As of midnight on Monday 4 January, England has entered its third national lockdown. While small children will be allowed to play together outside and – unlike the lockdown of last spring – playgrounds will remain open, but this activity, of course, is heavily weather dependant.
So, it’s back to spending time at home, which means it can be difficult to find ways to keep busy. There’s plenty of homeschooling resources out there but what about if your child is much younger?
Baby and toddler classes are a key part of many parents’ routines: They give the day structure; help with socialisation (for both parent and baby); provide entertainment and offer some much-needed respite from time at home with a small human!
It’s no wonder then that the closure of all baby and toddler classes has left a big hole in many parents’ days, leading them to search online to find a solution.
“Classes are vital for the development of babies and for parents, forging relationships and seeing friendly faces each week is so important” explains Emily Tredget, who co-runs Happity; a platform which matches parents to online baby and toddler classes in their areas.
There are so many different classes on the market: From learning sign language to babywearing fitness and even a virtual mother’s meeting once the little ones have gone to bed!
As well as thinking about the kind of classes you’d like to do, it’s also worth thinking about how you’ll join. Some of the classes are live (via video Zoom or are broadcasted as a Facebook Live) which makes them really interactive but, if you struggle to stick to a schedule or are camera shy, there are pre-recorded classes that can be watched at any time.
It’s also worth considering commitment: There are pay-per class options that can be booked minutes before they start or block bookings by term; the latter of which can work out at better value if you have more than one child.
With the above all in mind, we rounded up a team of parents, babies and toddlers to check out some of the newest online classes for parents. Not all of them made the cut but here are the ones that did.
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Little Folk Nursery Rhymes: £6 a class, Happity
Some baby classes can be a bit intimidating for new parents (especially live video ones when we’re still in our pyjamas!) but the lovely Cat will put you at ease straight away. Before starting the 30-minute class, there was a chance to be introduced to fellow parents and babies; something that is so important for connections and sets the tone for a laid back class, which is suitable for ages 0-5 years, that miraculously seemed to keep our little ones attention the whole time.
Cat whizzes through a plethora of classic and more modern nursery rhymes (we loved “The Helpers Song”; an apt nod to our key workers); the live guitar playing, and an array of puppets mean there is no chance to get bored. We found some classes tend to lull a little in the middle, which isn’t ideal with a crawling one-year-old, but Cat keeps the pace up throughout and constantly interacts with both carers and babies.
As well as the live classes, which can be booked five days a week, we also reviewed Cat’s private classes; which can be booked for groups and birthday parties. These are the perfect way to keep up the relationships you’ve built at parenting groups and antenatal classes and get some much-needed socialisation.
After the class, we couldn’t help but feel in a better mood for the rest of the day. We’re not sure if it was Cat herself, the guitar or the catchy rhymes that she somehow managed to sound cool. Either way, if you book one baby class this week, we recommend that you make it this one.
Milk n Fizz members group: £9.99 a month, Milk n Fizz
We won’t lie, one of the best parts of parent groups is getting to chat (or, let’s face it, rant) to others in the same boat. So much is learnt through those after class chats and coffees and Milk n Fizz, a membership club for mums, aims to replicate some of that online.
It all takes place in a private Facebook group where each Wednesday evening parents log on to virtually meet, chat and learn from the experts. All bases are covered; with future events planned with advice from sleep experts and nutritional therapists and previous sessions (which are available to watch back if you can’t make it live) including managing toddler behaviour and how to stay organised.
Given so many baby classes focus on little ones’ engagement, we love the idea of a space for parents to learn too, and to pick up tips and tricks to help them learn at this difficult time. As the events are usually around an hour long, there’s plenty of chances to put your questions to the experts making it really good value for money.
Foxtots baby toddler music group: £5 a class, Happity
Foxtots is an up-tempo music class that will have you tapping your foot and your little one clapping along. The live classes, which are delivered via Zoom, are really high energy and jam-packed full of colour, with the live instruments played by Rosie (she impressively plays the trumpet, trombone and the melodica in one 25-minute class) adding the wow factor for music loving parents.
As well as the classics (we had a lot of fun singing along to the throwback “I am the music man”), Rosie interacts with parents and babies (praising little ones by their name) and plays her own original music too; setting it apart from the baby songs you may have already memorised. Classes are available several times a day Monday to Wednesday and can be booked as a single class or a block booking.
Phonics with Robot Reg: £7 a week, Robot Reg
These classes are centred around promoting speech and language skills; with fun activities (suitable for children aged from three months up to your child’s second year of school) that pivot around phonics. At £7 a week, it’s pricier than some in this round-up, but this price includes access to three classes a day (which are grouped by age) six days a week, as well as a whole host of downloadable content (such as colouring sheets, bingo cards, scavenger hunts and phonics based worksheets).
It’s all accessed via a Facebook group and classes can be watched live in the group or via Zoom, with an option to catch up later via Facebook (although we noticed the video quality wasn’t great on Facebook compared to Zoom).
Our tester, who had a 22-month-old son, praised the great variety of activities in each class; noting that her toddler loved the song, dance and acting segment. While there are classes for children as young as three months old, we felt it’s more valuable for money if your child is in reception in year one as there’s also the opportunity to quiz qualified primary school teachers; something which many parents will find invaluable.
