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A lot of parents assume that the benefits of baby and toddler classes are mostly for the parents. They’re a great way to meet other mums and dads, and finding your tribe makes parenting so much easier.

But toddler classes are not just a place to hear a choir of mums and dads singing baby shark with half-a-dozen giggles. They actually have a ton of surprising benefits that will be preparing your little one for school in advance! We wouldn’t expect anyone to be thinking that far in advance, but it’s exciting to learn how much classes could be helping!

Here’s just a few ways that all the play and fun they have at classes are an important part of early learning:

1. Story time at toddler classes – introducing reading and phonics

We all know how much little ones love hearing stories. You may be all-too familiar with the regular books that pop up at story-time’s (Gruffalos are not a myth and many a Tiger will probably come to many a tea!). But, did you know that this hearing these stories are helping to develop their reading skills?

The repetition of these stories helps to introduce new concepts like phonics, rhythms and sounds. This will really help children build the foundation of skills needed to learn to read later on.

2. Moving and grooving is more than just fun!

According to the NHS, once your child is walking, they should be staying active for at least 180 minutes (3 hours) of the day! A toddler class is a great way to encourage toddlers to begin exercising in a group. They begin preparing them for physical education and perhaps encouraging them to join sports teams in the future.

All the moving and grooving is helping them with gross motor skills, which will continue to develop as they grow.

The NHS have also encouraged being active together. And if any of our baby and toddler classes are to go by, then you need to be ready and willing to get a sweat on too! (Check out some of our baby classes today!)

3. Beep beep! – Crafts & motor skills

toddler benefiting from drawing at toddler class

What might look like “Play Time” at your toddler group or baby class is actually far more developmental than it might appear.

Simply letting your child squish a ball of Play-Doh helps them to develop fine motor skills their hands and fingers. While riding around and driving a toy Coupe Car helps to develop other gross motor skills.

Developing motors skills from an early age will benefit them when they come to learning more complex skills at nursery and school. Like holding a pencil and beginning to write.

So next time your toddler gifts you their latest Jackson Pollock imitation painting, remember that they’ve developed more than just their artistic talents!

4. One, two, three, four, five, now my child is counting right!

As many times as you have heard those familiar favourite nursery rhymes, they are still a fairly new concept to your little ones. Hearing them repeatedly is helping to introduce and teach counting at an early age. This might mean that maths comes a little bit easier for them when it comes to nursery and school.

These nursery rhymes often include movements that will be using our fingers too, very useful for also helping out with teaching toddlers motor skills again. (And the more opportunities to help with that, the better!)

5. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, here we go around again – Routines

Finding a class that connects with you and your little one (one that includes a snack time or tidy-up time) is a great opportunity to introduce the idea of routines.

Introducing this concept at a young age will make it less of an alien concept when it comes to that daunting first day of nursery. Which hopefully means it will be a dry-eyed drop off. Well, from your kids at least!

6. Benefits of teaching manners & etiquette at baby and toddler classes

We sometimes forget that something that is an afterthought for us hasn’t been taught to our children yet. Basic manners and understanding the correct time to speak or stay quiet would not even cross your mind.

But baby and toddler classes are a great opportunity to teach all the basics. Greetings, Turn-taking, sitting in an allocated spot and please’s/thank you’s all start to happen all around your child.

This encourages them to copy and do the same. Before you know it, they’ll be holding doors open for others and unnecessarily apologise as much as the rest of the UK.

7. Benefits of cleaning at baby & toddler classes

It’s more than likely that you have simply got used to cleaning up after your little one by now. But, we should definitely be encouraging them to pick up after themselves and clean up. It’s an important habit to enforce while your child is young so that they are ready when attending nursery for the first time.

Attending a toddler group might be just the thing to helping your child learn all the correct social skills that influence tidying up your own belongings and leaving a room as neat as possible.

8. Introduction to other cultures

Little ones are the least likely to judge another based on their background. But every child gets to an age where they will ask questions about that which is different. Baby classes are a great way to begin to introduce your little ones to different families of different backgrounds.

