Monday, 17 March 2014

Baby classes: worth all the hype?

Baby classes:
  • Are a great way to introduce some structure to your baby’s weekly schedule.
  • Encourage you to get out and about with your baby on a regular basis.
  • Are a good way to meet other parents who are like minded. It’s nice to be able to discuss baby-related issues with people who you know are going through the same things as you are.
  • Are great for giving you ideas of activities to do at home.


Here are some ideas for baby classes which are available to parents. I have attended each of these classes.

Baby Massage
Baby massage courses are usually offered by either the Health Visiting team at medical centres or by infant massage instructors. It is probably most suitable for babies from 8 weeks old to pre-crawling age. We were invited to attend the 6 week course which was run by the health visitor at our local doctor’s surgery and each session lasted for 45 minutes. We were shown the massage techniques and built upon the different massage strokes for different parts of the body each week, beginning in week 1 with just the legs, moving on to the tummy and chest in week 2, followed by the rest of the body. Baby massage is said to help with sleeping, to strengthen the immune system, help reduce colic and constipation and improve skin texture. I think this is dependent on you doing the massage not just in class, but also at home on a regular basis (this takes some practice as there is no instructor to guide you!). The sessions were enjoyable for us both (if he didn’t fall asleep during the session!) and it was a lovely bonding experience.

Mummy’s verdict (out of 5)
Cost (FREE)             
Ease of doing it at home 
Enjoyment


Baby Yoga
Local Baby Yoga classes are quite easy to find on Google. We attended classes at a local children’s centre and the sessions lasted 1 hour each.  In our group, babies could attend from 6 weeks old and the oldest baby was 6 months old. This class is probably more suitable for younger babies as you will be lifting and swinging the baby a lot which can get quite tiring! The classes involved gentle yoga stretches for the baby which were intertwined with lovely songs and traditional nursery rhymes (activities involved flying babies around singing ‘Zoom zoom zoom, we’re flying to the moon’, or marching round as a group to ‘The Grand old Duke of York’ along with gentle dry massage). It also provided mums with gentle postnatal exercise(nothing too strenuous!) . When I attended the classes, I really enjoyed re-learning all the nursery rhymes which I hadn’t sung since I was a child myself! At the end of the classes there was a relaxation session for mummy and baby to enjoy a cuddle with soothing music and bubbles which they were all fascinated by. All the exercises were linked to a song or nursery rhyme so it was easy to remember them at home.

Mummy’s verdict (out of 5)
Cost (£24 for 6 sessions)         
Ease of doing it at home
Enjoyment

Baby Sensory
Baby Sensory is a franchise with classes which run at locations across the UK. We signed up for the classes when Little One was 3 months old after a friend raved about the Baby Sensory classes she had started. We went along to try out the free taster session and we enjoyed it so much that I decided I just had to sign up for the block of 10 sessions and make it a regular fixture in our week. Each week has a different theme and we always look forward to seeing what surprises Becci has in store for us to enjoy! Little One is able to experience a huge array of activities to stimulate the senses including singing, sign language, lots of original and traditional songs, rhymes, bubble machines, feathers, twinkly lights, parachute games, smelly scent bags, flashing light balls, splish splash mats, paddling pools, balls to roll on, musical instruments, windchimes and so much more! These sensory activities give Little One the opportunity to take part in group activities using resources I would not have access to myself. He enjoys the sessions even more now that he is able to sit up and watch all the hubbub of activity going on and it is a great opportunity for him to see and communicate with other babies (although one of the downsides is the large size of the group). At the end of the sessions, Little One is always ready for a nice long nap and I go home with a wealth of ideas for sensory activities to try with him (especially the simple ideas which you can repeat yourself with everyday objects or by getting in tune with your creative side!). Baby Sensory is definitely a highlight of our week and it is one of my favourite organised groups that we attend.

Mummy’s verdict (out of 5)
Cost (£55 for 10 sessions)         
Ease of doing it at home
Enjoyment

Rhythm Time
At 5 months, Little One was already a member of several baby groups, plus a weekly participant at an NCT meet up with his baby pals. So when my friend told me about Rhythm Time, my initial reaction was ‘I’m not sure if we can fit in yet another class!’ but she was very enthusiastic and as a Music graduate I felt I should definitely give Little One the opportunity to try out a specific baby music group because I know how beneficial music is to babies. But was it worth the money and was it worth the hour round trip to get there? YES! Along with Baby Sensory, Rhythm Time is my favourite organised baby activity in the week and from the response I get from Little One, I think it is also one of his favourites too. The group is small and intimate (around 8 parents and 8 babies) and there’s always a really friendly atmosphere about the room. Sessions are roughly 30 minutes and run according to school terms. The activities within the session are all based around a circle and ‘call and response’ singing forms the basis of most activities. ‘Rat-a-Tat’ the rabbit puppet helps to lead the songs and games and babies love the constant interaction with him. Our sessions involve the use of a fabric sensory parachute and we sing scales and rounds while wafting this up in the air or passing it round the circle. The songs are really easy to remember and I end up singing them for the rest of the day! Babies get the opportunity to explore different percussion instruments as well, and this helps them develop their strength and coordination skills. They also get the chance to listen not only to classical music but also everyday sounds such as steam trains and farm animal sounds. The group singing will help develop your baby’s memory and language skills. Each session we attend ends with a relaxation session (very similar to the end of the Baby Yoga session) where babies lay on a blanket, listen to ‘Oh Danny Boy’ and watch bubbles float around the room. Little One is absolutely mesmerised by this! I can't sing the praises of Rhythm Time enough!

Mummy’s verdict (out of 5)
Cost (Approx £4.50 a session)       
Ease of doing it at home
Enjoyment

So, is it worth attending baby classes? In my opinion, YES! I find it useful having that element of structure to my week. I find the ideas and activities inspire me to want to do even more fun things with him at home. Each baby is very different but I definitely find Little One is more content when he has had a trip out and had a change of scenery to home. I also feel better for getting out and about as well. We don’t attend a class every day (some days we will go for a nice walk and look at the ducks) but we aim to go to a couple of classes each week. It’s a great opportunity to meet other parents and be able to talk about baby-related stuff. It’s also a great way for your baby to develop their social skills. My Little One is the youngest in our extended family by around 20 years so it’s nice for him to meet other babies his age. The cost of such classes can escalate quite easily, but do look out for free classes on offer at your local Children’s Centre as there are some fantastic groups and sessions available. 






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