Shake Rattle and Boogie: From £1 a month, Patreon
This bold, colourful class is our top recommendation if you have an energetic toddler who you desperately want to tire out. This one is a pre-recorded class, but the bright, neon colours pop and the cheery class leader Kimberley still manages to command a presence as if she’s in the living room with you.
It’s recommended for 0-4 years old. But we felt this dance class is better suited for walkers and above, given the range of movements involved (although carers will certainly get a great workout if they choose to dance along with smaller babies in their arms). This class works on a patreon model, which makes a nice change if you’re not a social media fan. Paying £4 a month gets you access to one recorded class or “boogie session” as its termed (which can be played at any time), while more devoted fans can pay up to £15 for five classes; making it fantastic value at just £3 a class.
Teddies Music Club: Free for two months, Teddies Music Club
Teddies Music Club has been around for 27 years; running live music sessions in the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire area. Given the current climate, it has taken it online and is offering everyone two months access for free, after which it’s a reasonable £1.99 a month.
Simply log on to the portal to access everything from toddlerobics to guitar led music sessions (themes include “old lady who swallowed a fly” and “old Macdonald had a farm”; recorded at a real farm no less!). It is lovely – like an upbeat concert happening in your living room.
It felt slower paced than the other classes as there were fewer instructions since it was more music orientated. However, we found it great to pop on in the background and dip in and out of with our baby on laidback days.
Sing and Sign at home: £40 a term, Sing and Sign
Sing and Sign usually run baby and toddler sign language classes across the country, but it’s turned its face-to-face classes into an online course instead. Each Monday a video is released onto the portal, which can be easily accessed for the next seven days with a username and password.
The videos are 30 minutes in length and feature singing, music and signing activities centred around keywords (such as “no”, “mummy” and “daddy”). We tested this with babies of different ages and all mums loved the educational aspect; stating that they enjoyed learning the signs, which they could then reinforce outside the class. The term is 10 weeks long.
Baby College at home classes: £5 a week, Baby College
Of all the classes we tested, Baby College at home offered the most variety: With around 10 classes per day, six days a week, along with a bedtime story at 6pm. Classes are accessed via Zoom; the links of which are shared on the Facebook group alongside the day’s schedule (although if you’re not on social media, the links can be emailed to you).
What’s great about this option is the classes are grouped by age: Infants (0-9 months); toddlers (9-18 months) and juniors (18 months+), which means the activities you’re doing are specific to your child’s age group and, given the sheer number of classes, you’ll always find something to dip in to.
Another thing we loved about these classes is that we learnt something alongside our little one – the instructor explained the benefits of certain exercises and how they linked to their neurological development. This meant even if our toddler wasn’t playing ball, we could take in the activities and do them outside of the class.
CARiFiT babywearing workouts: From £20 a month, CARiFiT
CARiFiT classes are designed especially for those who want to get fit with their baby in tow. It’s much more than just exercise classes (although there are plenty of those: A daily live workout stream at 10:30am; a six-month plan of watch-any-time videos and specific workouts, such as core workouts and flow stretches), you’ll also have access to informative resources, such as a range of recipes and guides to babywearing.
Each class lasts around 20 to 30 minutes and increase in difficulty as you go along. Although the focus is on you exercising, as opposed to baby engagement, our tester found the workouts did still allow them to interact with their little one at eye level. The movements were fairly fluid rather than rapid, meaning your baby isn’t flung around.
Do It Like a Mother baby massage: £5 a class, Do It Like a Mother
Do It Like A Mother is offering a variety of online classes (such as yoga tots and postnatal pilates), but our tester checked out the baby massage. Accessed by Zoom, it’s a 60-minute class, with the first 20 minutes being spent meditating (while our tester noted that the meditation set the ambiance for the class, her four-month-old baby didn’t get much out of it).
Once the class begins it covers a range of massage activities for different purposes – such as relaxing, relieving indigestion and trapped wind – each was taught thoroughly and offered something that parents could take away and use again.
Dandy Development classes: From £1 a class, Dandy Development
Dandy Development offers classes that combine baby signing with music and sensory fun. Over on the Facebook page, it’s running completely free “sign of the day” lives on a Tuesday (classes are around 10 minutes) as it’s passionate about making signing accessible to all.
There’s also the option to join up to longer lessons that cost £1 a session when you book up for the whole term. For the paid option, classes are live (although they can be accessed afterward) via a dedicated Facebook group. One thing we loved was how active the instructor Nikki was – from singing happy birthday to students to sharing plenty of extra classes and lots of tips for helping you get the most out of each session.
The verdict: Online baby and toddler classes
As you can see, we had so much trouble picking a top 10 that we included 13 must-try classes instead. And we really do think all 13 are worth joining in with.
However, we particularly loved Little Folk Nursery Rhymes: The live class of puppets and guitar-accompanied nursery rhymes were a big hit with little ones, but it also left parents feeling equally as cheery. If you’re looking to commit to something for a term and have lots of time on your hands, Baby College offers fantastic variety, particularly if you’ve got more than one child. Finally, a mention for the free options here: Teddies Music Club and Dandy Development both offer great free classes; with the latter being incredibly good value for money should you sign up to the more in-depth sessions.
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