Baby groups can be a real lifeline as a new parent; they give you a reason to get dressed and leave the house, there’s a chance to talk to other adults and with a huge choice of activities available, there are lots of potential ways to help your baby’s learning and development too.
But at the same time, it’s important to remember that going along to these groups really isn’t a requirement of parenthood. There are also times when stepping into that village hall or children’s centre can feel pretty daunting. If you’re on the lookout for the best baby groups in your area and wondering what to expect when you get there, this post is for you!
Going along to baby groups is something new parents are often expected to do, particularly new mums. Of course it makes sense to try and meet other local parents to share the journey with, if you fancy. But it’s really not everyone’s cup of tea and can take a bit of getting used to. After all, it might be a little while since you last sat cross-legged on the floor or on a plastic chair in a circle.
The truth is you don’t have to be a certain type of mum or dad to go along to a baby group, and everyone is largely in the same boat when it comes to making small talk, which can be pretty tricky if you’ve had minimal sleep. Solidarity can be a really comforting thing, but that’s not to say that everyone you encounter at baby groups will be your kind of person nor will every activity suit you socially. Mums in our community regularly tell us that they tried groups and decided they weren’t for them or that they tested out a few different regular get-togethers before they found something that suited them.
Drop-in baby groups are great. They usually have sessions with a window of a few hours so you can turn up once you’ve got you and baby ready, fed, napped and covered off whatever else you need to do before getting out the door. Unfortunately, not all baby groups are drop in. So when it comes to getting you and your little squish out the door vaguely on time you’ll definitely want to use our leaving the house with a newborn checklist.
You’ll also want to think about specific things that only apply when you’re attending a baby group, like wearing shoes you can slip off easily when you sit on the floor or easy clean outfits that are activity friendly.
Sometimes, despite the best of intentions and military-scale planning, you’ll miss a baby group. Your baby will fall asleep in the car and you won’t want to risk the wrath of a grumpy baby by waking them up, they’ll be sick just as you leave the house or you’ll just completely forget you had somewhere to be at a particular time. There are of course some mega-organised mums who manage to get out and about to a baby class every day of the week, but for me it’s always been a major victory to make it vaguely on time for the one weekly music class. In fact, I think I’ve only heard the welcome song a handful of times. However, turning up to class during the school holidays when they’re not running is something of a speciality of mine.
It’s common for baby classes to have different themes from week to week. This means you’ll learn the words to all kinds of weird and wonderful songs, do seasonal crafts and best of all, have the perfect excuse to dress your little one up in cute outfits!
From woodland animals and changing seasons to favourite children’s books, you might worry about having an outfit for every occasion. You can be as creative as you like but I quickly discovered I could usually find something on the theme within my little girl’s existing wardrobe. Got a themed week on the horizon? Matalan’s Character Shop is a great place to pick up cute dressing up outfits. For dress up days, their selection of cute character outfits has you covered.
As a mum, the lengths you will go to put a smile on your baby’s face or to encourage a little giggle can be surprising. You might not ordinarily be into playing maracas or messy play, but chances are you’ll give them a whirl if it keeps your little one occupied and makes them do that super cute nose scrunch. Equally, there may not be anything that can persuade you to smush your hands in jelly in the name of sensory discovery; you could also find baby yoga a bit over complicated. Thankfully, there are so many different baby classes these days; it’s much easier to find stuff you can get on board with.
And if you decide baby classes aren’t for you? You can arrange your own play dates at the park or at home too. The truth is how many baby groups you go and what you want to gain from going is entirely up to you.