As a teacher, one of the things I love most about my job is seeing how children grow and develop. Social education is arguably just as important as a school education; and although I see much of this throughout the years of reception to year six, undeniably there is so much development that takes place before school is even a thought.
The moment a baby is born its learning journey has begun.
This week I was invited to join a Baby Sensory group for one of their weekly sessions. From a teacher perspective, this was to be very interesting and I was eager to see how learning was taking place outside of the classroom and at such a young age.
To be totally honest, as a non-parent I had absolutely no idea as to what to expect from a Baby Sensory class. Did it involve drinking coffee (mums) and the watching of glittery lava lamps (babies)? Possibly. Was it to be screaming tantrums one minute and snoring babies the next? Maybe.
It turned out to be so much more than that. This was proper, planned parent-and-baby time in an environment that I was immediately excited to be in. Let’s face it, I was an adult surrounded by toys and all I wanted to do was play – with or without a child! There was so much to take in from sounds, movements, textures and colours.
The session started with a well known song, “Say Hello To The Sun”, complete with sign language, a tool practised at Baby Sensory to help develop communication between adult and baby. It was interesting to hear that many babies by the age of nine months can respond, recognise and use signs to boost their communication skills. Having seen baby signing in action with my own nephews, I can fully understand and appreciate the benefits that this brings between parent and baby.
At this point all mums (yes there are plenty of dads who come along, but none were at this session on this occasion) with babies had gathered on soft mats in a square to sing some songs, accompanied with baby signing. Lindsey, the group leader, explained each exercise and how this positively impacted on the babies. Whether it was co-ordination, strengthening, recognising signs or simply reacting to different stimulants, every mum and baby were thoroughly engaged together.
Each week there is a different theme for the session and this week it was based on the weather. The session was laid out with weather-related toys, materials as well as songs and group activities. The session content was extremely well planned and that’s another reason why Baby Sensory is successful and well regarded. Planning is thorough and sessions are delivered by skilled practitioners.
From an outside (teacher’s!) perspective, I could really see and understand why thousands of parents decide to join Baby Sensory groups. First of all, it is a support network, especially for first time parents. It is an opportunity to talk, share stories and offer advice. Secondly, the opportunity to leave home for a while, get some air and a change of scenery. This is just as important for baby as well as parent! Observing the mums chatting together whilst the babies interacted with their surroundings reminded me of the playground scene that I view each day at school. Groups like this are so important in bringing parents together resulting in important friendships being made.
These particular groups are for babies from birth up to one year. But the sensory learning doesn’t stop there. For children above the age of one, there is Toddler Sense where the learning journey continues.
I personally believe that groups like this play a fundamental part of development and learning not only for babies, but for parents too. A quote given by the Baby Sensory website clearly defines what they are all about:
‘…designed to stimulate, educate and provide precious memories during the all-important first year of life…’
Visiting a Baby Sensory session has really opened my eyes to the positive impact these can have on babies and parents.
However, as much as I enjoyed the session, it will be a little while yet before I actively take part in one as a real mummy!