Before having Archie I had no idea what types of baby classes were available and which ones I’d be interested in. I remember ‘googling’ for ones in my area and feeling pretty overwhelmed. So I thought I’d share our experience and a few ideas which might help to narrow down your search.
Firstly, I’d say that in the first 12 weeks you’re unlikely to have any form of routine which might make attending classes difficult and a bit overwhelming. Plus most babies benefit more when they’re at the 3 month mark than any earlier so don’t put pressure on yourself unnecessarily.
Also I’d try not to do more than 2/3 classes because as much as it’s good to add a bit of structure to your week they can be quite tiring and again it can become a bit overwhelming. For us 2 classes a week seems to work well and allows us to still meet up with friends/ family and do “unplanned” activities.
Most companies will offer a trial for their classes so I would recommend starting with this first because classes will vary massively depending on instructor/ location/ group size and so on. And for context of the following we’re based in the Milton Keynes area.
Baby massage – we did a 5 week NCT baby massage course when Archie was 8 weeks old and to be honest it just wasn’t for us. Archie suffered from reflux and hated being naked so making him lie on his back with little clothes on usually led to him screaming from start to finish! The sessions were too long I would say at 1 hour 15 mins and being a hungry baby Archie would need a feed so the amount of time I actually practised any massage technique was probably about 10 mins in total across all the sessions! I think it’s totally personal preference as I know some people who’ve loved it but mostly it seems to be a love or hate thing. And with hindsight I think 8 weeks was too early for us – I wish we’d left it until he was at least 3 months old – but I still wouldn’t do another course again.
Music classes – we went to a 3 week trial of Music Bugs when Archie was 8 weeks old but again I think I was being a bit too keen and it was too soon for us. So we signed up properly when Archie was 6 months and it’s now one of our absolute favourite classes (it goes up to the age of 4). The classes tend to be really sociable, high energy and of course involve lots of dancing and singing with a few props/ instruments thrown in for good measure. It really is worth giving it a try because it’s hard not to leave feeling better than when you arrived. There are quite a few other franchises that run music classes– Jo Jingles and Monkey Music are a couple I know of if Music Bugs doesn’t operate in your area.
Baby swimming – we started swimming lessons when Archie was 3 months old. There are loads of different companies to choose from but we opted for Water Babies because of the time/ location (we wanted to go on a weekend so Daddy could come with us and the options were more limited). The first term went well and it really gave us confidence to take him into the water by ourselves. However the second term was a bit of a disaster! Archie just hated every minute of being in the water. I think there were a few reasons – he suffers from eczema and his skin used to flare up in the chlorine, the times of his nap had changed and he was super tired plus the class had become very busy and the noisy environment just added to the chaos! To be honest looking back the content of the second term was very similar to the first – it’s all designed to get you confident in the water with your baby so I don’t think we will sign up again until he’s much older and can learn some techniques. Plus the sessions are expensive – around £14 per half an hour class – and it’s very easy to miss a few due to sickness.
Baby sensory – we started going to Baby Sensory when Archie was 3 months old and although he probably didn’t really benefit from it until he was older I did enjoy taking him and found the class structure worked really well for us. There was 20 minutes of structured play, following by 20 minutes of free play (which is where you can socialise with other mums/dads) and then 20 minutes of structured play again. In the structured sessions, these are instructor led and the activities stimulate pretty much all of your baby’s senses. We’re lucky to have an amazing instructor here in Milton Keynes (Sophie) and as well as being a fun and interactive class it was also very informative and gave me lots of ideas for things to try at home. The class is up to 13 months although we stopped just before Archie turned 1 because he was starting to become a little disruptive (mainly because he was walking and didn’t want to sit still!). The follow-on class is Toddler Sense which we’ve just started and we love that already too!
Baby college – we went to a trial of our local baby college class and although we enjoyed it I found it too similar to baby sensory to make me want to sign up. It’s maybe something I’ll try again when Archie is a bit older.
Messy play – we first tried a Little Learners messy play class when Archie was 9 months old. In terms of the format, there are lots of trays laid out on the floor with various “messy play” materials in each and it’s a bit of a free-for-all in terms of just letting your baby dive in to the ones they like. We went to a few classes and Archie did enjoy it but because he was teething everything would end up in his mouth – his favourite being a pencil or paintbrush! So I think with hindsight he was a little young and so it’s definitely something I will try again when he’s older.
Outside of baby class courses (where you need to commit for a full term) there are lots of things which operate on a pay-as-you-go basis and I like to add these into the mix on the days when we don’t have much on.
Baby gymnastics – several local leisure centres run baby gymnastics sessions where babies are free to run wild in the gymnastics area with toys and a bouncy castle. It’s a good one for meeting up with your fellow mummy friends and letting your babies play/ explore whilst you have a catch up. We regularly attend the Arabian Gym at Bletchley leisure centre.
Health centres – your local health centre will run coffee mornings/ play sessions so it’s worth asking your health visitor for more details
NCT Bumps and Babies (check your region) – weekly informal get-togethers for new mummies
Local village halls/ churches – often there is a weekly coffee morning/ play group held in these so if you have one near you it might be worth a look
Garden centres – there are lots of baby/ child friendly activities held at garden centres such as story/ music sessions so worth checking out your local one
Library – similar to the garden centre, usually there is a weekly story/ music time so worth checking out on your local council website
I really hope this has given you some inspiration if, like me, you didn’t really know where to start and I’d love to know how you get on if you attend any of these.