Irrespective of the embarrassing sing-alongs, messy crafts and the often drafty locations, I really don't know what's not to love about baby and toddler groups. There's the morning of stimulation and energy burning for the tots, a chance for adult conversation (or at least attempting one in between play-related emergencies), plus a cup of tea and even a biscuit if you get there in time. And all for a pound - I'm in!
I also enjoy seeing my young toddler away from his natural habitat - beginning to navigate the big bad world - represented here by a Fisherprice Garage and Happy Land sets. Plus, because I am A) naturally nosey and B) a bit of a worrier, I also like to observe how he interacts with the smalls around him. When I say interact, I of course mean play next to but mostly ignore, then run away if another child touches him; but it is interesting to see the way little people behave around and towards one another.
It's a bit like visiting a zoo really. Last week, I saw two upper-age tots scrapping and shouting at each other pretty ferociously, then calmly informing the intervening adult that it was okay because, "We are just playing lions." And there we were - right in the enclosure - all for a pound!
From 'just cruising' to 'school ready' there's room for every kind of kid here - and many kinds there are. Where do your children feature in The Top Ten?
Song time you say? SONG TIME!!! This tot not only knows the complete actions to Wind the Bobbin Up and Miss Polly Had a Dolly, he's nothing short of professional in his performing, spinning and bouncing abilities, and will rock to most any tune. His timing with Sleeping Bunnies is sheer perfection, and he is fully aware of the subtle differences between it and Dingle Dangle Scarecrow.
May possibly get a little aggravated during story time, as anything that takes away from the songs is a quite simply a waste of his rhythm-loving time.
'Snacks? Meh. Toys? Whateves. Books? Per-lease!' This child (usually in the upper-age spectrum), is all about the safety scissors and stickering. Not one to be burdened with scraps over popular toys, The Crafter is happiest designing her heart out with whatever goodies have been provided by the art fairies. If she hasn't stuck a hundred googley eyes to several pieces of sugar paper by 11 AM, she hasn't succeeded. How's that for a life motto?
May be irritated by The Performer and The Talker, or anyone else who tears her away from the craft table and her plan for world glitter domination.
She knows she's in an over-saturated market and has to work to be heard. Whatever the issue may be - a stolen toy, a doll she is coveting, a non-welcome nappy change or the failure to sight a parent for 15 seconds - her fail safe response is to scream until her world is righted.
May clash with The Toy Stealer, The Snack Monster and The Pusher who will most likely withdraw from her wrath with shock and more than a little fear.
The Toy Stealer
Eyes fixed on his target and faster than the speed of light, this tot will show no mercy to any peers innocently enjoying their turn with the tambourine, digger or toy pram. Foolish are they for not having a firmer grip, thinks he, as he swoops in and conquers without a backwards glance. If on a role, the Toy Stealer may even attempt to commandeer abstract concepts, such as imaginative play and floor patting. His cue to steal is inspired by other children's pleasure and enjoyment - they like it - he wants it.
May receive a nasty comeuppance from The Biter, if he slows down enough to be caught.
Thank Heavens for The Talker. Story time would fall a bit flat without anyone to join in enthusiastically, even if their answer is often a stretch to fit the question...
'Does anyone know how God turned the water into wine?'
'Um, um, my mummy says wine is nice and um, um, it makes her head hurt sometimes, but so do I, um um.'
Yes, thank you for that, The Talker.
Is also likely to be forthright in song suggestions, and potentially overly-excited about which colour tractor we should all be 'bouncing up and down on.'
May clash with The Performer if his chatterbox ways start eating into song time.
Has anyone told this kid violence does not solve things? Of course they have, but conversely, she's found that actually, it sorts things pretty well. With a quick flick of the hand, her fellow small is a threat no more and the biscuit, bike, book or whatever else is causing this Hulk like rage is hers - all hers.
'How is that not considered resolved?' She wonders whilst stroking her chin and polishing her 'muhaha muhaha' evil laugh - it is coming along quite nicely.
May become locked in a bloody battle with The Biter, and could receive a nasty bout of ear ache from The Screamer.
The Peacemaker may also be (less kindly) termed The Pushover. This child will do anything for a quiet life, including giving up the much coveted Cozy Coupe he has been desperately waiting most of the morning for. The Peacemaker may also force toys on others - even when they don't want them - and can be found happily playing away until approached by The Biter, The Pusher or The Toy Stealer, whereupon he will make a hasty retreat to his safe zone (parent) and wait for the storm to pass.
Will clash with nobody but fear everybody.
The Snack Monster
This tot is all about the freebies. The first to the table at snack time, he's a two-handed-Tommy when it comes to the grub being dished out. He'll down any beaker of juice (whose is of no relevance to him) and work faster than a Hungry Hippo to clear out the raisin plate. He's a tot on a mission and there's no table etiquette in his world - just snacks for the taking - and take them he will... He who dares - eats.
May clash with The Screamer - nobody likes earache with their mid-morning breadstick.
There's not much to say about The Biter, other than, 'Ouch!' 'NO!' and 'Let go damn you, I'm begging you, please stop!' in a firm, calm or hysterical voice.
May clash with The Toy Stealer - by clash I mean bite - so if you've got a sticky fingered small, remember that hell hath no fury like a biter scorned.
The Cling-on requires his mum, dad or grandparent along with him at all times, and if possible fully engaging in his chosen method of play. It matters to him not that 'mumma' doesn't fit on the plastic red rocker or that she would actually rather poke her left eye out than play dumper trucks for the hundredth time that morning. The Cling-on is fazed by no one - not even The Pusher as he knows he will remain safe with both hands on his toy and one eye on his parent.
May be distracted from clinginess at food time, so long as he doesn't come plate to fist with The Snack Monster whilst his caregiver is distracted by biscuits.
Whichever profile your child currently fits, do not fear if it is one of the more savage types; after all, everything is a phase and they will soon let go of one type and embrace another. In fact, they will probably don all ten of these hats at some point in their toddler-hood. Or if you're really lucky, all in one action packed session, in which case I strongly advise you to take some deep breaths, down a few shots of caffeine and hold on tight.