Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Scientist for a day

I read the listing for Magic Bean House in BeijingKids the other day, and was keen on visiting. After getting positive/raving reviews from other mamas on the expat forum, it went down on my ‘to-do/visit’ list, and I finally got down to doing it today with Rosabelle’s friend in the yard, the older girl Baobao (both her Mummy and Grandma came along too).

We set off at around 10:30 am in the morning and luckily we had the driving directions and phone number, as Baobao’s Dad, who gave us a lift, couldn’t find the place. When we reached, I was already mentally prepared to not expect anything HUGE, but was pleased with their rather clean-looking reception area (and changed into my own socks – though they do provide real clumsy-looking shoe mufflers – is that what you call them?, and donned their socks over Rosabelle’s own, just for hygiene reasons, heh…).

It costs RMB40 per child below three (or is it two?), and one accompanying adult goes in free, so it’s not very expensive. As usual, Rosabelle set herself loose as I was paying for the entrance ticket, and ended up at the first stop, exploring the different foam balls (and the shooter jets that you can aim the balls at). It’s an interesting section about the planets and air pressure/suction etc, which I think will be better appreciated by an older kid (this place is for kids 0-8 years of age anyway).

And then on to the next station, a perennial favourite with all kids – water! Our girl is rather tall for her age, but still had to tiptoe to reach at the toys at the surface of the water, and needed help getting at those far away or at the bottom.
But she could play freely as they provide clean waterproof coats and even rainboots. Rosabelle walked very gingerly in the over-sized boots, but was otherwise quite happy with just picking the toys up and placing them back elsewhere (or at times pouring the water from them all over, gosh…).
The slide next caught her attention and kids have to climb up a series of three platforms all by themselves before they can reach the top of the slides. Her lack of height was again an obstacle but our girl did not give up. Though she wanted me to help her, she could understand when I asked her to use the net as steps for her to put her little feet into and use them to push herself upwards. Even though she fell back a few times and looked quite shocked, she picked herself up quickly and went through it a few more times, probably pleased with her newfound capabilities.
The first time she came off the slide, she hit her chin against the side when she was trying to stand up and cried abit (she does not really cry unless it really hurts – that was quite a hard knock…). However, I’m really proud of her for daring to try, and for doing it again and again in spite of the falls.
And there was also a garage section, with fake petrol pumps and a mini racing section. However, the girls were more interested in taking turns at playing driver in the truck instead.
After that is my favourite part of the place – the mini supermarket complete with trolleys/baskets, different types of produce, and even a check-out counter with scanners (and price checking device) that can tabulate your items (great for older kids who want to practise some mathematics). There were fake chicken wings, crabs, lobsters, fruits, milk cartons, packets of beans, fruit juices etc – it was really fun as Rosabelle loves to do her make-believe 买菜 at home as well.
Then there was a room where kids can have some quiet time to do some art and craft, or reading (there are supposedly teachers around to guide in crafts over the weekend, and scheduled activities on other days). There was, however, a helpful staff at hand aiding in the caterpillar-making with two older kids. Today, they younger girls just did some doodling with crayons and markers on their own.
We next ended up at the young kids section, for younger kids (crawling stage), where they had fun pretending to cook (there were only fruits, no other ‘cookable’ produce, though).
There were also other soft toys and small gadgets (even a running train) in this area, but the girls were more interested in crawling through, and chasing each other, through a tunnel. Rosabelle even fed the dolphin outside with alphabet chips as it read out each letter that it was eating.
They also had fun pressing at the buttons of the animals as they (the animals on the mural, not the kids) made very impressive and realistic booming sounds. If we had more time, I’m sure the girls would have continued to interest themselves exploring in more detail each of the exhibits, as well as others we did not really got to, like the construction/building blocks and bricks area and the puppet/dress-up costumes area.

Till now, Rosabelle is still reciting to Nainai the story about ‘宝宝姐姐上楼梯不乖,阿姨生气了' as Baobao’s mum was angry at her own daughter for going back up the steps with her shoes on just as we were leaving. At that point, Rosabelle sputtered out, ‘宝宝姐姐不乖', much to the amusement of Baobao’s mum.

I took the brochures for the place, and read them after, totally agreeing that the place, though seemingly ‘small’ in our eyes, is massive enough for a kid. I also agree that kids should be left to explore at their own pace, touching/dawdling wherever/whenever they want to, rather than going through the paces and ensuring that they ‘cover all stations to get our money’s worth’, or ‘making them do things to capture a priceless shot’. Haha…

After that, we walked in the slight drizzle to have lunch at Muse Restaurant at Chaoyang Park area. Not exactly kid-friendly – they have only one baby chair in the whole restaurant, and when we requested for them to borrow one from Annie’s next door, they said that was also used. So Baobao ended up sitting on a normal chair, but luckily they were both hungry and finished their Chaozhou Fish/Meatballs noodle soup pretty fast!

We caught a taxi back home together, where the girls enjoyed the green grapes I brought, and Rosabelle was so exhausted after, sleeping more than two hours for her afternoon nap that day.

It wasn't very crowded when we went (at most 10 other kids and their guardians around?), but maybe it's because it's a weekday, and not many people know about it since it just opened its doors in January this year (supposedly modelled after a concept in the States). Magic Bean House is a place worth a re-visit, especially as Rosabelle gets older, and taller!

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