Every well-meaning parent wants to do the best for their baby. We focus heavily on our baby’s milestones and create expectations for ourselves as parents to have the best, brightest baby on the block. One only has to watch the comical extent to which this is taken by the grandfather in the movie ‘Meet the Fockers’, to know that we may just take ourselves too seriously in the pursuit of a brilliant baby!!
Stimulation is important
The reason we have the enormous focus on stimulating our babies is that there is certainly overwhelming evidence that an enriched environment does enhance brain development and babies who are stimulated are more likely to develop to their potential.
How to stimulate your baby
According to Baby Sense, “ You can enhance your baby’s development in all areas by structuring her environment and providing opportunities for constructive, age appropriate play, taking care not to over stimulate her…”. There are a variety of options for stimulating your baby including buying or making specific toys for stimulation, playing activities and ensuring all the senses are stimulated. Almost every baby magazine has ideas for games to play with your baby to stimulate development.
Baby Stimulation Programs
Another choice open to parents are stimulation groups or programs These groups are a wonderful idea for stimulating babies and definitely hold merit for a number of reasons:
- Interactions with other moms We cannot underestimate how isolating having a new baby can be. In the early months particularly, we can feel very alone and adrift. Baby groups provide a structured forum to meet other moms. Many a great friendship is struck up over tea at these groups. Furthermore, just when you feel you are the only mom on earth who hasn’t slept in a week or wants to calmly put your baby up for adoption, you will find that many other moms are experiencing the same.
- Ideas for stimulation You may think that an hour or two a week of stimulation classes surely has little carry over for enhancing development. Nothing is further from the truth. Not only will your baby benefit from the stimulation but more than that you will come away with some wonderful ideas for stimulation at home.
- One on one time with your baby In our busy lives often the only face time we have with our babies is on the changing mat or pushing a trolley around the shops. Baby stimulation classes force us to slow down and spend time with our babies. These precious moments help us bond and also enhance our baby’s emotional development.
- Enhancing development Of course the most obvious reason for going to baby stimulation classes is to enhance development. Most franchises have programs specially developed by OT’s, phyios or education specialists. These people know and understand development and how to enhance all areas. Stimulation classes benefit the sensory development of your baby as well as the movement milestones, language, perception and emotional development.
How to choose which class to attend
There are a wide variety of companies and franchises offering stimulation programs. Use these guidelines to help you choose the right group.
- Choose a class close to your home – here is no point in spending an hour in the car for an hour class.
- Try schedule classes according to your baby’s sleep schedule, choosing a class that falls in your baby’s awake time. A tired baby will not benefit from all the activities and will become irritable during the class.
- Make sure your baby is in a class with his age range and don’t be tempted to compare developmental milestones as it puts pressure on you and your baby.
- Match the activities and leader to your baby and your enjoyment and don’t be shy to shop around until you’re happy.
- Don’t be tempted to over schedule your baby. Attending too many classes is stressful on your time and budget and is not great for your baby either. For babies under a year, just choose one form of stimulation class. After a year of age, up to two programs, such as one swimming and one stimulation is enough.
Stimulation classes are a wonderful way to interact with your baby and enhance development. But always remember that the most important principle is for you and your baby to have fun and to enjoy the interaction with other moms.
By Meg Faure