baby-toddler-swimming-lessons
baby and toddler activities, Mother and Baby classes

Baby and Toddler Swimming Lessons

One of my favourite all-weather activities for Travis is his swimming lessons. We’ve taken him since he was around 5-6 months old, and he absolutely loves it. Having grown from the baby classes into the toddler classes, it’s easy to see progress in terms of his abilities in the water, but also his confidence in water and his ability to listen and follow instructions.

Why swimming lessons?

If there’s one thing I could recommend to new mums looking for things to do with their little babies it’s this. There are so many benefits of this for mum and baby. Remember when the midwives gave you information on water births and they spoke about babies being surrounded by water when you carried them? That’s a main reason for starting swimming lessons so young – babies grew surrounded by water, so it’s something they are familiar with.

If, like me, your newborn absolutely hated bath time to begin with, swimming lessons are a way to combat that. Sure, they may scream the pool down the first couple of times (Travis returned to doing this again last week, despite swimming for a year!) but that’s only normal until they get used to the water. The lessons involve simple things like pouring water over different parts of your babies body to get them used to water whilst learning body parts too.

Other great reasons for booking a block of lessons are that it helps you create a routine with your child, going at the same time every week, whilst encouraging mums and babies to get out and see other mums and babies. As mum is going in the water too, it helps you get some gentle exercise (and not so gentle as your baby grows into a 2.5st toddler!) as you bounce your baby and guide them through swimming techniques.

Selfishly, I’ve also always found that it’s quite tiring on Travis, so it means he usually goes for a nice long nap afterwards – a godsend if mum is in need of some rest too, or just a hot cuppa in peace!

What do lessons involve?

As well as pouring water over the body, there’s time to splash, time to kick, and time to play at the end too. As your baby becomes more confident in the water, your instructor will show you how to hold baby to get them to move as if they were swimming. This encourages their motor skill development and invokes the urge to kick in the water. Your instructor will also guide you on dunking your baby underwater. Believe me – this is far more traumatic for mums than babies the first couple of times! In fact, I actually chickened out and only put Travis in up to his neck the first time.

There are usually songs or nursery rhymes to accompany most things you do, so you get that repetition and association that’s key to babies’ routines.

Depending on how well your baby adapts to and enjoys the water, your instructor will introduce floats and various different moves, such as lying your baby on their back and guiding them across the water. Like with everything, every baby develops at their own pace so there’s no time or age limit on anything really.

The toddler lessons involve more floats and swimming – and sometimes even letting go of the floats to watch your little one go! Plus there are opportunities to “catch treasure” by encouraging your little one to reach under water to bring out toys and (toy) coins that are placed on the steps of the pool.

How soon can I book swimming lessons?

The advice from health visitors is to wait until after your babies’ first round of jags. I think this is probably due to the fact that swimming pools and changing areas can be a breeding ground for germs.

However, after your baby is 8 weeks old, you’re free to book onto the next set of lessons. The lessons in our local pool (Ready, Steady Splish and Ready, Steady Splash) run in blocks of around 8-10 weeks to coincide with school term time. This might mean you have to wait a few weeks longer than planned to start, if there’s currently a block in the middle of running.

The only downside of blocks running like this is that there are no lessons during the 6 week summer break, but if your child has started before this then I’d strongly recommend taking them for a little splash during the holidays so they still remember the pool.

How much do lessons cost?

The price very much varies from area to area, and depends if you chose to go with a brand of swimming instruction (such as Water Babies) or stick with your local council pool offering. I’ve heard that some big brand name classes can cost upwards of £70 for a block of just 8 lessons.

Our Ready Steady Splash classes are run in the local council pool, and a block is usually between £28-£35 a time. The cost is dependent on the number of lessons per block, and other factors such as bank holidays within the block. This tends to affect us as Travis’ lesson day is a Monday, but most pools offer a variety of days and times to choose from.

What should I bring to swimming lessons?

As you would for swimming yourself, bring a costume and towel for each of you. There are costumes with in-built flotation devices/materials for kids, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to pay extra for this or just buy a simple all-in-one or two piece. As Travis has gotten older, I’ve found a two piece trunks and top set is much easier to get on and off a wriggly toddler than an all-in-one.

