Tried and tested: Toddler Senses classesNovember 9, 2016
I returned to work when Phoebe was three months old, so didn’t have the chance to attend many/any classes with her. In truth, I think that at such a young age a trip to the supermarket is adequate stimulation, but it’s great to dedicate some special time each week to be together without distractions, as well as socialise with other mums.
Since going freelance earlier this year, my schedule has been a lot more flexible, but inevitably life admin and work take over my good intentions to spend quality time with our daughter, now 21 months.
As I said in this post on being a busy working mum, “I need to book in time with you, and adhere to our ‘mum and daughter dates’ with the same discipline I apply when facing a deadline”, so that has been my intention over the last few months, with Tuesday afternoons being ‘our time’ every week.
Having a class to go to has been hugely helpful, and when Baby Sensory opened a space in Sunset Mall (literally strolling distance from our house) I leapt at the chance to sign Phoebe up for the Toddler Sense sessions. Suitable for little ones aged 13 months to 4 years, the hour-long classes are all about learning through play, with a dedicated room transformed in a different way every week.
There’s something nerve-wracking about walking into a room full of other mums who all seem to know each other. Then you add in the anxiety of not really knowing how your child will behave, or interact with other children. Needless to say, I was pretty self-conscious during our first class. Phoebe, on the other hand, was merrily exploring the bouncy castle, throwing balls around and sussing out the other toddlers.
Carly, the session leader, is a fab Irish bundle of energy who is equally skilled at putting parents at ease, as she is assuring shy children that they’ll have fun. Never pushy, her technique for getting little ones (and mums) singing and dancing, playing and learning, was plain to see over the weeks we have been attending, with one boy going from hiding behind his mother’s legs to confidently charging around.
So what does it involve? The room is full of brightly coloured equipment and toys for them to play with for the first 10 minutes so they can get used to the space (and, I suspect, reduce excitement levels before the games). Then the children clear away anything that’s not needed – thanks to the ‘tidy up’ song that they all love – and the session starts.
Each week is different, with games and songs to suit, and themes over the past few weeks have included everything from sports day to magic. Think parachutes, bubbles, disco lights and the conga, plus exercises like passing balls around to help with sharing, and following each other over obstacles for balance and coordination.
After tidying up and singing the goodbye song, the kids are free to play in the adjoining soft play room to truly tire them out, and the mums able to chat. Speaking truthfully, I’m not going there to make friends, and am happy to make small talk, but I know other women who have found a really nice bunch who meet up week after week, and have done so since their babies met in the Baby Sensory class when they were a few months old.
For me it has been really interesting to see Phoebe play with other children; some that she has got to know, and there are new children joining each week. She’s at nursery most mornings, but I don’t get to witness those interactions, and this has been really insightful. Basically, she doesn’t like to share. Join the club. But is getting better.
I’m really treasuring these afternoons with Phoebe, but do wish there were more sessions at the weekends that working mums and dads could participate in (there’s one at Sunset Mall on Saturday mornings). From baby yoga to music classes, so much is done during the week, and after being in the office for five days, many parents really need and enjoy some proper bonding time with their children.
For me, it’s about balancing work and motherhood, and structured sessions such as Toddler Sense are helping me prioritise. No meetings, no emails, just us.
There are Toddler Sense classes at Sunset Mall, DUCTAC, Dubai Marina Yacht Club and Dubai Polo Club. Sessions are priced at Dhs110, or Dhs88 each, when booking the term. For more information and online bookings visit babysensory.ae.