A couple of days ago when I was in a store in Singapore and somebody was trying to sell me a Leap pad for Sophie, and she tried this silly argument on me about exposure and interactivity to help speech development. I told the nice sales lady that Sophie is currently speaking really well because she gets constantly exposed to 3 languages by wonderful people who love her to bits - so exactly what need do I have for a talking toy? When you reduce it down to its basic form -- most children's products are just lousy plastic substitutes for good care-givers, and if you have that, you don't need more than some rough paper, a couple of coloring pens, some humour and imagination.
The nannies taking care of Sophie at home are just the kind of people that I am happy leaving Sophie with for about 5 hours a day. I work at home some mornings, and others Sophie has some kind of activity planned. The afternoons (after the nap) is devoted to picking up leaves in the downstairs garden, visit the supermarket and learn the names of fruit and vegetables, and just do fun stuff with ayi.
I still think that going to nursery school is the best thing for Sophie when term begins this September. She's a curious little girl with lovely manners and has a quiet confidence. I think it is a confidence which springs from having had a sheltered life with her every need answered, and her overall belief of her place in the world is just so innocent and pure that my heart aches inexplicably when I see her wandering around without a care. It's just like her habit of approaching every single dog she meets with outstretched arms and a big goofy smile comes from never having interacted with anything other than the most well mannered dogs belonging to our neighbours, family and friends.
At some point in time, she will have to learn that not all dogs are so polite and not everyone will love her unreservedly. At some point she will have to learn "my turn!" and "share!" the hard way, and at some point she will know that you do have to push a little in a crowd to make yourself some room.
In an ideal world I would have liked her to learn these lessons in one of the "purist" monterssori shcools in beijing with classic large classrooms and mixed-age classes. However the one in town is not on the way to my office and is in the middle of one of the largest traffic snarls around, and the other one is far out in the suburbs, and not on either mine or Fab's work route.
In terms of the available choices, I am torn between Ivy Academy (http://www.ivyacademy.cn/) and British School (http://www.britishschool.org.cn/). British School has a more formal cirriculum overall, and the kids wear uniforms (they look really cute though!). Ivy Academy has a smaller campus and I think a bigger free play component.