My little bundle was four weeks old, my partner had gone back to work and my new sidekick and I had finally figured out breastfeeding. Next conquest? Integrating myself and my new sidekick back into the world.
From three days old, I was taking my son out for daily walks whether it was to friends, relatives or just to the supermarket. Pre mummy-hood, I’d always vowed that as much as possible, he would just have to fit in with us. Which I think we did a pretty good job of (having a semi-raucous night away at our very good friends 50 miles away with little one at 10 days old!). But it was time to figure out without a google search. the NHS website or dubious replies on Mumsnet as to what I could be doing to stimulate and develop my child a bit more. Having been a teacher for 12 years, I knew it was a bit early for Oxford Reading Tree books and phonics flashcards (I’ll let you decide if that is a joke or not) so I decided to do some research as to what classes were near me.
One look at the local community centre website was somewhat bewildering:
- Basking babies – I think I would be more likely to fall asleep than my child
- Buttercup Messy Play – doing that enough with nappies, don’t fancy turning it into a timetabled event as well
- Hartbeeps – nursery rhymes, dance moves, encouragement to join in – no thank you
- Jo Jingles – as above
- Little Teapots – as above
- Mums Talking Babies – £5 to talk for a hour with other new Mums….or free down at the weighing clinic!
- Quackers – billed as music, singing and dancing – I knew it instead as the reason why I have grimaced walking past the centre on a Thursday morning as I was hit with a wall of sound thundering out the open windows. I think I would have struggled to commit…enthusiastically…to this
- Sensory – this was the first class which I clicked on the website for.
Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to see just so many options available for new parents. Baby groups appeared to be big business (which I made a mental note of in case going back to work didn’t happen!). I enlisted in the current term of baby sensory and with my sprog 4 weeks old, I made my way to our first class.
IT. WAS. WONDERFUL.
The leader, Shelley Jones, was running a Valentine’s theme. This amounted to 30 minutes of songs about love, disco and infrared lights spread around the room, bubbles everywhere and there might have been some rose petals flung around as we were encouraged to have a cuddle and a rock with our babies Sandwiching these 30 minutes were the same welcome and goodbye song which was sung every week with some simple baby signing. For the first term, I wasn’t able to keep up with the signing but merrily waved my arms around in the hope some of them might look right. When I was enthusiastically recounting my experience to my parents, they coined the term ‘hippy-dippy class’ which has unfortunately stuck.
With a different theme every week, the welcome sight of a square of mats, other bleary eyed and smiley Mums sitting with their baby and the slow recognition signs given by my boy for the opening bars of ‘Say Hello To The Sun’ and yes, Baby Sensory became the highlight of my week. Especially because I have met two kindred spirits and our coffee session afterwards lasts longer than the baby sensory class. And I’m going out on Friday night with these two mums because, as one of them puts it, “we know each other well enough to see each other drunk”. Quite what the benchmark was for this claim, I’m unsure but I’m very grateful!
The teacher in me totally gets why Baby Sensory classes first struck a chord tempting me to click on the class details. The classes follow a set routine with the same opening and closing song to establish familiarity and signals for little ones. There is a different theme each week and in over 30 classes so far, I honestly have only had two repeats (and even then the songs were different!). The props which are made by the class leaders are just fantastic whether it is a huge parachute with sparkly dangly parts, puppets, handheld individual props or yards and yards of stretchy ribbon with bells. I’ve nicked many simple ideas of sensory toys to make and recreated them at home for a fraction of the price it would have cost online. If you have an interest in baby signing – this is included in each class but not rammed down your throat. But mainly, it is seeing the enthusiasm and sheer dedication of our class leader Shelley Jones, to make each class the best she can make it for your child. She will willingly (I hope!) throw herself around the circle to ensure all babies get the full enjoyment of each prop and even roll around for a full three minutes under a parachute popping up hand puppets through various holes, again ensuring all parents and babies around the circle are fairly catered for.
I’ll even admit to you, that when negotiating my return to work, my stipulation was that I couldn’t work on Thursdays. That’s Baby Sensory day and for the well being it provides me and my child, I’m not giving that up for anything, yet!