Swim nappies are other essentials, as nobody wants to be swimming alongside a poo! At first I was so paranoid, I used a disposable swim nappy with a cloth swim nappy on top so no accidents could leak through! However just one is enough, whatever your preference!

If you can, I’d recommend buying some travel-sized toiletries to keep in your swimming bag, with baby wash and Aveeno cream at the top of our list. Travis has quite sensitive skin which is prone to eczema in the folds so a slather of Aveeno after swimming keeps this away. And of course, be sure to pack the usual nappies, creams, wipes and spares just in case!

Finally, I’d recommend a snack/feed or toy to keep them occupied while you dress yourself. Unless of course you have another parent, relative or friend on hand to help for that bit!

Baby M's firsts, Mother and Baby classes

Bookbug week 2018

Bookbug is one of the new things we tried this year (in our January firsts) and something which Travis completely loves going to each week. It’s also free (bonus) and something I mentioned in the top free things to do on maternity leave. It’s something I can’t advocate enough as something new parents should try, so I was delighted to learn that this week is Bookbug Week.

What is bookbug?
Bookbug is essentially a story and rhyme time class for babies and toddlers, usually held in the local library. It’s an initiative organised by the Scottish Book Trust, so I’m not sure if there are similar programs or events available elsewhere in the UK. The sessions are 45 minutes long and usually run in tandem with school term times. Each week parents and kids sing nursery rhymes, play some games with lycra on the floor and of course have one dedicated story read aloud. Travis particularly loves the “what’s in my bag” section and the nursery rhymes which follow.

Bookbug Week 2018
Bookbug Week runs from 14th to 20th May, and the theme this year is “Bookbug friends”. This involves bookbug bringing a friend to class, stories involving friends and spreading the word about bookbug to your friends.
Highlights for this year include a live online broadcast, where illustrator and writer Ross Collins talks through his latest book and illustrations, printable bookbug colouring sheets, special bookbug week books and more.

Bookbug-week-2018-scottish-book-trustIn our class on Tuesday, Bookbug brought along his teddy friend Alfie, and they read a story about a colourful elephant with lots of different lively animal friends. There were finger puppets and bookbug colouring sheets to play with in the library or take home, and there were special bookbug postcards which kids were encouraged to write about what they love about bookbug before sending the postcard to a relative or friend. Our bookbug teacher (not sure if that’s the right term?) also brought us in some yummy snacks for the kids (I didn’t eat any I swear…) so they could feel like they were having a little party, while the adults could get to chat a bit more to each other.

I think Bookbug is such a great concept and something which I think we are really lucky to have in Scotland for free. Bookbug Week is just one of the many reasons it’s great for both children and adults alike. Personally, I’ve learned nursery rhymes I never knew existed, and have rejoined a library – something I never thought I’d do after the maze of uni libraries! I’ve also met some great people and have enjoyed watching Travis grow while at bookbug; being able to sit up for story time, knowing what bit comes next, and getting excited for specific nursery rhymes he has learned at bookbug. I really can’t recommend it enough, and if you’re too early to book onto the next block in your area, I’d definitely give the Scottish Book Trust website a browse for great ideas and resources in the meantime.

Baby M's firsts, Exhibitions and shows, Mother and Baby classes, Parenting

April Firsts

I was beginning to think the “firsts” would start to dry up by now, or at least thought there would be much less of them as the year went on. However we managed loads of new firsts again this month.

first-easter-bunny-baby
My Easter bunny with his haul

First Easter
Easter may have started in March, but Easter Sunday and April fools day collided. I thought the wee man might be a bit young to prank so we opted to give eggs and Easter themed toys instead. By eggs I mean a tiny white chocolate buttons egg which is still unopened as yet, for all you judgy folks out there. It was far too cold and miserable here to go to the park or anywhere to roll eggs downhill (snow was still forecast at this point) so we opted to play indoors instead – maybe next year little man!

First hospital trip
It wasn’t for anything serious and actually he’s already been discharged but we had a wee trip to the Royal Children’s Hospital on 9th March. We found a strange mark and bruising under his arm that didn’t go away over the course of a couple of months. After a referral to a dermatologist, our mind was put to rest when we were told it’s perfectly normal and present in 1 out of 10 babies. Apparently it should fade and disappear before he goes to school so we’re not worrying about it!

