We are so fortunate today to have a plethora of amazing baby and toddler classes being offered for our little ones all geared at bonding, developing and having fun for both parent and little one. Sometimes the choice can be slightly overwhelming especially when you are on a limited income from maternity pay!
Baby classes, in my opinion, are well worth considering. They differ from the traditional baby and toddler groups that our parents attended, where you meet to socialise with other parents over a coffee and babies free play with a selection of toys, in that most that follow a structure based around the Early Years Foundation Stage (the curriculum for learning for all UK children and help you baby meet their milestones). So not only is baby gaining the social skills achieved from a group, your baby is unwittingly being educated all under the guise of fun! It may look like play but singing, signing, craft, puppets, climbing, dancing all help your baby discover the world around them – even blowing bubbles – believe it or not actually helps baby learn the mouth shape for the letter “P” and “B” for when they are ready to communicate!
In addition, all session leaders of classes will be insured for their particular type of class and to give instruction. Hold a DBS certificate that provides you with peace of mind they have no criminal record and are able to work with children, and most are first aid trained, meaning you can have complete peace of mind you are letting baby explore in a safe environment.
Baby Classes can be held in various places, a good place to start to find one is the Essex Mum’s webpage, it lists many of the wonderful classes available and you can search by area too. Your local children’s centre is also a good place to try, often classes held in these venues are invited by the centre specifically as they are considered to be of an excellent standard. Church halls, your local library, soft play and cafés are also venue’s to contact to see what classes they host.
In my experience there are really 8 types of baby class:
Active – These are Gym related or dance classes, they help balance, co-ordination, motor skills, confidence and are excellent for burning all that energy. They can either be set out for baby to just have fun exploring, or classes, with set tasks to be done together in a group.
Communicative – Such as signing classes or phonics. These are brilliant for helping you communicate with baby, with signing well before they can actually speak and phonics classes are excellent for helping with reading, speaking and a little later preparing your toddler for school! They are often taught in a structured way in a class setting.
Massage – These are fabulous for early bonding with your little one and helping you as a new parent build confidence. During the course you learn techniques to help you calm baby and help alleviate common minor ailments. The leaders of these classes will have had training and been assessed to gain a qualification accredited by the likes of the Guild, IAIM, IICT or RCM before they are able to teach you how to massage your baby.
Messy/Craft – Fabulous for doing some really fun actives and not having to clean the mess up! These aid creativity, fine and gross motor skills and aid social development in your little one. They normally consist of several different stations set up for baby to explore ranging from painting to water, to edible fun!
Music – Music classes help with speech and listening skills. Music classes aid brain development and develops creativity in your little one. The often involve percussion instruments, movement, learning about rhythm, sounds and singing. These types of class are taught in an organised way.
Sensory – these classes help baby build confidence, social skills, motor skills and aid brain development by exposing them to all sorts of different experiences over the course of a few weeks. These types of class can be provided either with stations for baby to explore freely, or group activities in a more structured format
Swimming – often held in private or council pools, excellent for improving confidence in the water, muscle strength and co-ordination. It’s a brilliant life skill to give baby for so early on! These classes are taught often to a syllabus where baby works towards a certificate and badge at various stages for achieving certain things in the water, like jumping in, submersion etc.
Costs of classes can vary dramatically, with some being as much as £7.50 a class, payable termly to as little as £4.50 or payable on a pay as you go basis. In my experience the cost of the classes doesn’t always reflect the quality of the class and some providers offer more than one of the categories above during their sessions so you get the advantage of many types in one class.
I recommend contacting a session leader beforehand and see if they offer free or reduced taster class. Trying a class allows you to see if it feels right for you and baby before parting with your money and will help you decide if the time of day, venue, session leader and class is what you are looking for.
The benefits to baby of classes is abundant, for parents looking for a chance to escape the house, the chance to leave the noise of daily life behind and just focus on baby, be in the moment and make wonderful memories together baby classes are great. It’s also a fabulous chance to meet other local parents, make friends, and support each other as you are all moving through the same development stage with your baby together. It may be daunting to attend a class on your own with baby, but try it, a good session leader will run an inclusive class actively encouraging parents to socialise and get to know each other and you will be setting baby up with life skills and education that will benefit them for years to come!