This might be to race, religion, or perhaps different family dynamics such as single parents & LGBTQ+ parents. This will lead to a hopefully judgement-free time when that dreaded first day of school finally arrives.

9. Social skills & the benefits of emotional understanding at toddler and baby classes

Toddler's benefiting from drawing and reading at a Toddler and baby class

This next point might feel like an obvious (but important!) one. Being surrounded by other parents and children may be one of the main reasons that you would book a class in the first place.

But establishing those crucial social skills will really help your toddler in the future. It’s important for your child to understand social cues and learn how to make friends. But by attending these classes you may also be introducing them to new concepts like empathy. If another child is upset, your toddler might start to question why that is and try to help make them feel better.

Maybe one of the reasons you’re slightly worried about your little one going to nursery is because you have a clingy tot? Well we have a list of tips to try and help your toddler overcome this, check them out here!

Maybe your child is nearly ready for heading off to nursery! But are you?

It’s actually happening! Your little one is starting nursery or preschool and you’re super excited – as well as a little bit nervous. Being prepared can help ease your nerves. Knowing what to pack for nursery can make you feel more prepared. Here’s your nursery packing checklist so you feel less frazzled!

Packing it all up in a backpack

Your child will have a peg at nursery where you can hang a backpack with all their kit and caboodle that you’ve carefully packed for their busy day. Choose one that’s small enough for them to carry but big enough to house everything they need for their day at preschool.

Messy munchkins – packing spare clothes

When your child starts nursery they will be having lots of fun – and a lot of that will be messy play! Whether it’s squishing playdough, making mud pies in the nursery garden or splodging paint. Remember too your child might spill food down their clothes at snack or meal times too. They could even have so much fun playing that they have a little accident or two. So one of the main things you should pack is a spare set of clothes to change into if they need to. Another key item is a pinny or an apron for messy play (unless the nursery provides!)

Indoor (and outdoor) shoes

Your child might need indoor shoes to change into when they go into nursery. They might also need outdoor shoes or wellies for outside play or nursery trips.

Packing for snacks and mealtimes

Your child will need lots of snacks and meals to give them fuel to play. If you’re breastfeeding send in bottles of expressed milk. If you’re bottle feeding then pack your little one’s formula. You might need to send in spare bottles and teats. If your toddler is a little older – your nursery might ask you to send daily snacks. Or they might provide them. It’s always best to check.

Nursery is thirsty work

Unless your child’s nursery supplies bottles, sip cups or cups for drink times you will need to pack a drinking vessel for your child each day. Your little one will need to stay hydrated for all that busy play. Top tip – make the bottle or cup you choose spill-proof!

Nappies and knickers!

If your baby or toddler is still in nappies then you’ll probably need to pack a supply of nappies, wipes, nappy cream and nappy sacks. If they’re potty trained they might still have accidents so packing spare pants is essential.

Dressing for the weather

We all know that in the UK there can be four seasons in one day! Depending on the season make sure your child has clothes and supplies for every weather. A warm coat, hat and gloves in the winter. Layers, sunscreen and a sunhat for sunnier days.

Nursery naptimes

what to pack for nursery

Your child may well have a nap at nursery and you will want to make sure you pack everything they need to snooze happily. That could include a blanket, sheet or comforter. Check with your child’s nursery for what they will need for their naps.

A comforter

Your little one might want to take a special toy or blanket to nursery to soother them at nap times or when they are feeling a little wobbly. Your nursery might have a policy around comforters so check first. If they ask your child to leave comforters at the door but you feel your child still needs one often they will have a nursery toy that can help your child feel safe and that can be an alternative.

If you’re child has a very favourite toy then they will be distraught if it gets lost on its way to and from nursery. So either buy a back up identical toy to keep in a safe place as a replacement. Or choose a special toy for nursery that won’t be the end of the world if it goes missing.

Teething soothers

If your baby or toddler is teething then you might want to send in any teething toys, gels or powders into nursery.

Don’t forget medicines

If your child takes any daily medicines or needs emergency medicinal supplies makes sure that they you take them into your nursery. The nursery staff will need you to full out forms and will store any medical supplies safely. If your child has any medical condition always talk to the staff and make sure they are fully aware of their condition and any medication they need.