First Circus!
To coincide with the school holidays, the circus came to town at the beginning of April. On Friday 13th of all dates, we headed along to the circus with best friend Evan and his mum. Although he fell asleep for most of the second half (it was running late and the second half started at about 9pm in fairness), he was mesmerised by the lights and, in particular, the dressed up heroes. The Madagascar animals were a highlight (because there are literally 0 real animals at the circus these days, not even rogue pigeons) though we didn’t fancy paying a fortune for a photo with them. I think the circus will definitely be more of a must-do as Trav gets older.

farmer-dress-up-hartbeeps
my little farmer at Baby Beeps

First baby beeps
Travis loves his Hartbeeps, which he started going to in January (more on that here) but had become a bit too advanced for the Baby Bells class. I say advanced, but what I really mean is that he was starting to roll about and grab other happily laying babies, not to mention he was starting to try and sit up on his own. These are all indicators that he would be more suited to the Baby Beeps class, which is for babies in the sitting and crawling stages.
What a difference we found in that class! Its certainly a lot livelier, as babies don’t just lie there patiently, only smiling, moaning or grabbing at things. Instead, some babies are up and off like a shot, crawling across the floor whilst others are trying to stand and walk, some stealing or sharing toys with other kids and every mum on edge ready to grab her kid should they fall/run/cause some mischief. The class is also much more interactive (though there is still a dress-up portion which I’m thankful for!) with puppets, ball pits, bubbles and more.

First dentist appointment
It was a busy month for appointments and since we saw the appearance of the first tooth in March (closely followed by the second about 10 days later) we thought it would be best to get the little fella registered with a dentist and make his first appointment. On the 19th April we headed along to the dentist so she could see the two spectacular gnashers for herself. She examined his pretty bare mouth and explained all about oral hygiene in babies. It was really informative and helpful (we left with leaflets too) and hopefully allows us to give Travis the best start in life with his smile.

First swimming
I’d been wanting to get the wee guy along to swimming lessons for a while, as I didn’t want him to end up with the same fear of the water as I had as a child (and still do tbh, the deep sea is scary!). We tried to book him into Baby Splish sessions in February, but had missed the first few weeks of lessons, and were told the next block didn’t start until April – after the school Easter holidays. After some confusion from the first lady we spoke to at the local pool, we managed to get the wee guy booked onto a block on Fridays (our original day had been Monday’s but that class had booked out because we were told the wrong information about booking), starting on 20th April. Unfortunately, he had a terrible cold and cough that week so we decided not to take him on he first lesson. However there is a spectators area which we went along to see what the class was all about, as mum would be doing the whole thing solo the following week. He ended up loving his first lesson on 27th April, although I was far too scared to dunk him all the way under water on the first go. In fact, he loved it so much he slept for about 2 solid hours afterwards.

First baby and toddler show
When I was pregnant, there weren’t really many baby and toddler events around. Aside from the odd Mothercare expectant parent event, or big shop events at the likes of Asda, Argos etc, there wasn’t much in the way of shows or exhibitions where everything was contained in one place. So I was delighted to find that there was one being held at the SEC across the last weekend of April. The Baby and Toddler Show, which is supported by Emma’s Diary and Made For Mums, happened to be on the same day as our first Baby Splish class so Travis actually slept through a chunk of it, but it was interesting all the same. There’s more about the show on my recent post here, but if you don’t want to read the whole thing, then at least take away the main point that it’s heavily geared towards expectant parents. There are a good few stalls relevant to babies and toddlers, but at least half to three quarters of the event is made up of things like nursery furniture, prams, car seats, baby chairs/swings, newborn toys etc.

First safari park visit
After a miserable start to the month, April ended spectacularly with a warm, sunny Monday where the temperature soared from an average of about 8 degrees to 18. Any other Scottish folks reading this will know exactly what this means – taps aff. And ok so while it was possibly slightly chilly for that, it did mean there was a single sunny day, not to be wasted in case we never seen its likes again. In a bid to enjoy the sun but also give Travis a new experience we could all enjoy, we decided to head to Blair Drummond Safari Park in the afternoon (after his Baby Beeps class, can’t be messing with the boy’s social life you know!). It was fairly empty, aside from a school trip, some tourists and other parents of under 5s, so we were able to get about freely without stress or panic or running anyone over with the pram. Travis loved it, especially the boat ride out to the chimp island, and of course the chimps themselves. We were disappointed that the drive through enclosure was closed when we went to leave, but that just gives us an excuse to go back when the wee fella is a bit bigger.

