From her first words to her first movements, your baby's constantly amazing you. Most parents assume they have a little genius on their hands—but does that mean you should be enrolling your little one in baby classes that claim to help her grow and develop? While heading to a "mommy and me" music class might be a great way to spend the afternoon, there's really no proof that going to a music class will turn your baby into a tiny Mozart.
There are plenty of classes and groups available for you and your baby from local companies, community services and even gyms and fitness centers. If you're interested in signing your baby up for a class, you should know which are the best for your babe and which you should skip.
Are there any proven benefits? The jury's still out. While the classes probably won't give your baby an edge when it's time to apply for preschools, infant and child educator Dylan Glanzer believes they contribute to proper socialization. "I believe it is very beneficial and in fact necessary to a baby's development during the first two years of life to have experience with music, stimulating activities, and engaging age-appropriate socialization," she says. "In my 'Mommy & Me' class, I see the children, who start as young as 15 months, go from completely self-involved playing with toys to actively participating with me during circle time!"
If you're a total Beethoven buff, signing your baby up for a music class is a no-brainer. In a music class, you can expect to be led in songs and finger play. Instruments might also be used to grab baby and toddler attention. Since these classes can be noisy, they're probably best for older babies and toddlers who like to be stimulated—and don't mind loud noises. Expect to harmonize with the group too—parent involvement's usually required, so don't feel sheepish when you're asked to belt out a rendition of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" with your toddler. If anything, you'll get plenty of ideas of songs that calm your unruly baby or toddler at home—totally worth the registration fee.
While the CDC doesn't have any specific requirements for baby activity until age 2, allowing your baby to stay active can help her burn out some energy and keep her stimulated. Swim classes are especially effective, since water is usually soothing for even the tiniest of babies. Since babies under 3 aren't usually eligible for swimming lessons, you'll be in the water too, swishing around chubby baby legs and making for a positive first experience with water and swimming. Once your 3-year-old is ready to begin swimming lessons in earnest, she'll be happier in the water if she's already been exposed to it in her swimming classes. Plus, if you have a pool or jacuzzi in your backyard, the earlier your baby's exposed to water safety lessons, the better!
Your baby might not be so zen at 3 a.m., but that doesn't mean she wouldn't enjoy some stretching and breathing exercises. In fact, it might be the perfect way for both of you to unwind after eating battles and a round of stinky diapers. Baby yoga is usually centered around adapted poses (called asanas) that are done with your baby. From downward dog to warrior pose, even small infants can benefit from a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Since it's easy to try some of the poses at home together, the relaxation doesn't have to stop when you leave class.
Baby massage has become one of the hottest classes in the past few years, centering around the idea of calming and relaxing your baby—what sleep-deprived mom wouldn't want that? But infant massage is so simple that you probably don't need a regular hour-long class to reap all the benefits. Instead, some warmed baby lotion and circular rubbing motions on your tired baby's skin can suffice. Save your money for a relaxing massage for you instead.
Is your little wiggle worm the type of baby that needs constant stimulation? A movement class can be perfect, especially if you're unsure of how to really play with your baby. Usually set in bright, stimulating gyms, you'll learn how to bounce, crawl and scoot with your baby as she explores different stations in the gym. By watching your baby, you'll know what type of movement interests her so you can test it out at home. Time to make a blanket fort!
Only you know your baby well enough to know which type of baby class she'll enjoy the most. If she prefers calm and quiet, a relaxing yoga class might be best. If she loves high-energy activities, a music or movement class might be better. While signing up for classes won't turn your baby into a tiny Einstein, they give you valuable time to play and learn together, which might spare you some much-needed sanity at home.