While the usual toddler and baby classes may currently be cancelled due to Covid-19, it's important to make sure our tots are stimulated and challenged at home during these colder months. As with most things, many toddler activities and classes have gone virtual, which is great news for us parents who don't fancy standing in a cold and rainy park for hours!
There are so many benefits for little ones attending classes and groups, but finding the best activity for your little one can be pretty overwhelming! With hundreds of virtual classes out there, it can be hard to know which will suit your child best.
So whether you're looking for virtual classes, or if you're hoping to find a class to go along to when things get back to normal, here's everything you need to consider and look out for before enrolling you and you baby in a class.
In this article:
Virtual classes to try
Lockdown means that baby and toddler classes are no longer able to run, leaving a lot of parents desperate for alternatives to entertain their child. This has seen an increase in parents being offered virtual classes. While this may not seem the same as attending a class in person, this does give you the chance to try some classes with your child that you might not be within distance for you to go to and it also means you can add some structure to your day
Virtual classes can vary in terms of how they work. Some can be over Zoom where a camera is also on you and your baby which is great if you're missing that interaction with other parents. Some are live at scheduled times meaning you have to be ready to start a class at a specific time. Others are pre-recorded classes which you can watch at any time to suit your routine.
To give you a hand, we’ve gathered some virtual classes for you to give a try:
Sweaty Mama provides fun fitness classes tailored for mums-to-be, new mums and also mums and their babies and toddlers. Not only will these classes help you keep fit, but they'll help you build that important bond with your baby. All classes have now gone online and can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. Participants can pay weekly or pay for a course of 6-8 weeks instead. These classes take place on specific days and times so are ideal if you're looking for a routine.
We all know how brilliant music and singing is for our baby's learning and development. These 40-minute sessions give tots a chance to experiment with instruments and sounds, have a good sing-song and hopefully, an opportunity to socialise once lockdown is over! Classes can be paid for on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Accommodating babies from 3 months to children aged 7, this fun music and movement class aims to help tots develop, learn, help their balance and imagination through music and play. Each class lasts between 30-45 minutes. Contact your local provider via email or on Facebook to find out how to access online classes.
While there's been a pause on classes for now, the Busy Lizzie Facebook group where you can join in with live workouts, hear from experts and chat to other parents. You can also join your local classes online during lockdown.
Designed to boost your energy and fitness as a new mum and with over 150 postnatal exercises to choose from, it's a bit like Netflix for workouts and you and your baby can join in these online classes from anywhere at a time to suit you. And from just £1 for your 7-day free trial, you can't go wrong.
Learning sign language is such an important skill for everyone, especially right now when lip-reading isn't possible because of masks. So whether you want your child to learn sign language or they have a deaf sibling or friend they need to sign with, these online classes provide a fun and educational way for you and your baby to learn together.
With loads of online classes happening everyday, you'll find a slot to suit you with Foxtots. Each class is a fun 25 minute session for babies and toddlers to burn some energy, play with toys and try new skills and they cost just £6 each.
Designed for each stage of your baby's development, rather than their age, these classes will help your baby reach those all important milestones in a very fun-filled way. Contact your local franchise to book onto a class.
If your toddler loves to dance dance dance, these classes are perfect for them. With weekly dance and music classes, your tot will be encouraged to move and develop their gross motor skills while having fun.
And here are some top tips for when classes open up again: How to choose the right one? What's available? How to find them...
How do I choose the right class?
“Like all things parenting, it’s really finding what works for you and your little one and choosing something that fits in with their age and stage of development,” says childcare expert Fi Star-Stone. “Music and singing classes are a brilliant way to support learning. One of the biggest benefits of singing is the repeated use of the ‘memory muscle’. Learning a piece of information attached to a tune, embeds that information more rapidly in young children. Dancing, swimming and even little yoga classes are fantastic for little ones physical and social development and a great way of channelling that never-ending energy. And if you really can’t decide, don't worry! Many classes offer taster sessions – so it’s worth trying a few before signing up for a term.”
What research should I do?
“Check the class credentials – it’s something that's important and something that so many parents forget,’” recommends Fi. “Many groups and classes across the UK attended by little ones, may not have adequate child safeguarding or Health and Safety and insurance.’
