Thursday, January 17, 2013
On Wednesday I was invited to take part in Tot-Smarts, a new type of "Mommy and Me" class geared towards ages 18 months to 3 years. Tot-Smarts is an interactive parent/toddler class that introduces toddlers to logical thinking with sorting, matching, counting, and more, while also fostering creativity with small art projects and art appreciation. And since toddlers are often better stimulated with other children to interact with, the playdate-like atmosphere makes Tot-Smarts classes fun, engaging, and educational.
Tot-Smarts is led by Anuva Bonzek and Kate Winternitz, both former teachers who now stay home with their children. The two work together, using their experience as former math and art teachers to create interactive and educational play time that exercises both the left and right sides of the brain.
I took my youngest, Zoe, age 2.5, to an introductory Tot-Smarts class held at Oak Hill United Methodist Church, and boy did she have a good time. The first 10 minutes of each class are devoted to free play, and Zoe immediately jumped into some puzzles, then moved onto building towers and houses with some brightly colored blocks. These were only two of several stations around the room, along with coloring, shape matching, and magnetic letters to name a few. Each station also had "wheel turners," that gave optional questions or exercises for each activity.
Next we gathered in a circle and sang a hello song, and introduced ourselves. One thing I really appreciated about the atmosphere is that the children were encouraged to take part in circle time, but they were also not discouraged from exploring the toys in the room. Miss Anuva and Miss Kate kept each segment short and sweet, ensuring that the kids didn't lose interest, but sometimes it can be hard to keep the attention of the 18 month - 3 year old crowd, so it was nice not to feel pressure to keep Zoe in my lap if she became interested in something else.
Miss Kate led us through our right brain activity, an art project where we learned about various kinds of hats from around the world, then made and decorated our own paper hats. It was fun to see what materials the children gravitated to. Some covered theirs with cut out pictures of animals, some colored with markers. Zoe enjoyed peeling and sticking foam letters and gluing feathers on her creation.
Miss Anuva then led us through our left brain activity: a balloon bonanza shape match! If there's two things toddlers love, it's balloons and dancing. The tots danced their hearts out to some funky tunes, and when the music stopped, everyone grabbed a balloon, identified the shape drawn on it, and went to find its matching counterpart taped to the wall.
Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye and we all helped clean up the stations. I'm not going to lie, that 50 minute class flew by. Each segment was just long enough to engage the children in valuable learning activities, but short enough that they didn't get bored or antsy. Anuva and Kate have really used their combined experiences as teachers and as moms to create a fun, playdate-like atmosphere that also gives toddlers valuable logical and creative skills.
Tot-Smarts classes take place each Wednesday at 9:50 and 11:10 a.m., at Oak Hill United Methodist Church. To sign up for a FREE introductory class, contact Anuva and Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tot-Smarts is currently offering a special launch price of $55 per month for new students who sign up before the end of February, and if you decide to sign up by the Friday following your free class, the $20 registration fee is waived. Students can also sign up for a three month session for only $150 and no registration fee. Visit the Tot-Smarts website for more information and pricing details.
Oh, and this was Zoe on the way home. I'd say she had a good time. Thanks, Tot-Smarts!
Leigh Ann Torres is a freelance writer and blogger living in Austin with her husband and three girls. She's a pretty good cook, a mediocre photographer, and a horrible housekeeper. She writes about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of life with twins plus one at Genie in a Blog.
Free Fun in Austin was offered a free introductory class and compensation in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% those of the author. For more information, please read our Disclosure Policy.