What to pack for nursery – Contact details

Make sure your child’s nursery have your up to date contact details as well as emergency contacts. It’s very easy to forget to update these if you update or change your mobile phone and number. So make a note to always make sure your nursery has the very latest contact details should you need to be contacted.

Label everything!

One thing to make sure you do is to label everything your child takes to nursery. You can buy iron-in or stick-on name labels to make the job quick and easy. We also love Stamptastic name stamps, which mean you can label everything in super quick time.

Starting nursery – troubleshooting for parents!

Starting nursery or preschool is a big step. It might be the first time you and your child have been separated. And you might feel anxious about it.

If your child finds it hard to settle then talk to and be guided by the nursery staff. They’ve settled so many little ones (and their parents) and will have so many ideas and strategies in place to help your child settle in.

If your child is very clingy we also have this blog full of top tips to help before the first day of nursery.

Maariya Arshad, mental health expert, shares her top tips to help little kids manage their big emotions.

Little children have BIG emotions and they don’t have the words to describe them or the experience to understand them. As every parent who has seen their child have a tantrum or be overwhelmed by anger or fear will know! 
When your child is crying a lot or having a lot of anger outbursts it can feel pretty overwhelming for you as a parent too. But how we respond can make a big difference.

Teaching our children Emotional Intelligence

Teaching our children Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is all about helping them to deal with and express their emotions in healthy ways. When it comes to our children, being emotionally intelligent affects:

  • How the communicate
  • The way they socialise
  • How they control their own emotions
  • Their ability to adjust to change
  • How they make decisions
  • The way they see their own self-image and self-worth

By teaching our children how to be emotionally intelligent at a young age, we’re setting them up for success in almost every area of their lives! Helping kids learn how to manage their emotions can truly help them to shape their future!

The 8 big emotions little children have

We all know that little kids have big emotions. All children have 8 primary in-built emotions. Primary emotions are those emotions that all children experience without being taught about them; these are:

– anger
– sadness
– fear
– joy
– interest
– surprise
– disgust
– shame

8 ways to help your little child manage their BIG emotions

1. Label the emotion

There are 2 easy techniques for teaching your child to label emotions.

1) When your child is crying, you could say: “I know you’re sad.” Or if they’re scared, you could say: “Are you feeling scared?” Or when they’re happy you can say “You’re so happy!”

2) When you’re watching TV or out in public, and you see somebody showing emotion: acknowledge it. If someone is crying you can say: “they are very sad” and the same for scared, happy etc.

Overtime your child will be able to identify these emotions for themselves, which is the first step before they can verbally communicate their feelings with you. As they get older, you can start bringing in a greater range of emotions.

2. Validate their feelings

It’s always useful to note that often when a child feels indifferent towards a situation, they won’t say anything, but when they’re feeling a strong emotion, that’s when they will tell you about it.

So if they have told you something is “unfair” draw on your own experiences of when you have felt something is unfair, and feel that with them. You can do the same for when they are happy, excited, sad etc. This is also a great way of validating their feelings and developing a stronger relationship with your child.

3. “Use your words”

Little girl yells out! Help little kids manage their emotions

When children are starting to get frustrated, they will often show this through their non-verbal behaviours (certain noises and actions). So if your child is at the stage where they are starting to speak, encourage them to “use their words”. This technique:

– redirects their attention and focus away from the overwhelming feeling
– teaches them an alternative, healthy way of expressing their emotions
– helps with their language development
– overtime it makes it easier for you to respond to their needs, because they are able to tell you, so less guesswork will be involved.

4. Create a quiet place to help kids manage big emotions

Have a quiet place they can go to when they need to calm down. This isn’t the same as a naughty corner. This space is specifically for the purpose of teaching them to deal with their intense feelings. It can be a chair at the dining table, the corner of a sofa, anywhere that can be quiet and calming. 

In this space, think about bringing in some techniques that might help them calm down. For a toddler, you might want to teach them breathing exercises, e.g. breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds – repeat this 6-10 times. You could put out cards that show images of different emotions, and ask them to let you know how they feel by holding up one of the cards. You could even have soft play toys that they could use as a stress ball.