‘The Children’s Activities Association (CAA) have a Code of Practice to offer parents peace of mind and many popular UK classes including Water Babies, Baby Sensory, diddi dance and Tumble Tots are signed up.’
Mum Hollie admitted when looking for activities she hadn’t even realised classes weren’t regulated: “I assumed these kind of guidelines were in place, and in all honesty feel very ignorant now for making such a huge assumption as far as Hollie is concerned. I will now as a rule be doing my research!”
Richard Tunstall, who runs Jiu Jitsu mini Ninja classes, agrees the code of practice is a huge help in helping parents find classes with peace of mind. “Any scheme which is fairly run, giving fair references on the experiences of the children and parents attending the group has to be good for all involved. Parents constantly worry about their child’s well-being and therefore to know that the activities are well run and safe, should be their highest priority.”
How do I know if a class is safe and a good standard?
It’s understandably incredibly important to you that your baby will be well looked after, whatever class you choose. But how can you be sure?
“Look out for the official CAA logo on the websites and literature of all those businesses who have pledged to meet the CAA’s robust guidelines for best practice,” recommends Fi. “For those not displaying the logo, don’t be afraid to ask to see their insurance, CRB checks and qualification or training from all staff involved in the activities. Think about it - you wouldn’t send your child to a nursery or childminder without the relevant checks, so be safe with your classes too.”
What are the best baby and toddler groups?
We’ve picked out some of the best courses to do with your baby. And the good news? They’re available nationwide.
babyballet is a fun, award-winning pre-school dance class for girls and boys from 6 months to 6 years.
With a real focus on learning through play, babyballet, which runs across the UK, allows babies, toddlers and young children to enjoy the physical and social benefits of ballet, song and dance in a safe, caring, positive and informal environment.
Little ones will build their confidence and social skills, while developing basic ballet technique, coordination, musicality, balance, posture and rhythm. babyballet’s fully qualified teachers are joined in class by the babyballet bears, Twinkle & Teddy, who help to encourage all the little stars to interact and share as they learn to dance without any pressure.
There is also a line of merchandise and parties available.
9) First aid classes with nct.org.uk
If you’ve already gone into new mum anxious mode, checking smoke alarms and practising infant choking positions, sign up for a first aid class run by the National Childbirth Trust and the British Red Cross.
The course covers health issues such as loss of consciousness, CPR, choking, bleeding, burns, high temperatures and meningitis.
While we’re not expecting your pre-schooler to be doing back flips and triple flip twists quite yet, a Tumbletots class will encourage him to climb, jump, and roll while learning how to control movements more precisely.
It uses soft play equipment for children to clamber over and under and it’s a great way to make friends.
Encourage your toddler to help prepare food and he’s more likely to have a healthy relatonship with food.
During each Kiddycook session the children have fun creating recipes, which encourages them to learn about good food and explore new flavours in a fun way.
Its Cookie Tots classes are perfect for 2-4 year olds and after creating a dish, children then join in with music, games and activities based around preparing and enjoying food.
If you can see your little one as the next Beckham or Rooney, sign up for a Little Kickers football class.
They run a Little Kicks class for children aged 18 months to three years, and then you graduate to the next level – Junior Kickers which goes from 2 years to 3½ years.
Classes will help your little one gain better body control and co-ordination skills.
As well as being a fun way to connect with your baby or toddler, Sing and Sign classes can help your little one communicate with you before she starts speaking.
She’ll learn words such as “milk”, “hot”, “thank you” and “more” but there’s also plenty of singing and games.
If you’ve experienced the *joy* of peeling dried Play-Doh off the kitchen floor, you’ll appreciate the Creation Station.
It offers arts and crafts classes for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers without the mess for you.
How do I find baby and toddler classes nearby?
“Pre-school and after school classes are a fantastic way of meeting new people and making friends for both parent and child, so don’t be afraid to get out and about and enjoy all your local area has to offer,” suggest Fi. “Do your research, check online reviews and class feedback, and talk to the best critics of all – other parents!”
If you’ve not got a specific class in mind but want to see your options, simply Google ‘Baby classes near me.’ This will then bring up local classes that may be of interest to you for you to look into.