Ender started in the Gymboree Play and Learn stage 2 at the beginning of December, when he turned 6 months old. He had just been starting to make crawling like attempts, and I thought maybe getting him at a place like Gymboree would help get him going.
His favorite place to experiment with movement is our bed. He has been wriggling and moving himself there for well over a month now, but when he gets on floors, carpet or hardwood, he tends to be a lot more cautious, which is probably pretty smart now that I think about it. Since Gymboree is just padded everywhere, I thought it might let him be more adventurous, without me having to drag him back from a bed edge every few minutes.
It didn’t work out quite as expected. First of all, Ender had almost no interest in trying anything at all at Gymboree. Maybe if I’d stuck around longer he would have gotten used to the newness and started to play more, but the bright colors seemed to bewilder him and something about the way the room was built made sounds echo unnervingly- it gave me a headache, and I suspect it is part of what kept Ender static. He DID love the colored wiffle balls, but you know, balls are easy to come by, and I’m not sure he loved them because of any particular quality of their own, or just because it was the only thing in the play area that was small enough for him to handle and shove in his mouth. By the end of the month, he was also pretty interested in the bubbles, which prompted me to buy some for him, since he’s never taken the slightest notice before.
It’s possible that Ender was just too young for something like Gymboree. Aside from thinking it might get him crawling a little sooner, I didn’t want or expect some miracle exercise routine. I don’t think it’s necessary or advisable to push that kind of thing on babies. Mainly, I think the purpose of baby activities such as Gymboree is to keep people like me sane, giving them something to do and a reason to get dressed and leave the house. I was disappointed all around though: Ender pretty much just sat there and watched everything until he got overwhelmed enough to cry (admittedly not often). And though he was the youngest baby in the class, the other babies didn’t seem much more engaged in the equipment or activities than he was. Left to their own devices, the babies played with the whiffle balls, and maybe occasionally grabbed the mini trampoline. Everything else was parent led, urging the babies to go down parallel slides together and watch each other to promote socialization (not kidding) or ride in the boat (the babies seemed pretty bored with it after the first 20 seconds) or roll a ball down the slope (they preferred to hang on to the balls actually, thank you very much). Not only is this overly parent-directed style pretty contrary to my ideas about parenting, it also made socialization a bit strained, because we were too busy trying to entertain babies who would have been content to chew on wiffle balls.
What it comes down to I think, is that I’m spoiled. When Ender was about 3 months old I discovered story time at the local library. Then I realized that there are seven different Cuyahoga County libraries within 20 minutes of my house, and they ALL have story time. I can go to story time every weekday- a story time geared towards 0-18 month olds. It’s short, about 15 minutes, which is about as long as the babies can go without getting restless, and it’s followed by an open play time with library baby toys. We do rhymes, songs, and usually one or two short picture books. And it’s FREE. During the free play after I can chat with other moms (and the occasional dad) while Ender gnaws on the library toy nearest him, and then when he decides he’s had enough, we can leave. If he’s cranky, or ready for a nap, or if something else comes up on any particular day, I can skip story time without feeling guilty, because 1) it’s (once again now) FREE and 2) I know I can try again the next day. Ender loves watching the other kids, (far more of which are crawling around at story time then Gymboree) and the only suggested “activity” is, you know, reading stories. I decided to give Gymboree a try in December, because the story time series took a break over December. It started back up today.
So Gymboree didn’t do much for us. I have to realize though that this is only because I already had something better.
*Gymboree image from flickr user sully213