I have a three-year-old that loves learning. Whilst his peers enjoy kicking a ball, pushing cars about, or dashing around the garden, he would much rather settle down to swat up on the alphabet, practise his counting, or ask me endless questions about the world around him.
So, when I heard about a new science class called Mini Professors, launched in Dubai by the same people who host the hugely popular Baby and Toddler Sensory UAE sessions, I couldn’t wait to take him along to try it.
Suitable for two to four-year-olds, Mini Professors aims to make science fun and enjoyable through its 45-minute classes. Each week covers a different topic, from mixing colours, to learning about dinosaurs, to discovering the science behind our sense of balance, with a mixture of hands-on fun, teacher demonstrations, and short films that engage the children.
So I took my son to The Change Initiative on Sheikh Zayed Road one Tuesday afternoon, excited about what we would discover. He was a little apprehensive, as he usually is about trying new things, but as we walked through the door and the class leader Oana welcomed him with a, “Hello, Professor Stanley” and handed him his very own white lab coat and name badge for the session, a smile started to spread over his face. He refused to wear the coat, of course, but most of the other class members were sporting theirs proudly.
After a spot of reading on the mats while everyone arrived (books with a science theme, of course), we all joined together to sing the welcome song, with the opening line, ‘Science is all around us’. It might have been the first time we’d heard the song, but the other little scientists around us were singing heartily. It reminded me of the opening songs we performed at Baby Sensory when my son was tiny, giving him a cue that the class was about to start – and the premise was exactly the same, with the children all sitting up and engaged as the song finished and Oana came to the front to chat to the children about the day’s theme.
On this occasion it was colour – and the children sat wide-eyed as Oana demonstrated mixing different shades with a torch on the wall. At first, the light was yellow, before she showed the children a blue filter, attached it to the torch, and showed how the light had changed to green. Amidst “Ooooh!” and “Aarrrr!” and shouts of “Yellow! Blue! Green!”, Oana explained how colours always mixed and moved through different filters to demonstrate this.
With the children all suitably fascinated, it was time to move over to the tables for some practical fun. Definitely the highlight of the class for all the children, they enthusiastically mixed food colours with water to create a rainbow of different hues, before Oana gave them the chance to mix the colours on their own.
The beauty of this class is that it allows the children to experiment without worrying about mess. It didn’t matter if they spilt the water – the point is that they are allowed to try and discover results, making the learning process so much more effective.
As Oana cleared up, we moved back to the mats to watch a short film.
The fun wasn’t over, as a second round of experiments was now ready – so we moved back to the table and the children were invited to create fun colour explosions using baking soda. This was the big highlight for Stanley (and for others, judging by the laughter around the tables). In fact, he was telling people about it for weeks afterwards.
The class ended with a recap about what we’d learnt and a quick sing of the goodbye song to signal that the class was over – and as we made our way home, Stanley didn’t stop chatting about what he’d learnt, pointing out colours he had seen and telling me how to mix different ones.
I was never a fan of science at school as I found it a bit boring, so to see Stanley learning in such a fun, warm, engaging environment was a real pleasure. I’m sure that attending the classes every week would spark an interest in science, so we will definitely be heading back – and I’m already excited to find out what else is in store.
Mini Professors winter term will run January to March 22, at Dhs80 per class. Baby Sensory UAE, The Change Initiative, email@example.com (055 133 4399).
Three top Apps to try
My Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle’s classic story of food, colours and growing gets an interactive makeover with new adventures and ways to enjoy the story. Now how many bits of fruit can you eat through?
Dhs15. Apple and Android.
It won’t turn kids into musical virtuosos (you’ll need actual piano lessons for that) but it will give them a feeling of musical achievement and teach the basics of following a rhythm. Great for developing a musical “ear”.
Free. Apple and Android.
Fool yourself that this colouring app is on your phone for your kids but we know that you’re going to finish pictures long after they’re asleep. Different levels of difficulty, ranging from intricate patterns to animal pictures. Slightly addictive and perhaps even theraputic!
Free. Apple and Android.