple approaches, materials and activities to stimulate various intelligences, such as linguistic, music, logic, body, spatial and interpersonal.  And of course, it is a once a week programme, so that means either of us will be able to accompany her one hundred percent of the time.

We attended the trial at the UE Square branch last Saturday. EV seemed a little unsure at first, and was a little apprehensive about playing the toys during the warm up session. It is not unexpected, since it is something new for her. Gradually, she warmed up to the toys, the two teachers and two other little friends. As it was a small class, the two teachers were able to give lots of attention to the children. The Bubbly Babes class started with some fingerplay activities, such as pulling a scarf out of a cardboard tube, lots of singing and music, and playing with musical rattlers. At the end of each activity, there would be a sing-a-long song to get the children to put the items back into the boxes, and to gather back to the centre of the room, which is indicated by a carpet. There was free play moments, during which the teacher would blow soup bubbles. It was quite interesting to watch EV’s reaction. Instead of playing with the floating bubbles, she crawled right to the teacher blowing the bubbles.

EV loved the story book time, as she usually does at home, but she was a little hesitant during art and craft time. She made a little crocodile handbag, with Mommy’s help of course.

After the snack time, during which Gerber Graduates Fruit Puffs was served and EV tried to show that she was a big girl by drinking from the cup, it was phonics time. One of the teachers role-played as an archer, and brought along ‘animal puppets’ that start with the letter ‘a’, such as ant. They also taught a song ‘Annie Ant goes marching A, A, A’, which goes to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy’. After which the teachers went through the whole alphabet, with each alphabet being associated to a living thing which starts with that letter, for example, C with Cat. EV enjoyed the song, but I’m not too sure whether she grasped the idea of the alphabets.

The last 15 minutes of the class was devoted to Mandarin, where a native speaking teacher read a story book. Due to the short time, there was not much that she could do. I think EV enjoyed it, because she was grabbing the story book and wanted to flip it herself!

It was obvious that EV thoroughly enjoyed herself. She was moving to the music, prancing around to explore the room, engaged with the teachers during storytelling time, and well, she loved her favourite Gerber puffs. However, we think that the class was too long, and the teachers seemed like they were scrambling to cover too many topics in order to fill up the 1.5 hours. The Mandarin session was too short, and at 15 minutes long, we are not sure what sort of benefits it would bring to the child. Perhaps it might be better to shorten the English session, and devote more time to Mandarin, so that there is also a change of pace.

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