Awhile back I posted about Gentle Parenting and Smart Love and promised a review of the Toddler Explorations class we took at Smart Love Preschool in Chicago. Well, here it is!
The Toddler Explorations class is designed for kids ages 12-36 months. It meets once each week for 75 minutes at the Smart Love Preschool location off of Lakeshore Drive and Irving Park Road in the Buena Park Historic District. The facility is AMAZING! The school is housed inside a gorgeous, historic mansion on a tree-lined street. The Preschool occupies the main floor while the second floor is reserved for parent/tot classes. There is an outdoor garden and greenhouse, and the school library is located in the home’s original library. When I first read about the facility I immediately thought of Harry Potter, his beloved Hogwart’s and how cool it would be for Asher to explore and learn in such a magical place. The facility is warm and inviting—like a home (okay, a really nice home)—a very non-threatening environment for little learners. There is also a small parking lot behind the school as well as street parking on Buena Avenue.
The approach to the Toddler Explorations class is intentionally unstructured. According to the Smart Love philosophy, children this age naturally learn through free play and exploration, which also helps them build a foundation for a lifelong love of learning. The Montessori-like room is separated into two sections that include activities focused on creative arts and motor play such as painting, play-doh, chalk/markers/crayons, sand and water tables as well as ride-on toys and doll strollers. There is also a play kitchen and table, reading nook and a huge variety of wooden toys. One of the most interesting things about the set-up is that there are at least two of everything in the room. Typically most children this age are not developmentally ready to share, so sharing is something modeled at Smart Love but not expected—hence the two of everything policy!
After about 45 minutes of free play, the class gathers to sing songs followed by a snack at the table and bubbles. Then each child receives a sticker, which is given in the transition room to help make leaving a little less painful for the kiddos and to give them something they can take with them from class.
Of all the classes that Brittany and I have taken our boys to, they seem to have the most fun at this class. And as mothers, we feel we’ve learned a lot. In addition to what we learned during the class, Smart Love also offers monthly evening seminars (with child care!) on topics such as discipline, sleeping and toilet choosing that have really helped us increase the number of tools we have in our Gentle Parenting toolkit.
If you practice Gentle Parenting we would highly recommend this class and Smart Love Preschool. What classes have you found that align with your Gentle Parenting approach?