This is a technique they can use into adulthood, where when they’re overwhelmed, they can take themselves away from the situation, and employ healthy coping strategies.

5. Make a safe space to talk and help kids manage their emotions

Mother and child are hugging, encouraging being open about emotions and creating a safe space.

Create opportunities in your day/week where your child can speak to you about anything they are thinking and feeling. You could do this as a family at dinner time, or spend 5-10 minutes every day or a few times a week with each child on a 1:1 basis where you ask them to tell you things they like, dislike, feel, etc.

When you first begin this practice, they may not be able to fully verbalise their thoughts. But that’s okay. Use this time to turn this practice into a habit, and overtime you will have developed a stronger relationship with your child, because they’ll start to see this 1:1 time with you as their own “safe space”. After a while, it will become easier for you to identify areas of their life they may emotionally be struggling with.

6. Model big feelings that little kids have

Children learn a lot more from how we behave and respond, than from what we say. Use this as an opportunity to develop your own emotional intelligence. Be honest with yourself about how you are when it comes to:

– identifying your emotions
– managing your emotions
– how you express your happiness, sadness, anger and frustration

If there are any areas that may need some work, take steps to start working on these, so that you can then model emotional intelligence to your child.

7. Each kid is different and need help to manage their emotions in different ways

Keep an eye out for specific things when it comes to your child:

– what are my child’s triggers?
– what makes my child feel better?
– does my child need to be informed when a change is coming?
– are there certain sounds, textures, toys or people my child likes/dislikes?

Observing these things can help you to settle your child at difficult moments in a calm and stress-free way. Also, remember that if you have more than one child, the answers to these questions are likely to be different for each child, and the answers may also change as your child grows and develops.

8. BIG feelings that little kids have: managing tantrums

Child is sitting in the middle of a road experiencing a tantrum.

When a child is experiencing a tantrum, they’re feeling very overwhelmed, and in that moment they are struggling, emotionally and physically, to handle what they are feeling. Where possible, try to identify the early signs of overwhelm before it occurs and use some of the techniques mentioned above. However, if in this moment we have passed the point of rationalising and teaching, and our child is in the middle of a tantrum; it may be best focus on protecting their physical safety.

Intervene if your child’s tantrum is causing physical harm to themselves or anyone else. However, if they are safe, observe their tantrum from a safe distance. As soon as the tantrum has passed its peak, you will notice that your child gradually begins to show signs of calming down; even if that shift is a subtle one. This will be your cue that within the next few moments your child will be receptive to you intervening again.

It’s normal for little kids to have big emotions

Remember that even despite your best efforts, sometimes toddlers will still respond in explosive ways. This is perfectly normal, and know that the work that you’re putting in will help to minimise how long the tantrums last, and reduce how explosive they might be.

Best of luck on your parenting journey!

Maariya

You can find more parenting tips as well as advice and support for mental health, productivity and lifestyle advice from Maariya in her You Tube Channel – Insightology.

For tips on how to help your child through the pandemic read our advice from a clinical psychologist.

Read more:

Parenting in the pandemic: the impact on new mothers

Top teething tips – the best ways to soothe your teething baby

7 ways to help your baby or toddler cope with the pandemic

Baby and toddler classes are great for little ones, for so many reasons. They help with early learning and development : teaching your baby valuable skills – from movement to language and so much more. If you’ve taken your baby to a class you know how much they enjoy it and are excited by being around so many new people and exposed to new experiences.

But baby and toddler classes are important for mums too. Perhaps even more so!

Classes are important for kids but even more important for mums

Having a baby is a life changing experience. No matter how prepared you think you are and how many baby books you read, when your baby arrives your whole world is changed forever. Suddenly you are in charge of a tiny human who relies on you to meet their every need – no matter how little sleep you’ve had or how hard you’re finding it.

It can be harder than you imagined and lonelier than you thought. Almost overnight you switch from being a busy working woman to being at home looking after a small baby who needs your attention day and night. Chuck in a serious dose of sleep deprivation and it’s no surprise that many new mums can begin to feel isolated and alone like never before.

