• Aisha Iqbal

6 Reasons to Join a Baby/Toddler Class

I have to admit, having moved to the UK from Pakistan a few years ago, the concept of a 'baby group' was new for me. I guess you don't really need a class or a group when you've got lots of family and friends with nieces, nephews, and cousins available in all ages and sizes for your baby to grow up around.

Since Zain's birth was swiftly followed by the pandemic and the world shrinking into even smaller individual family bubbles, we didn't get to join a class till he was a year old. It has been a great addition to our routine and if I had had the choice, I would've definitely started when he was a wee baby!

If you're on the fence about joining a group, here are some reasons that might convince you:

1. Gets you out of the house

As a first-time mum, you're always so busy feeding and burping and napping the baby, it seems daunting to consider you can actually leave the house and do something different. Joining a class gives you that much needed push to forget about the neverending baby and house chores and just step out of the walled confines of your home.

And once you step out with your little one, you realise the world is still turning and how good some fresh air can feel on your tired, tired face.

2. Makes you realise you're not alone

If you don't really know any/many people with children, having a baby can be a very lonely experience. I found this the case especially when Z was younger because as cute as your baby can be, spending 24 hours with just a 5 month old can sometimes can a bit isolating.

Joining a baby group gives you a chance to meet other parents, see more babies and realise how many people are in the same boat as you. And while you might all be in separate boats, it is really comforting to see one another rocking alongside you in the choppy waters of parenthood.

Most toddler classes do block booking, which actually is quite nice because you see the same people and their children every week. It's really heartwarming to see other babies grow every week - learning to sit up, crawl and then stand and walk! If you're really lucky and a little plucky, you could even make a parent friend for coffee-play dates.

3. Gives you something fun to do with your baby

You'd be surprised at how nice a change in scenery can be for both you and your little one! Z and I go to Debutots at the Beeston Youth & Community Centre on Thursdays. It is a lovely venue with a spacious hall, toilets and a padded floor so your tiny tot can tumble around.

Thursdays soon became my favourite day because having a class to go to just gave our routine such a lovely rhythm. In an environment especially designed for young children you can really just relax and have fun with your child - and even if they're trying to escape the room (like Z used to in the beginning), you don't fret too much because it is a baby group and they expect all sorts of shenanigans like that!

4. Puts the responsibility of entertainment on someone else

Modern day parenting can be stressful because there is always this self-applied pressure of 'doing something creative and positive' with your baby - ALL the time. With the influx of blogs and YouTube videos of 18 month olds peeling cucumbers and babies happily smearing mud all over their faces and chunky arms to be one with nature, sometimes entertaining your baby can feel a bit overwhelming - or unending.

Joining a class means someone else needs to worry about an educational yet fun activity for your baby! And they provide everything you need for the activity and the best part - they clean up afterwards!

5. Makes your baby more confident

For babies born just before or during these pandemic times, many of the little critters just haven't had much experience seeing and interacting with human beings other than those in their homes. And in many cases, that might primarily be just mama and to some extent, daddy.

Baby classes provide the perfect safe space for your child to see other kids and slowly even approach them and attempt at interacting (ever seen little toddlers eye each other and then one slowly approaches and tries touching the other's hair with a finger while the latter backs away with eyes becoming wider and wider ...?). Being in a new environment with other kids makes your baby more comfortable around people and helps build their confidence - it is really amazing to see as the shyer tots adjust in every class and soon are busy zipping along all over the place.

6. Provides entertainment for you

This is only a little cheeky ... but baby groups are actually quite hilarious. Especially if it's 6+ months because the blobs slowly turn into squirmy worms then speeding cats and toddling penguins. And while it isn't ideal when your own 14 month old is pulling you along by the hands towards the fire extinguishers (and all hell will break loose if you try to steer him in the other direction towards where the story is playing out with puppets and music!), it is quite funny to watch it when other babies are crawling off at full speed towards the exit, or slowly inching their way to their neighbours and trying to pinch their props, interrupting class by going up to the storyteller to give them a hug, or trying to jam their fingers in the bubble machine ...

It is no easy feat to run a baby/toddler group, I can tell you that! Sometimes you'll have all participants busy doing something else (eating, crying, smacking into the padded walls head first...) while the class lead bravely goes on with the agenda of the day!

But that is exactly what makes a good class I think, where there is always a good structure but at the same time LOTS of flexibility, friendliness and comfort for your little one to just be who they are - small, adorable, impulsive, curious, and wild!

I'll be posting a longer review of Debutots Nottingham soon so keep your eyes peeled!

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