If you wander down the corridor towards the toilets at Hertford Theatre, you cannot miss the two large notice boards, covered with posters and leaflets, advertising some really wonderful classes and activities that take place at the theatre and other venues in Hertford.
As a mum of two, and someone totally new to Hertford, this was a great find! There are ads for social events, craft workshops, fitness classes, groups for the elderly, disabled and special needs families, meet-ups for parents of multiples, after school clubs, and events put on by the town council. Something that particularly caught my eye was the poster for Little Bees Music classes, run by Katie Neilson. Helpfully, these take place at the theatre (when you don’t know a town and have figured out one venue that serves coffee, tea, cake and has a baby change facility – it is very reassuring to be able to return!)
I’m so glad I tried it! I attended a trial session with my then 8 month old and thoroughly enjoyed it. As well as being fantastic with children, Katie is clearly a skilled musician with such a lovely voice that parents who don’t want to sing, don’t have to.
We sit in a circle on foam mats in the gorgeous “River Room” (imagine floor to ceiling windows along one entire side, overlooking – you guessed it – the river). Katie immediately seizes the attention of the little ones by playing her recorder, and they all stop and watch in silence as she begins the welcome song. There are several classes, both drop-in and bookable by term, for under 1s, under 2s and under 4s. The class we attend has a range of ages, from babes in arms through to energetic two year olds.
Katie’s Little Bees class has introduced us to a whole range of catchy new songs, as well as some old favourites (She’ll be coming round the mountain, Twinkle twinkle little star) we now have to go home and YouTube them to enjoy again AND get my five year old in on the action! Classes involve many different types of activities; dancing and moving around in a circle, playing with shakers, bells, tambourines, drums and other child-friendly percussion instruments and waving and throwing brightly coloured scarves.
There’s also finger puppets, a blanket “pond” to bounce toys on, bouncing on knees and cuddles during the lullaby, all in short bursts so the children never get bored. The 40-minute classes really fly by, and I am guaranteed a nice long nap afterwards (for my son, not me, sadly!) You can read more about Katie and Little Bees on her website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. She has also kindly given me some of her very precious time to answer a few of my questions, read on and enjoy!
1. You set Little Bees up when your own children were pre-schoolers, how did you come up with the idea?
I lived in the USA for a couple of years and took my son to a lovely independent group at the community centre (in a small town near Boston). Martha led the class with her guitar, her lovely singing voice and lots of kindness and fun! So I guess it was Martha who inspired me and gave me the idea…. she taught me the turtle rhyme we are doing this term and the tooth brushing song!
2. Why do you think it is so important to introduce music at an early age? What are the main benefits?
In fact we don’t really “introduce” music – children are innately musical! All we do is nurture and develop the wonderful skills they already have! Music is one of the most important and enjoyable forms of communication between young children and their parents and carers. I suppose my classes are designed to both nurture musicality in children and guide parents and carers in how to enjoy music with their babies and toddlers.
The benefits of good quality music education are immense and long lasting. Music reaches every part of the developing brain and helps children’s capacity for learning in all areas of their life and education! It supports the development of language skills, works hand in hand with physical development, helps them manage their emotions, builds relationships and brings joy as endorphins are released in their brains!
3. What do you find most rewarding about leading these classes for pre-school age babies and children?
I love building relationships with the families and watching the children grow. I have been running the classes for nearly 14 years and from time to time I bump into parents or grandparents who remember my classes … sadly the children don’t remember me because of course they were a bit too little at the time! The parents often comment on their children’s love of music, skills on instruments, beautiful singing voices and give me a little bit of the credit for this! The children look on, wondering who on earth I am … until their parents turn to them and say “this is the lady who taught us the jacket song / turtle rhyme / dinosaur song / bananaphone etc. etc.” and the children smile with recognition. It turns out that the families are still enjoying the songs from time to time- the songs have become part of their family history!
4. Tell us about your connection to the Hertford Symphony Orchestra (HSO)
I play cello in the orchestra. I was a child when I learnt the instrument. I loved it and took it quite seriously. Now it really is just a hobby, but a very lovely one. I am on the committee for the orchestra and do a lot of the marketing and social media which is a bit time consuming but quite fun and very rewarding. We have a children’s concert coming up at the end of January and I am very pleased to see that Hello Hertford has shared my most recent post! Thank you!
5. What future plans, changes or ideas are in the pipeline for the Little Bees business going forward?
I am studying for an MA in Early Childhood Music with CREC in Birmingham and I suppose I am hoping that my studies and research will help me to make Little Bees even better. As a result of one of the training days, I am now offering “pay as you go” for some classes at Little Bees. In the past I always imagined it would be too much work but I have now come to realise that it isn’t really “about me” and that I need to respond to the needs of the families in Hertford. We will see what else I learn and find out and how that impacts my business…
6. How on earth do you remember all the babies names?!
I work very hard at this and don’t always succeed! I think repetition is the key … I sing their names at least three times in every class and when they hand in their puppets or instruments you will hear me saying “thank you, Evie”, “thank you Robert” and so on.
To find out more and how to book a trial class, contact Katie via:
Or phone: 07962 232535
About the author
This is a guest post from blogger Carla Brown.*
Carla is a Hertford mum of two boys, blogging about our wonderful town and all it has to offer. She’s a social media specialist under the guise of Hello Hertford, usually found Tweeting and Facebooking local happenings of interest to families, and Instagramming everything in sight!
Read more from Carla at:
*All opinions expressed in this article and related materials are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by HertfordArts. This website is a place to discuss Hertfordshire’s wonderful artists and their work so please feel free to leave a comment below – just please keep it friendly, so we can all enjoy an open, pleasant conversation. Thank you.