An aspiring tiger mom myself I have my little lady at classes everyday and why not when the choice of classes is so phenomenal for such a small area. There is everything from yoga to sign language to mandarin lessons for the babies of today. I have reviewed a few of my faves for you below.
Yogabellies is an institution on the island with just about every class you can think of. There is antenatal, mum and baby yoga, baby massage, yoga kids, yoga belles, monthly lunches and the occasional girls night out all run and organised by the fabulous Sharon. I first met Sharon last year when I was about 16 weeks pregnant and started off with her Friday night prenatal class. I never thought I would be giving up the ubiquitous after work drinks for the yoga mat, but I did and so happy I did too – even now, I miss the Friday night zen aura I had walking home from class. The mum and baby yoga is run on Friday afternoons in the Barkantine Center and is a gentle practice for you to enjoy with your little one. The class starts with a personal highlight sharing every week, which is great because sometimes you just need some advice, which always generously offered by Sharon and the other mums, we then have some singing and stretching for the babes and there are simple poses and sequences you could easily learn and repeat at home. Then there is mummy practice and we end with a calming mantra and affirmation. My little lady is always fast asleep after class and just as well as we always tend to go for post yoga coffee and cake, we are a social lot here on the island aren’t we. You will find yogabellies mums everywhere and everyone knows Sharon, we go for lunches monthly and nights out too, so it is way more than just the classes – it’s a mummy network! You can contact Sharon at Yogabellies or check out her Facebook page.
Sing and Sign is a great class and has been proven to advance speech development. The class is run across the borough by Sukie and she offers trials if you’re not quite sure if it’s for you. The class is a singing extravaganza and teaches your baby everyday useful signs to go along with popular nursery rhymes. I find myself singing the songs across the week to my little girls delight. And there’s a very cute postman pat-esque black and white cat called Jessie that my little lady tries to grab every week. Jessie even has his own FB page and is running the London Marathon this year too! My fabulous nearly 2-year-old niece started making actions when we would sing nursery rhymes to her, we all assumed it was something she had picked up in nursery but lo and behold she was actually signing every single step and had picked it all up from the sing and sign DVD that she would watch completely mesmerised. I’ve seen developments while in the class with my little lady, even at the initial taster at 4 months she started blowing raspberries and we nearly had her crawling in class last week, so it’s one class I really do recommend. The classes run on Tuesday mornings in a new gorgeous location in Burrell’s Wharf and you can contact Sukie for more info on her FB page she runs a number of classes throughout the week across the borough.
Waterbabies is one of the more expensive classes available but also one of the best in my opinion. I absolutely love the water so want to make sure my little lady is more than comfortable poolside. Classes are held all across the country in hydrotherapy pools in schools, specialist facilities and even hotel swimming pools. The classes are roughly 30 minutes and start with a warm up, lots of jumping on your part, a few underwater moments and plenty of splashes. It is pretty daunting when you first have to dunk your baby in the water, it feels sort of unnatural but you soon see how easily they take to water – these babies are a lot braver than we think. My little lady can be screaming down the changing room but the minute her tootsies hit the warm water she is as happy as a cupcake. Lets not even get started on “splish, splash, splish, splash, around in a circle and up in the air” – that little mantra can calm her down even on dry land!! Swimming is great for your baby’s health and development, it stimulates heart, lung and brain development. A German study even found that swimming babies had advanced motor development, social skills and intelligence. I clearly recommend the classes and the facilities at George Green School near Island Gardens Station are fantastic, the pool room is warm and cosy and the babes have the best naps after swim class. For more info on Water Babies locally visit the NE London page for all classes in the Docklands and Isle of Dogs area.
Baby Sensory is brilliant but can be pretty intense especially for the younger ones. We took our little lady to a Christmas special and I guess she must have been the youngest at just over 3 months and I think it was far too chaotic for her – bubbles, balloons, blow up christmas tree’s, tinsel galore it was confusing even for me. However, at 7 months we got the chance to attend another class with the NetMums group and it was just brilliant. Anna leads the class across the borough, she is engaging and obviously very creative. The venue is not the most charming but once the class gets started you could be anywhere. The theme for our class was under the sea and I assume Anna must create these magical tinsel laden canopies (see picture) for each class or theme. She started off with a lovely welcome song that uses sign language, this is the same every week so that you will learn and pick up some basic signs. Then there was a succession of different songs with a sensory object, for example rattles for sound, coloured scarves for sight, tinsel pom-poms for touch. The pinnacle of the class was the underwater canopy of bubbles, tinsel anemones, glitter fish and a foil coral reef. There are classes across the borough and Canary wharf class has just started this year but with demand so high the places go quick. You might not get as much out of the class if your baby is too young but I would definitely recommend a trial to see if it’s for you and your baby. You can find out more about Anna’s class and try out a free taster yourself by visiting The Baby Sensory website.
Not to dwell on the subject having already written a whole post on it, but The Creation Station baby art classes are the highlight of my week. It’s a fun, social class with a major competitive twist – that being all us mummies attempting to create best in show every week. The paints are edible and I assume incredibly tasty by how much is eaten every week. The class is great value, we create a take home item every week and I am super impressed by the quality of the supplies we use. Last week, we made these rather fetching fish mobiles and for mother’s day gorgeous hand print canvases (see our Tree creation below) that I can’t wait to frame and hang up in my little lady’s nursery. Julia, who runs the class, offers a great buy one get one free taster so essentially you get to try two weeks to see if you really like it. This term, we have explored colours and we move on to shapes next term and its great for building not only creativity but developing hand-eye coordination too. The classes are held south of the river in East Greenwich but it is really easy to get to on the DLR. To get your creative on get in touch with Julia at The Creation Station website.
I have also reviewed Gymboree in a previous post, but feel it deserves a mention as they have so many options for pre-schoolers and its also a great venue to host a party on the island too. The Gymboree in E14 is based at the top of the island closer to Blackwall DLR and Poplar. Gymboree have a number of classes including baby sensory, play and learn, music and arts. My little lady loved the session and it was the first time she started attempting to crawl.
The highlight was definitely the magical non popping bubbles they have (and sell too apparently) – amazing fun for the mummies too. What I love about the set up at Gymboree is that you can buy a flexible package and attend when you want across 3 months, we never know when our baby will be ill or you just can’t make it to class – sometimes you really should not wake a sleeping baby – trust me it’s not pretty. For more info on Gymboree check out their docklands website and sign up for a free trial.