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Get Sensory with it: Exploring sensory classes for babies
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What are sensory classes for babies?
Even before your little one has learned to hold their own head up, they are already using their experiences to learn about coordination, physical development, and sensory stimulation. Sensory classes are designed to stimulate your baby's senses through a variety of activities, while giving you the opportunity to mix with other parents. Plus, they’re fun for all involved!
What does sensory stimulation do for babies?
You may think that encouraging babies to experience new sounds, sights, and textures is all about keeping them entertained, or even a way to help them to sleep better, for longer. While all that is true, sensory classes for babies offer a whole host of other benefits.
Sensory experiences can actually influence the way our brains are “wired”. Known as neural connections or synapses, these connections enable us to function, think, communicate and move. Between the ages of birth and three, at least one million new neural connections are made every second - which means that exposing babies to sensory input and experiences from birth actually advances their brain structure.
Different areas of the brain are responsible for different abilities, including movement, language and emotion - all of which develop at different rates. The connections needed for motivation, self-regulation, problem solving and communication are formed in the early years - so sensory classes really can set your child up for life!
What age should I take my child to sensory classes?
As we’ve already explored, exposing children to sensory experiences can help their brains develop the connections they need to be healthy, successful adults - so starting early is key! The good thing about these baby classes is that they can start from birth. Even young babies can benefit from the sounds and sights they will experience, and, as they grow and develop the ability to grab, sit up or even crawl, the classes will offer a variety of activities that will stimulate your baby's other senses, including touch, smell, and taste.
What to expect at a sensory group for babies
If you've never been to a baby and toddler sensory group before, you might be wondering what exactly goes on. In most groups, there will be a variety of activities for you and your little one to enjoy - they can include anything from playing with light-up or noisy toys, to sensory tents with lighting, messy trays with things for babies to feel, or different types of music. Most groups will also have time for socialising afterwards, so you can chat with other parents and carers.
How to get the most out of a baby class
If you're considering signing up for a class in your area, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience:
1. Don't be afraid to jump in and participate - your baby will take their cues from you!
2. Classes vary, so try out a few different ones to see what works best for you and your child
3. Be prepared to get messy - it's all part of the fun!
4. If possible (yes, we know babies rarely sleep on demand!) try to fit the class in around nap time so that your little one isn’t too tired to enjoy it.
Can I do sensory activities with my baby at home?
Yes, absolutely! At this young age, any interactions with your baby are beneficial. Even though sensory stimulation for babies is a hot topic, the concept of stimulating baby's senses is not new - parents have been hanging mobiles above costs and using simple handheld rattles for decades. Simple interactions such as tickling, massage or skin-to-skin contact are all sensory experiences that you’ll no doubt do without even realising it. Standard baby toys are often designed for sensory stimulation - with crinkly materials, rattles, mirrors, and squeakers built in. As they grow, take it one step further by giving them jelly to play with, or cover a tray in squirty cream to encourage them to explore different textures. The key is to be inventive - does it feel good, sound nice, or look interesting? If so, and it is safe, give it a go!
If I can do sensory activities at home, are the group classes worth it?
With the cost of living on the rise, many of us are being careful about where we put our money. If budgets are tight, you may be wondering whether sensory classes are worth it. While there are plenty of things that you can do at home to encourage your baby to explore their senses and environment, attending classes of any type are great for building crucial social skills.
As with any baby and toddler classes, sensory groups are worth joining if you want to mix with other parents while exploring new ways to stimulate your baby's mind and movements - plus, they’re good fun and often have time for refreshments at the end. As a new parent, a chat with other adults, combined with a cuppa and a biscuit, are simple pleasures that can lift your day!