Whether you are a first time parent or you have older children but are looking for new baby classes, there is plenty of choice in south Manchester.
Swimming, signing, massage, reading, messy play, dancing, sensory – the list is endless. I have been doing baby classes since George was four weeks old – not all at the same time. I have rounded up my experiences and recommendations of the ones I have attended in south Manchester and Stockport. Some are national organisations and some are regional – enjoy!
Baby Sensory – bringing your baby’s senses to life
This class focuses on sight, sound and texture development for your baby. It is suitable from birth to 13 months and has national baby classes all over the UK.
The classes incorporate sign language to encourage babies to communicate before they can talk. Each session starts with a song titled ‘Say hello to the sun’ which we sing to our babies whilst signing.
There is generally a theme to each week. For example water, lights, music, under the sea, action heroes etc. We sit around the sensory area mats and have items shared out for the activity. This could be textures such as silks, ribbons and fur. It could be instruments to make sounds like bells, shakers and D blocks. Items for sight generally include picture cards, lights and bubbles. There are often group activities where we move into a circle and pass something round to touch or hold like a parachute for babies to sit underneath and see items dangling down.
We have been doing this class since George was six weeks old and it is his favourite hour of the week. At the beginning, he would sometimes fall asleep but they still take everything in that’s happening around them.
The classes are so well planned out, the equipment is always really clean and there is often an offer/ promotion to take up. This week, Baby Sensory is hosting Marine Week and has teamed up with selected Sea Life Centres to offer discount.
Hartbeeps – baby classes for fun
Again, Hartbeeps is a national organisation with classes all over the UK. It is suitable for newborns up to pre school and has additional classes for parties and drop in sessions.
This class is all about fun. Fun for babies but also fun for parents. Each week starts off with a ‘hello to Hartbeeps’ song and some stretches for mum and dad which is quite nice.
We then set off on a ‘journey’ to our adventure. We may need to put babies on our laps and pretend to drive, form a circle and row together or even zoom to the moon.
On arrival, the theme of the adventure will be revealed in the centre of the room. There is always something to dress your baby up in. Since starting our new term, we’ve been doctors, bakers, dinosaurs, bunnies, festival hippies… the list goes on.
We then finish with a cool down of baby massage, snuggling with LED stars or listening to music. It’s definitely my most fun hour of the week!
Adventure Babies – reading and messy play
This class is based around reading and exploring sensations related to the weekly featured book.
Each week starts with an introduction for everyone and an update on what they have been doing. We then empty out a bag of props relating to the book for babies to explore when they are mentioned in the story.
A large paperback is then read out with puppets and props bringing the story to life. Babies then get 15 minutes of playtime to explore the sensory area. This is a mixture of wet and dry – wet is usually messy play involving food.
The class ends usually with a light display and parachute for babies to lie underneath.
If I’m honest, this is my least favourite class. It seems quite risky letting babies play in food, especially when there are other classes on before and after. Some of the dry pools have uncooked pasta and rice in them which could be a choking hazard and this week had food colouring on them, set with vinegar. I also feel like mats and props relating to the book aren’t cleaned very often so we’re just taking part in the story reading section now.
Baby Massage – relaxing and bonding baby classes
This session focuses on massage techniques for babies from roughly four weeks old.
The classes cover full body massage to different songs, splitting into arms, legs, tummy and back. Some of the techniques were incredibly helpful, especially for relieving trapped wind.
What oil to use for baby massage? There is a selection of oils to choose from including coconut oil, sunflower and vegetable oil or, you can bring your own. I’d recommend doing a patch test for each one as babies have such sensitive skin.
I don’t believe there is a national chain group of baby massage but there are loads of regional ones. I especially love that our South Manchester leader hosts a dads only class once a month to give them a chance to have some alone activity time and a chance for mum to have some relax time.
Water Babies – swimming classes for your little one
Swimming lessons with Water Babies are suitable from birth up to age 4. Lessons are 30 minutes long and are split into chapters, usually lasting 10 weeks each .
Although swimming is fine from birth, if you have had a C sections, it is recommended that you wait 6 weeks before going into the water. Some people also prefer to wait until their baby has had their 8 week immunisation jabs.
The lessons start with building water confidence, something you could try in the bath before heading to the pool. We ask our baby if they are ready and if they look happy, we say ‘go’ and then pour a little bit of water down their face. This technique is to encourage them to hold their breath on the word ‘go’ so they can eventually go under water.
Lessons also include safety techniques such as getting in and out of the pool and how to hold onto the side.
There are lots of different companies offering swimming lessons for babies and they are all quite expensive. Water Babies does offer 20% discount on your first chapter purchase and they have been great every lesson.
Remember to look for a baby swimming pool as they are warmer. If there isn’t one near you, use a swimsuit and don’t forget your happy nappy!