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Emotional, social smartness the key to a happy life?


Recently we went to an event which was full of academics... they knew everything about everything and had an opinion on it but in the main they were emotionally and socially stilted. Eye contact was lacking, conversation was one-way and we were bored, bored, bored.


Granted – this is coming from the girl whose happiest memories includes whiling away an hour with a friend on a train platform seeing how many Revels we could stuff up our noses and throw through the windows of waiting trains. It got messy and eventually we were asked to leave.


But it got me thinking about what we can do to make our little boy emotionally intelligent as well as smart. I want him to be happy, confident, inquisitive and kind and for him to learn the basics of turn-taking, sharing and friendly interaction right now. We vary the activities we take him to – from Gymboree and Tiny Tempo to children’s centres, Baby Sign Language, swimming and play dates.


We’ve tried lots and we do mix it up but, for our 14-month-old these are our favourites. We’ve been with Gymboree the longest and have seen him flourish from a nervous baby who would cling to my neck to a lovely little boy who crawls excitedly to the next activity, squeals with anticipation when the multicoloured parachute is tipped onto the floor and reaches to pop the bubbles. He explores with confidence, is content among the other babies and is learning to share.


We started when he was 4 months old... there we picked up the basics of sign language and explored different sensory stimulations and we’re now at Level 3 which is laid out like a baby obstacle course with tunnels, bridges, padded slides and things that rock. Classes are structured with singing and different activities but it’s fun and you’re encouraged to follow your baby’s lead - so it’s ok if they wander off to play with something else.


The teachers could all star on a West End Stage and deliver each song with real gusto. In fact I think our little boy has his first crush on one of them.


I guess in the main planning a busy schedule of activities is about preserving what little sanity I have left... as a full-time mum the days drag terribly if we’re stuck at home. And the classes and children’s centres we attend mean he’s constantly meeting new children and I’m getting fresh ideas for how to play with our son and which props we can use to keep it new and engaging.


Sure – education is important and when the time comes we’ll move heaven and earth to ensure we find the school that suits our son the best and if course we’ll encourage him to work hard. But if he’s emotionally intelligent the rest should follow right?


Maybe Gymboree should start boot camps for emotionally stilted adults with clowns and singing and sandpits and sensory stimulation to help them find their inner fun. Maybe the next academic event we attend we’ll bring some chocolate confectionary and challenge the boffins to a Revel-off.

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