Taking your baby or pre-schooler to a class or activity can have numerous benefits for both parent and child. With so many to choose from it can be tough deciding which ones will give you best value for your cash. Claire Jones-Hughes from BrightonMums.com, a local parenting website, tells us her top three baby classes and why.
A friend of mine is currently expecting her first child. When she asked me about the best activities with babies, I had to think hard about which were worth the time and the effort for us. Like me, she’ll be back to work within a year of having her little one, so any time spent together is extra precious.
My kids are 4 and 2 years of age now, so I’ve also considered the longer-term positive impacts these activities have had on the girls and our family life.
I’m a fairly active person, a strong swimmer and a self-professed water baby. So this was an obvious choice for us. Even if you are not a regular swimmer, taking your baby to swim classes ticks a lot of boxes in terms of infant development and fun. As well as the life-saving exercises you will learn, baby swimming promotes water confidence from an early age. Early research has shown infants to develop their physical capabilities, communication skills and adapt well socially through taking part in baby swimming.
We followed courses including Little Dippers until both of our daughters were 14 months. They are confident in the water and swim well with armbands. The youngest is particularly impressive; she has a keen sense of exploration in the water, we have to watch her closely! It is highly amusing watching her brashly wriggle out of my arms and swim off by herself, making the investment in swimming classes a gift that keeps on giving.
Before anyone asks, yes, babies can sign. I’ve seen it. Our daughter started developing speech quite early, so we weren’t entirely sure how beneficial signing would be. However, we soon found it complimented this learning process and opened up a different world of communication to us all.
Particularly when it came to singing, many of the classes teach signs through song. The most rewarding aspect of the classes was seeing her react to the colourful puppets used by the teacher to demonstrate different signs. She rarely used signing to ask for something she needed, as she could talk well at an early age, but I’ve seen plenty of other children silently express their needs with their hands . This ability to clearly make themselves understood relieves certain frustrations toddlers may experience around communication.
The long-term impact is we have something we can use to play a game where we may be. No huge bag of toys or colouring books needed, we simply play ‘guess the sign’ or sing the songs together.
While still adapting to family life, I used to get quite stressed at mess. We’re not neat-freaks but I’m not comfortable with stickiness or bits of paper and fluff everywhere. So I took my daughters to a messy play session where they were free to paint, stick, make and draw without me constantly clearing up after them. I just sat back and watched them launch into a good creative session. After each class they came away with a work of art made by their fair hands, which we have kept (despite it being more clutter). I also learned to relax when I saw the worst possible damage they could do, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.