It makes sense, baby!
It is proven fact that stimulating your baby’s mind and senses can help him or her to develop faster – but how do you get started? Jo Caruana pops into Baby Sensory and discovers it’s all about lights, play time and action.
It’s 6 p.m. on a Wednesday and I’m in a room full of babies – 17 of them to be precise, plus their mums, dads and guardians.
But far from the squeals, cries and mayhem that you would expect from such a scene, you can almost hear a pin drop, as each of the babies is mesmerised by what’s going on around them.
It is pretty enthralling. Above the group, bubbles float gracefully through the air, and below them, colourful balls of light are bouncing through a special type of net.
All the while, upbeat music is playing, and the mums and babies are dancing to the rhythm, completely enveloped by this multi-sensory environment.
This is Baby Sensory, a recent import from the UK that is already making waves locally.
The concept is simple – babies (as young as newborns) are introduced to a multisensory experience that encourages them to grow and develop; of course, the thinking behind it is as complex as things come, with years of assessment from those in the know.
The classes include fibre optic light shows, bubbles, bells, musical fun, baby signing, puppet shows and amazing light balls. All the activities are excellent for developing physical, social and emotional, and language skills, co-ordination, awareness of the world, a love of music and the concentration so needed for further development.
“The concept was actually designed by Lin Day, a childcare expert in Cyprus,” explains Claire Savona, a qualified Baby Sensory teacher and the local franchise owner, who is a mum herself.
“She had been running her own nursery and playgroup for around 30 years, while running a special programme designed for toddlers.”
Over time, however, Dr Day realised the babies accompanying their older siblings to the classes were getting a lot out of it, and she began researching the topic in detail. Over years she developed this very specialised programme aimed specifically at babies under 15 months old.
Each Baby Sensory activity is completely targeted towards helping the babies in an area of their development, and there’s a reason behind absolutely everything.
Meanwhile, their parents also have a great time, and simultaneously learn how to play, handle and interact with their children.
“I first discovered Baby Sensory soon after having my second child, Anya,” explains Ms Savona, who runs the classes with her partner Stuart.
She was living in the UK at the time, and was really eager to take her along to as many classes as possible. She wasn’t sure about it at first, but after just one lesson was hooked.
“We also noticed results really quickly. She hit her baby milestone ahead of schedule and started communicating with us through signing – she would tell us if she wanted her milk, or was wet, for example.
“Having witnessed it first hand, I immediately approached the school to see how I could become a teacher too. I completed the course and moved back to Malta to open a franchise here.
“We opened last year and have been impressed with the number of people who’ve signed up; we’ve had to open more classes than we imagined,” she says.
The concept has certainly taken off, and new mums are even being given details of the course by the hospital as part of their birthing book.
“There are an extraordinary amount of benefits to both babies and parents, and it’s great when you watch them enjoying their time together. Life can be so stressful for new mums and dads, so this gives them the time to relax and learn together.
“It’s also a very laid-back environment; mums can pop off to feed or change their babies if they need to, and they have plenty of time to socialise and share experiences with other new parents too,” she adds.
The classes are structured to allow for various activities, as well as plenty of play time, when the parents and babies can make use of a wide selection of specialised toys and textured fabrics that each encourage them to develop their senses through touch.
In addition, each class is themed; the babies may be bobbing along to a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack one week, and playing Easter games the next.
Some elements, such as the first and last songs they sing, are the same each week, and the babies really look forward to them.
“But we like to keep it interesting by mixing things up too; it keeps everyone on the ball as there’s always something new to look at and learn from,” she says.
As Ms Savona explains, in the first year of life, a baby’s brain literally doubles in size, so it’s important to make the most of this time. It is also the reason why Baby Sensory is only available to babies under 15 months of age.
“Helping your little one explore and discover the world in his or her first few months will be invaluable to them in the long term.
“Mothers are constantly telling us that the babies they’ve brought along to Baby Sensory are much calmer and less clingy, and there are all kinds of other benefits to the relationship between the parent and child.
“Joining Baby Sensory is a learning curve for the parents as much as for the babies. It’s all about discovering the best ways to soothe your child, love your baby without coddling them, and help them to become excited about what’s going on around them.
“You will definitely find that your child is more alert and engaged, and hopefully set them on a fantastic road towards a lifetime of learning.”
For more information or to be in with a chance to win a pass for three free Baby Sensory classes for you and your baby, send an e-mail to [email protected], saying in no more than 30 words why you’d like to.
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If you wish to contribute an article or would like a particular subject tackled in the Education section, call Davinia Hamilton on 2559 4513 or e-mail [email protected].