PUBLISHED: 15:19 19 September 2013 | UPDATED: 15:19 19 September 2013
This week we headed to Happy House, the Hartbeeps class for toddlers and those up to the age of four. They also run classes for babies from birth to sitting, and sitting to toddling. Run by Andrea Kennedy and held at the Charters Health Club in St Albans and the Girl Guide Hall in Harpenden, Happy House is a 50 minute interactive, imaginative musical class and is, in my opinion, one of the best groups around.
The moment we walked in the room, it felt welcoming. Brightly coloured mats and cushions cover the floor, shoes are removed and toddlers immediately start running about. It is a good, safe space for them to do so and Andrea is very happy to have them explore. Theo was off as soon as his feet hit the ground and I was able to settle down on a cushion while keeping a beady eye on him.
We sit round in a circle and the welcome songs start. Hartbeeps music is rhythmical, very catchy and easy to sing along to. Andrea’s voice puts mine to shame but it is very easy to join in, and she leads well with clear actions. Theo is drawn to the circle once the beat kicks in and sits on my lap, mesmerised.
Happy House tells a story from start to finish. This week we started off on a journey by car, plane and bus and ended up at a swamp where we met a frog and then all of his cousins, before rushing home on the bus for tea. All the sections of the story are told through Andrea as chief storyteller, as well as through sounds, songs, props, toys, dance and actions.
The storytelling throughout the class is one aspect that makes Happy House stand out from other groups we have been to. It is engaging for adults and children alike and made me feel like we were really escaping into an adventure. We had mini planes and cars with foam street maps, plastic frogs, a purple swamp and various other toys and gadgets for the children to get their paws on as the story progressed. Nothing is cleared away until the end of the class, so Theo was increasingly delighted by the rich pickings that surrounded him and I didn’t have to prise anything off him mid-class which equals happy toddler and mum.
Once the story had ended and everyone was in various states of being or not being buses, planes or frogs, we had a relaxation session. The lights went off, there was a light display on the ceiling and fleece blankets and pillows were handed out. We all cuddle up with our bundles of joy under the lights and listen to soft music while Andrea hands out fluorescent stars and gloves to play with. It’s a lovely calming way to round off the class and slow down after all of the excitement. Theo was very happy to lie down, chew his glow-in-the-dark star and contemplate life…or more likely chewiness and what’s for lunch.
Andrea is a warm, bubbly personality, the type that children adore and she throws herself wholeheartedly into the story which brings it alive. Her enthusiasm is infectious and at one point, she had us all racing around the room pretending to be buses. Where else would you be doing that on a weekday morning? The children adore the class because it is so imaginative and packed full of colours, shapes and sounds. It is a sensory feast and the pace is never dropped.
It is great fun from start to finish and Theo and I had a wonderful time, returning home exhausted and happy. I guess that’s why they call it Happy House!
Contact: Andrea@hartbeeps.com; www.hartbeeps.com
Classes are held in St Albans and Harpenden: Happy House (toddling to 4 years, younger siblings welcome); Babybeeps (Sitting to toddling); Babybeeps (Birth to sitting)