As my maternity leave is nearly coming to an end, I wanted to reflect on some of the classes and activities my baby and I enjoyed the most.
PHASE 1: THE NEWBORN STAGE
After spending the first week or two of motherhood in hibernation, I started to get itchy feet and wanted to get out of the house and meet other mums – but in an environment where I didn’t feel embarrassed to breast feed or do nappy changes. In the newborn phase my days sometimes felt a little chaotic, constantly either feeding or burping or pumping or sterilising or wiping or soothing or doing laundry, and I craved to take my chaos somewhere else and just get out of the house!
Our very first adventures were meeting friends for coffee at the Pottery Cafe in Parsons Green.
Here you can choose from mugs, vases, baubles, butter dishes and more, and the staff help you paint your newborn’s feet and press them onto your ceramics. The paint is safe on even newborn’s skin (obviously wipe away with wet wipes straight afterwards), and I then stayed an hour or two catching up with my friends while painting gifts for relatives (while the friends held the baby!). I’m so glad I did this because babies really do grow so fast that after a month or two their feet are already twice the size! And if you wait two more months they’re practically double again.
First outing out of the way, I downloaded the (free!) HOOP app which was great as it showed me all the classes and activities that were happening closest to where I lived.
I started with a Baby Yoga class at Triyoga, which was calming and he seemed to enjoy – plus I met a handful of local mums through it. There were also free baby classes at my local Children’s Centre, and I did a few baby massage sessions (always arrive early as you can’t book and it’s first come first serve! There was one week where I got turned away because the class was already full).
A few mum friends recommended Baby Sensory classes which I started doing from when he was two weeks old. I loved these classes the most out of everything we ended up trying, and each class explored a different theme and incorporated parachutes, bubbles, puppets, songs, sounds and textures etc and I’d often end up in fits of giggles.
However, up until he was three months old the classes were more for me (I learned all the nursery rhymes, got out of the house, met other mums etc) as he was too little to enjoy them and would often sleep through the whole thing! From three months onwards he absolutely loved them.
I also started doing Buggyfit classes in Battersea Park which was great as he was little enough to sleep through most of it, while I got some exercise in and I made some new friends too!
Afterwards I’d treat myself to a hot drink at the Pear Tree cafe (also very baby friendly), sometimes with one of the mums I’d meet during the class.
I tried other activities too. There are stand up comedy shows you can go to with your baby, so you can have a laugh and a drink in an environment that’s baby friendly – but they were a bit too far for me and it became a stressful experience because of the hour long bus journey at either end. I also went along to some mum meet ups that I’d found through the Peanut app and Mush app, but as they were organised a bit further away from me they ended up being a bit stressful because of the amount of travel it required for me.
Then there are swim classes which you can take your baby to from a very young age! There’s Water Babies, Little Dippers, and the Chelsea Swim Spa to name just a few. A lot of my friends recommended these as their boyfriends / husbands would do swim classes with the little ones at the weekends as their ‘bond time’ (giving the mums some much needed time off!). We never actually got round to doing any of these but still wanted to recommend them as I’ve only heard positive things.
STAGE 2: BABY PHASE
This middle phase was my absolute favourite! It’s the stage I miss the most. My baby wasn’t as fragile anymore, but also wasn’t mobile, and I was only in the middle of my maternity leave. He napped from 9-10:30 every morning, and from 12:30 – 2:30 every afternoon, and in between naps we would plan fun activities and outings to get out of the house. He was predictable in that he would cry only when something was wrong (a full nappy, thirsty / hungry, cold/hot, bored etc), but didn’t have any unreasonable demands. This meant that I could usually keep him happy fairly easily, while still trying to socialise a little.
We were still doing Baby Sensory classes, but also incorporating Baby Bells (part of Hartbeeps) which he loved just as much. These classes also incorporate lots of songs and fun activities, with some fancy dress opportunities too.
We also trialled a Monkey Music class which he enjoyed, but I personally found it quite short and didn’t want to commit to the price of the full set of classes which would have been expensive. Then there’s Busy Lizzy which offers a lot of classes, and Cupcake Family Club in Fulham which also has a lot of classes plus soft play area, but I only did a few classes here and there without signing up as I was away a lot over the summer and financially I didn’t want to commit to any memberships.
Every week we went to our local library’s free rhymetime session which was a great way of learning nursery songs and a fun free activity. We also went to a few Bach to Baby concerts which were really great! He was mesmerised by the singers and the instruments, and it was reassuring to see that even the older babies who could crawl and walk were able to enjoy it while roaming around.
STAGE 3: TABY PHASE
As soon as my baby learned to crawl he was unstoppable, and all he wanted to do was zoom around, climb and explore. If I tried to restrain him in any way (buggy, bouncer, high chair, play pen, yoga mat, etc) he’d go into meltdown mode. This was (and still is) probably the hardest phase because by this stage I’m also busy planning his meals plus the clean-up is never-ending, and meanwhile he won’t sit still – not even for a second! So I’m always chasing him around and trying to stop him climbing the stairs, putting his fingers in the plug sockets, getting fingers trapped in door hinges which he finds fascinating, getting his fingers trapped in drawers which he’s also obsessed with, and trying to keep him from pulling the dogs ears/tail/eyebrows/tail etc. Meeting friends for a coffee at the local Pain au Quotidien seems a long time ago now, as he would never have the patience to just sit in a buggy. Even taking him to the library’s rhyme time ends up in him throwing books off all their shelves…
So time to improvise!
Cafes with soft play areas are the way forward; for example So Souffle in Parsons Green area has a downstairs soft play, and so does Cuckoo Hibou. Even better are large soft play centres with a cafe! Gambado was perfect at keeping the little one busy, and 100% worth the faff (it’s not near a tube).
Eddie Catz is similar.
Then, every Tuesday afternoon we do a ‘Songs and Smiles‘ class at our local old people’s home, organised through the Together Project. The project runs these baby classes in old people’s / nursing homes to help reduce loneliness among the elderly.
The care home residents absolutely love watching and participating, and as my baby is so active and loves interacting and exploring, he’ll often end up on someone’s lap or playing peekaboo with one of the oldies. Really heart warming to see!
We also signed up to our local Gymboree classes and he particularly enjoyed the obstacle courses; lots of soft blocks to climb over, tunnels and steps and various (safe) obstacles to keep them busy.
And we still enjoy Baby Sensory classes even though he’s constantly roaming and exploring!
Of course we’ve also booked some more Bach to Baby concerts as I remember seeing babies being able to crawl around which means I won’t have to wrestle him onto my lap! Something to look forward to.
Also on my list to visit is the National Army Museum in Chelsea as I keep being recommended it by mums of other busy / active babies! You’ll need to book in advance. I keep seeing amazing Instagram Stories of Purple Dragon in Chelsea, but it’s a members club and since I’ve moved to Wimbledon it wouldn’t make sense to pay for a membership here (although I probably would if I still lived nearby!). And then there’s also Ray’s Playhouse in Parsons Green area which runs Stay and Play sessions.
I hope this has given some inspiration of fun activities and classes to try!