After a few weeks getting to know each other, I felt that baby J and I should get on the baby social scene. This isn't unlike the dating scene - you have to put yourself out there and if you find someone who is on your wavelength then ask them out for a coffee! Classes are a great way to make new friends and give a bit of structure to your week. There are a variety of different classes out there, so it is just a case of finding something that both you and your baby enjoy. You can often trial a class before signing up to the full number of sessions, which is a good idea as you can see if you like it before spending any money. I have tried quite a few different classes which vary in cost and content so hopefully some of my experiences will help you decide which is right for you...
Baby massage - this was the first class we did, from when baby J was a few weeks old. It was a great way of bonding and even though baby J was a bit unsure at first, once he got into it he seemed to enjoy himself! It is also nice to add this to their bedtime routine as massage seems to relax a lot of babies, especially if they have colic. We did a private class as a group of four at a friend's house, and a lady from a company called Blossom and Berry came to teach us for a four week course. Baby massage is a popular activity and so there are lots of different classes running at various venues, wherever you live. Ours cost £40 each but prices obviously vary depending on the length of the course and the location. If your baby has colic or any other issues, you can sometimes get a referral from your health visitor to free massage classes.
Buggybabies - we started Buggybabies classes when baby J was about 12 weeks old. I felt this was a good way for both of us to get some fresh air and for me to get some exercise! There is a lot of gorgeous countryside in the area where we live, and a group of us were put through our paces walking through fields and along footpaths, stopping along the way to do resistance exercises. Our class was run by a very experienced instructor called Jo, who ensured that the exercises were tailored to each individual where necessary, and that all were safe for ladies who had not long given birth! I also attended Jo's Fit4birth Pilates classes when pregnant, and these were also fab. The friends I made through these classes and Buggybabies are all lovely, and we socialise together with and without the babies. Buggy fitness classes are run in most areas and if you are a member of a gym it is worth checking to see if they have any that would be included in your membership. The classes I did are based in the Loughborough area, www.zest4lifeuk.com
Baby swimming - we tried a couple of baby swimming courses and enjoyed both of them. I have to say I preferred the one we did at a lovely hotel as the changing rooms were warm and spacious, as opposed to the first course in a freezing cold primary school! The content of the classes were very similar each week as obviously there is a limited amount you can do with young babies, but included singing, playing and different holds which all got the babies accustomed to the water. Prices are extremely varied on swimming classes - in my area it ranges from about £3.50 per class at the local leisure centre to £13 with a well known franchise.
Baby Sensory - I found these classes lovely for babies, as they are very well thought out with activities that stimulate every sense. Baby J always has a nice long sleep after his baby sensory class which is very welcome! Each class has a different theme so even if you sign up for a year, you shouldn't have the same one repeated. This is a franchise so covers a lot of the UK. The website explains classes in detail, www.babysensory.com.
Surestart Centre classes - if you have a Surestart Centre near you then it is worth checking their timetable to see if they are running any baby groups that are aimed at your baby's age. These are usually free which is a bonus when you are on statutory maternity pay! We used to go to a group called Chatterbabies, aimed at 0-18 months where we sang and a did different activity each week such as hand painting or crafts. This class has now been cancelled and replaced with a similar group called Cherubs. I made some great friends at Chatterbabies and the babies always really enjoyed themselves.
Library groups - check at your local library to see if they offer any sessions for children, as many run story time or singing/playing groups. The class at my library is a mixture of singing and playing (with age appropriate toys, as the children range from approximately 6 months to 4 years). These classes are also free so worth trying out!
Playgroups - worth asking round for recommendations on the best playgroups in your town/village, as this kind of activity tends to rely on word of mouth. I found a lovely playgroup in my village which only costs 50p and includes a cup of tea bought to you - invaluable for mums! It's a nice way of catching up with friends while the babies play.
I found it hard to find anywhere that provided advice on baby activities in my local area, and discovered a lot of information from chatting to other mums. As I have mentioned, Surestart centres are a good place to start, and sometimes notice boards in your doctors surgery may have posters up. Your health visitor might also have suggestions of activities in your area, and www.netmums.com can also be useful.