Baby sensory's first birthday

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Baby Sensory classes have been running in Wanstead for the past 12 months. With hundreds of babies already graduated from the programme, Nicola Archibald, leader of Baby Sensory in Wanstead, explains why baby development classes have such an essential part to play in the first year of a baby's life.

Babies have an amazing capacity to learn and, as hundreds of babies in Wanstead have already discovered, Baby Sensory classes provide the ideal setting for a world of exploration. By the time babies reach their first birthday, their brains have already doubled in size and the foundations have been laid for all major areas of development, including crawling, walking and communicating. Babies learn in many different ways and by repetition and routine. Baby development classes are designed to harness and expand this natural ability to learn through sensory activities that delight and inspire parents and babies alike.

Imagine taking your baby diving under the sea, or flying up into space. Anything is possible in a baby development class and every opportunity is given for sensory exploration. Dangling fish become a focus for visual tracking whilst bubbles help with depth perception and fabrics for touch. Space blankets make a wonderful multi-sensory aid, fibre optic stars strengthen eye muscles and musical instruments help with co-ordination and dexterity. Every activity is carried out with purpose and ideas for how to extend the activities at home are welcomed by mums and dads too.

There are so many things that new parents can do to help their baby learn and develop and baby development classes can give parents new ideas and activities to try. Here are a few activities that really do make a difference:

Tummy time: Five minutes of 'Tummy Time' two or three times a day can have a positive effect on head shape and brain development. It also leads on to crawling, an intellectually important milestone not to be missed.

Crawling: Crawling stimulates left and right brain development, improves overall health, stimulates the immune system and helps the eyes work together as a team (crucial for later reading). Activities such as pillow-mountains, play tunnels and interesting toys placed just out of reach will encourage older babies to crawl.

Language: Talking to babies during daily routine activities is essential. Responding to any sound that a baby makes with praise and encouragement helps them to understand simple interactions and the art of conversation. Read and reread picture and story books that focus on sounds and rhymes. Making animal sounds is a winner – babies love them.

Games: Time-honoured games such as 'Pat-a-cake', 'Peek-a-boo' and 'Pop goes the weasel' are lovely ways to stimulate smiles and giggles. Research shows that having fun improves socialising skills and leads to a love of sports and games in later life.

Textures: Mouthing and touching objects are fundamental ways in which babies learn about weight, taste, smell and temperature. Invite exploration by introducing babies to materials with different textures such as citrus fruits, fabrics and everyday objects such as leather purses and bags.

Exercise: Exercise is very important to keep babies healthy and to develop and strengthen muscles in preparation for sitting, crawling and walking. Babies love rowing and cycling exercises and being massaged from head to toe. The best time to introduce an exercise activity is just after a bath or nappy change when arms and legs are unrestricted by clothing. Besides developing body awareness and co-ordination, exercise can also relieve stress and tension in the joints during growth spurts.

Ideas for play: Simple home-made toys are often more effective than those bought. The advantage is that there is always room for adaptation and ingenuity. Try filling a tissue box with ribbons or fabric to tempt investigation; put your hand inside a sock to make a talking puppet; partially fill a plastic milk bottle container with pasta or rice (secure the lid) to make a musical instrument.

There are many simple, but effective activities that can aid learning and development in the first year of life. Baby Sensory activities are accompanied by developmental theory to illustrate the stage at which a baby is functioning. This helps parents understand what to expect from their babies and how best to facilitate their play and learning.

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For more details of Baby Sensory classes in Wanstead visit www.babysensory.com or contact Nicola on 07834 170 485

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