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Tumble Tots is an organisation that has been running since the late 1970's. There are now over 500 centres nationwide.
It is a physical play programme for children from 6 months old to 7 years old, encouraging chidren to develop physical skills and confidence. Skills such as agility, balance, climbing and co-ordination are developed, alongside the language skills of speaking and listening.
The sessions are fun, exciting and challenging, whilst offering children a safe environment in which to explore and develop using the equipment provided. The sessions are run by a fully trained team leader, who is supported by other trained members of staff.
The tumble tots programme is divided into diferent age categories:
GYMBABES - Crawling to walking... This class is for babies from 6 months old. Parents particiapte fully in this class, helping their babies to crawl, climb, explore and play.
TUMBLE TOTS - Walking to 2 years... A class for children who are walking with confidence. Parents help their children to climb, jump and roll.
2 - 3 years... This class uses higher equipment and activity stations, which develop agility, balance, climbing and co-ordination skills. Interaction with other children, listening and language skills are encouraged in this class.
3 years - school age... Activities are more challenging and controlled in this class. Self esteem and self confidence are encouraged in this class, in which children participate without their parents.
GYMBOBS - School age - 7 years... This class encourages body management, warm-up routines and exercise, with and without equipment. Teamwork is developed through games and relays.
MEMBERSHIP Each tumble tots class lasts for 45 minutes and there is a weekly session throughout term time. There is a fee for each session, which varies according to the location and type of class (I pay £4.40 per session for gymbabes) The weekly fees are payable on a half termly or termly basis and have to be paid up front. As far as I'm aware, if a session is missed, you do not get this money reimbursed.
You must also pay a yearly membership fee in order to attend the classes, which covers insurances. The membership fee is initially £20 and then £18.50 for subsequent years or siblings.
This does seem quite pricey, especially on top of the weekly class fees, although the membership fee does include a T-shirt (gymbabes, tumble tots or gymbobs, depending on the class attended), a year's subscription to 'Right Start' magazine, a discount book (family attractions etc) and a gift (Ellie received a tumble tots music CD with about 6 songs on it)
I took Ellie to her first 'GYMBABES' class when she was just over 6 months old. She was able to roll over, but was not yet crawling and was barely managing to sit up unaided.
My first impressions of the class were very positive. I had got friends who had recommended tumble tots to me, but I was still not too sure of what to expect. When we arrived, I was confronted with a large gymnasium type room, half of which was packed full of slides, ladders, a ball pit, swing, mini trampoline, large gym ball and lots of slopes and tunnels. It looked really exciting.
I took Ellie's socks off (as that's what the other Mums seemed to be doing) and we all sat in a circle on mats, with our babies in front of us.
The class leader began by asking us to warm the babies up by massaging their arms, legs and feet. She was demonstrating on a doll, so it was easy to see what to do. We then sang a few action songs. In total, this took about 5 minutes.
The middle part of the session involves the children exploring the equipment. The group leader showed me some of the things and then left me to explore. With 3 other members of staff within the room, there were plenty of people on hand to ask for help. In this first session, it was all rather mind boggling and I was unsure of which pieces of equipment to take Ellie onto. Within a few sessions, however, I was much more confident (as was Ellie!!) and I soon became used to the apparatus.
At the end of the session, we all came together again for some more action songs. The group leader then gave out any certificates for children who had started to walk, or who were moving up to the next class. She then celebrated any birthdays with a card and a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' and then gave a sticker to each of the babies.
At the end of the session, magazines, free samples, invoices etc are given out by the group leader, whilst the other members of staff get ready for the next class.
Each week follows this same format. Activities sometimes vary at the beginning and the end (we sometimes use the parachute, which is great fun when all the babies crawl underneath!!) The middle section of the class always involves 'free play', although the layout of the equipment can sometimes change. There is usually a ball pit (which is one of Ellie's favourites), tunnels to crawl through, slopes to climb, tubes to roll over and things to bounce on.
Overall, I am really impressed and happy with the gymbabes class. Ellie is now nearly 10 months old. She has been crawling since she was 8 months old and I'm sure the classes have really helped her. She can climb up the slopes with ease and enjoys crawling through the tunnels. She loves the ball pit and will happily sit in there for ages. It is quite tricky to keep her still in the circle at the beginning of the session, as she is so keen to go off and explore the equipment. She is more keen to sit at the end because she is usually worn out and will always fall straight off to sleep in the car on the journey home.
The staff are lovely and very supportive. The group leader knows all the babies by name (which is quite impressive considering she runs 5 sessions a week and each of the different types of classes!!) Although the sessions cost £4.40 each, I feel that this is a fair price considering the number of staff members and all the equipment that is provided. I do wish, however, that missed sessions were reimbursed and it is sometimes difficult to attend every session due to unforseen circumstances such as illness.
Ellie enjoys the sessions very much, although she is getting far too brave at home and will happily climb over all the furniture!! She enjoys being with the other children and the joy on her face makes the £4.40 cost of the session well worth it.
I would thoroughly recommend the tumble tots experience to anyone who is considering joining with their baby or toddler, especially if you are looking for a more active baby / parent venture. The website (www.tumbletots.com) is well worth a visit for more information and to find / contact your local group.