We've had some lovely new play experiences last week, starting with a visit to Warrington's new Play & Sensory Center. It's a purpose-built soft play center for disabled children and adults, which opened in the summer of 2012 after a lot of hard work by disability organisations in the town. We haven't visited before so when we got a letter from Bee's nursery a few weeks ago with a permission slip for a trip I was very excited! Happily the visit fell on a Wednesday so Foz was able to come with us. He misses so much with having to work so when the opportunity arises for him to be included I'm really pleased.
Last Wednesday morning was similar to lots of others recently: bitterly cold, strong wind and snow flurries. We'd booked on to the coach for the trip as Bee loved the recent journey to Underwater Street and doesn't get to travel on buses very often, it's almost an adventure in itself! She was very excited about this trip in particular as K, Bee's favourite teacher, was accompanying us. She'd been frantically using her hand sign for K all morning, wanting reassurances that she would be there.
After meeting at nursery we boarded the coach for the 10-minute journey to the play center. Bee loves to look at the window and is especially watchful for buses, even though all we mainly see are cars, houses and trees! Weirdly enough (considering where we live) there is a boat in a driveway on our journey to nursery from home, Bee always loves pointing that out. Thankfully by the time we arrived at our destination the snow had stopped and the sun was doing it's best to come out. No matter to us though, we were off inside for lots of climbing, sliding, jumping and fun!
Warrington Play and Sensory Center was wonderful! Bee has always loved soft play but has needed a lot of support moving around as she's not big enough to climb the structures herself and doesn't have the strength due to her hypotonia. I also find that Bee is best suited to the 'under 3's' section as she very gentle, can't yet run or jump yet we still get dirty looks from other parents are Bee is clearly over 3 years old. Yet she can't manage the big frame, both in terms of her ability and because the older children running and being rough is too much for her. We stopped attending soft play as it became too stressful. Warrington Play & Sensory Center is built around easy access and everything is at a height she can climb unaided. It's perfect for Bee, everything she needs, heights she can manage and no judgement from the other parents for using equipment that might be too 'young' for her. Even so Bee still wants an adult with her at all times and isn't yet moving off to play on her own or with other children. Generally she's happy to have myself or her dad by her side but for this trip only 'K' would do. Bee has a habit of forming strong attachments to certain adults and will stick like glue to that adult whenever she's around that. So far that's always been family members, namely my mum, Foz's mum and my Auntie Jane. 'K' has been the first person outside of family that Bee's become this attached too. 'K' was brilliant and happy to spend much of her time with Bee, even though I felt bad that it meant taking her away from sharing her attention with the other children. Still, they all had parents/carers there as well as the rest of the nursery staff so I suppose I shouldn't feel too bad.
The session was over far too quickly and, even though she was extremely tired, Bee did not want to leave. We had to deal with a small tantrum, which dissipated as soon as she realised we'd be getting back on the bus. We really enjoyed the new soft play center and would definitely chose there again over any other soft play locally. The small things, like Bee being able to climb unaided, make such a difference to the overall experience. It enables her to become more confident in her own abilities and not rely on us so much for support.
That afternoon we took a trip to the Trafford Center for a bit of a mooch around and a nice meal together. Bee loves to shop, it's one of her favourite pastimes and sometimes I worry I'm creating a monster. When she's a teenager and demanding the latest designer handbag or shoes I'm sure I'll look back at this time and curse myself. Still, just to see her charging up and down the aisles, helping fill the trolley and interacting with the checkout staff is worth it.
The Trafford Center doesn't really have much that interests us, it's full of fancy shops like Selfridges or brand name clothes shops. The main thing we visit for is Disney. No matter what interests come and go Bee still has a deep and abiding love for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and especially Minnie.
Before Bee's birthday last year we'd tried to buy a Minnie car mat (with matching Minnie and Daisy cars) from the Disney shop but sadly they'd sold out and we haven't seen them since. We tried other stores and online, nothing. So I was thrilled when we went in last week and found *just one* on the shelf. It wasn't the Minnie one but the Mickey but Bee loved it just as much. It turns out it was a return and the only one so we snatched it up, there was no way I was missing it a second time!
Bee was very pleased with her new toy!....
We spent some time sat by one of the large fountains, having a drink and gave Bee some pennies to throw in. She didn't throw so much as gently push them in, she can be a funny thing. This particular fountain shoots a giant jet of water towards the ceiling every few minutes, which Bee loved....from a distance! Every time it happened she would back away from the fountain, scrunching her face up as if the water was coming at her, still with a big smile though!
After the soft play in the morning, a lot of walking round The Trafford Center in the afternoon along with a meal Bee was exhausted. She began making that steady moan noise that we know means she's ready to give up. She had some cuddles with her daddy while we finished our food then we headed home. It was straight to bed for an early night!
Bee has recently discovered Baby Jake (from CBeebies) and has fallen in love, which we think is an extension of her love for dolls/babies generally. So a few weeks ago during a mooch round Toys'r'Us we bought Bee a Baby Jake board game. We haven't yet started on board games with Bee, they've seemed a little developmentally advanced, not to mention our struggles with Bee's attention span. However this Baby Jake game stated the target age at 3-5 years and the pictures on the box showed a game which looked reasonably easy for her to master and short enough not to become boring.
So one recent afternoon I got it out of the packaging and set it up. Bee was extremely excited and it took a few minutes to calm her before trying to explain how to play. The basic premise is to roll the dice and move your counter to the finish line in order to 'launch' Baby Jake's rocket. Getting Bee to roll the dice was the easy part, trying to explain that she could only roll once each turn was slightly more difficult. Then we couldn't stop her constantly trying to press the button that launched the rocket or picking up the counters to chew on them. Turn-taking is a skill Bee is still acquiring and I think it's going to take a little more practice before we really master the art of board games!