Why baby and toddler classes are so important.

1) They give you a reason to get out of the house

After you’ve got past the first few weeks in your baby bubble with your partner at home your days and weeks can feel empty: governed by feeding schedules and baby nap times. With broken sleep and being woken at dawn –  days can yawn ahead of you. And feel like they last forever. If you have a baby class to go to it gives you a reason to get out of the house – to head into the big wide world and give your day a purpose. 

2) They give structure to your week

Every day can feel the same when you’re a new mum at home looking after a tiny baby. Baby classes are something to put in your calendar to give structure and purpose to your week. They give you something to look forward to: a reason to get dressed and up and out of the house. They can be something fun to look forward to in an otherwise empty week.

3)They can combat loneliness

Feeling lonely as a new mum is something we don’t talk about much. It’s a bit of a taboo subject. But one that has been highlighted by the pandemic. In a recent survey over 50% of pregnant women and new mums admitted feeling anxious or lonely as Covid-19 and lockdown has impacted their daily lives. https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/23/new-mums-anxiety-loneliness-lockdown-12889601/

Being at home with a new baby IS lonely. Paradoxically you’re never alone but you sometimes have never felt so lonely. Baby classes are a vital way of combating this. They give new mums a place to meet other parents, to feel like part of a group. When you go to a group you’re part of a team – a room full of other parents who have been through and are going through what you have. It’s a game changer!

why baby and toddler classes are so important

4) They provide an opportunity to form friendships and find your tribe

It can take a while but being together with other new mums at baby classes is a great way to find new friends and find your tribe. The experience of going through birth and embarking on the journey of new parenthood is very uniting. You may be in a room with several other new mums and feel shy but you all have something in common and conversation can flow naturally. Before long you can find new friends that make motherhood easier. 

5) They make you feel more confident about your parenting skills

Let’s admit it – when it comes to motherhood – we’re all finding our way and learning on the job. Basically – we’re winging it. Which can feel scary at times. Baby classes can help you build up some valuable skills, which make you feel more confident as a parent. 

6) They give you a chance to spend focused time with your child

At home there’s a lot to distract you from spending focused and quality time with your baby. The doorbell might ring, the phone might go, there are chores to do. When you go to a baby class you have a length of time to really focus on being with your child and connecting with them. Whether it’s through massage, singing, signing or sensory play. It can be a cherished and focused bonding time together that is hard to carve out at home.

7) They provide a safe space to discuss your birth story and your experience of early parenting

Once we become mothers we have stories we want to tell. And other new mums are the perfect audience. They listen when we tell our birth stories – and are just as keen to share theirs too. They are as fascinated as you about the colour of your babies’ poo (in a way your best friend without a baby will never get!). Baby groups provide the perfect platform for mum chat and as it unfolds  – for friendships to be formed.

8) They take the pressure off having to entertain your baby 24/7

Being at home with your baby 24/7 has its own pressures. `You feel like you have to provide them with chat, stimulation and learning activities to boost their early learning. But you soon run out of ideas and energy. Which is why baby classes are a godsend. They give you songs to sing, baby signs to practice, movements to make and stories to tell. 

9) You can drink a cuppa and have a biscuit in peace!

why baby classes are so important

The very best baby classes are the ones where you get a chance after the session to have a cuppa and maybe a biscuit too and can chat to the other mums in the class (Covid guidelines permitting!) Every new mum knows how hard it is to drink a hot cuppa in peace. So often we end up bunging our morning cuppa in the microwave to heat it up – and then the moment we take a sip our baby cries again. At a baby class there’s always another parent (or the class leader) on hand to make sure you get your much needed time to enjoy a hot drink and an energy boosting biscuit to make your day. And the best thing is – you get to chat to other mums while you enjoy your restorative cup of tea! It’s a win-win.

We founded Happity to help new parents combat loneliness. By finding classes to meet other mums (and dads). Join the thousands of parents who are searching Happity each week to find baby and toddler classes. 

And if you’re a class provider and are not listed on Happity yet – sign up now! Here’s how you can add your baby & toddler classes for FREE – or choose to upgrade so we can manage your bookings and make running your classes hassle free: