FORGET LUNCH WITH the girls. Socializing as a new parent takes on new importance – for both you and your baby.
Soon you might find yourself crawling around on your hands and knees with your baby (and 10 other adults) while singing Old MacDonald Had A Farm. But, far from leaving you feeling embarrassed and out of place, the activities and entertainment you both get from joining a baby class or two have some real benefits that you’ll be reaping in no time.
THE BENEFITS OF BABY GROUPS
“These groups are a great way to bond with your baby, get a positive physical touch, eye contact and have fun together. Try to put aside the other million things that are on your mind, and soak up the moment. If you can do this, it can be a very enriching experience for both you and baby.
Also, a playgroup, or parent and baby group, is a great place to meet others with children of a similar age. The friendships you make at the classes often continue for many years to come,” says Celeste Rushby, mom of three, occupational therapist and part of the team at Munchkins (munchkins.me), a parenting consultancy.
She says being a first-time parent can feel a bit isolating at times.
“Being able to chat with parents who have children of a similar age helps you to feel that you are not alone in the struggles. It’s also a place where you can talk freely about baby-related things that your childless friends might not feel comfortable with, like breastfeeding, newborn poops and removing baby snot.
“You can support each other with tips and tricks, share your joys and your challenges, and even find – or be – a shoulder to cry on,” she says.
Celeste believes social support is an incredible tool to empower parents to feel more confident on their journey.
Of course, it also helps inspire great ideas on how to stimulate their child’s development at home.
As an added bonus, she adds, facilitators of these groups have often been trained to spot any red flags of when a baby may need to be referred to a professional – occupational-, speech or physiotherapist or any other medical professional – for further treatment.
“Early intervention is hugely beneficial, so being able to identify the need for it as early as possible is definitely a plus.”
CHOOSING A GROUP FOR YOU
There are a lot of baby groups out there, and the ones we’ve listed here probably don’t even cover the half it. But please, this shouldn’t give you decisionmaking anxiety.
It comes down to looking at the options in your area and choosing one that fits in with your lifestyle and parenting approach.
“First think about what would feel fun to you,” Celeste says. “Your baby won’t enjoy it if you don’t. Decide what it is that you are hoping to get out of a group, find a group that matches that description, and do a trial class to see if it works for you.”
Area Across South Africa
Cost R490 per month
Baby’s age From three to 36 months
Website pienkvoetpret.co.za In 90-minute weekly classes, baby and toddler stimulation and development take place using playful and age-appropriate activities that cover every area of development. Each class includes music and movement, baby massage, sensory activities, rhymes, handcraft, messy activities, reading, free play, and social development. After each class, parents enjoy coffee and cake together while the children play with each other (on the outdoor equipment) outside. English classes are available. Each franchise is run by a caring, well-trained facilitator.
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