Mother and Baby classes, mum life

Top 5 free things to do on maternity leave

This list is post baby, not for any mat leave when impatiently waiting for baby to get here. I’ve been there, done that! If that’s what you’re after then maybe this post might help?

Everyone has different ideas about mat leave and how they would like to spend it with their children. However not everyone has a limitless budget to spend on things for baby to see, do and learn from every day so sometimes us mums have to get creative. Thankfully there are also some free resources out there that mums can enjoy with babies. Here are the top free things I’ve utilised whilst on mat leave.

Walking
If its nice (even if its not) then getting your baby out in the fresh air can be a great for both you and him/her. As my mat leave has fallen predominantly in a horrendous winter, there have been times where we literally couldn’t get a pram out in the street for snow/ice, and it really made a difference to our days. Walking gives mum’s gentle exercise whilst breaking up the day for you and baby. Plus babies love seeing and taking in everything going on around them, so a walk provides more stimulus for their senses. And to top it off, Travis loves sleeping in his pram so walks have also been a good, free, helper with sleep and naps.

Going to the park
As I said, my mat leave has been predominantly in winter so there haven’t been a great deal of times to enjoy the park so far, but we go there if we can. Great combined with point 1, the park is a great place to walk through, or to have a wee rest on a nice bench if you’ve overdone it on the walking or need to stop for a feed (for either you or baby, I’m not judging!). Plus, as your little one grows stronger, baby swings and slides become more appealing. A 10 minute play on the swings on an otherwise boring day can burn up energy for your little one, and give you a lot of joy as they giggle their little heads off going back and forth!

Soft play
Soft play is a great invention for kids of all ages, and in our area (and most places I’m assuming?) infants under 1 go free. Admittedly we’ve only started going since the wee fella turned 6 months old, but as long as your kiddo can sit up they will be able to get some enjoyment from it. He loves the ball pit, any mirrors and, after a few confused attempts, the baby slides.

Bookbug
We started going to a bookbug group at our local library in January (see our January firsts) and I couldn’t recommend it enough. As far as I know this seems to be a government initiative (in Scotland anyway) which encourages a love of reading from a young age. The group is for young babies and toddlers and combines nursery rhymes with stories and play to instil an interest in reading, but to break up activities enough so that children aren’t expected to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time. The only criticism is that bookbug runs during term times, which has meant no classes during Easter/Christmas/summer breaks in line with schools. Although it’s free, place a are limited, and you need to sign up through your local authority’s website or page for library services.

Baby massage/baby yoga
Again, I’m not sure if this is just a Scottish service, or even just specific to central Scotland. Our local authorities run a number of free mother and baby classes, again often taking place at the library or community centres. The main ones in our area are baby massage, baby yoga and breastfeeding support classes. I’ve never been to the latter but can definitely recommend both the former classes. Baby massage was great for the wee man’s colic, and we still use some massage techniques today to calm him before bed, help with colic or teething, or just to help promote development. Similarly, the baby yoga is great for their muscle and bone development, and helps you remember some of those old nursery rhymes if you’re a bit rusty!

So those are the great free things we’ve been getting up to on mat leave. I’m really interested to know if there are any other great cost-free activities we are missing, or if there are different local services in different areas. I’d love to get your thoughts!

Baby M's firsts, Mother and Baby classes

January Roundup: So Many Firsts!

So starting the year we didn’t really have any resolutions in our household, but we did anticipate an exciting year of firsts ahead. With baby M only a couple of months old at the turn of the year, we knew we had loads of new and exciting things to expect in 2018.

It’s only the beginning of February, and already he has accomplished (not sure that’s the right word. Learned probably?) so much in the past month. From first tastes to first rolls, here’s how our January went:

First food
I know all the guidelines say not to wean your child until at least 4 months, with the official government line being 6 months and not a minute before. However I’m pretty sure the government officials deciding that didn’t have a 17lb, 3 month old baby who was gubbing 40oz of milk a day with his belly physically rumbling at every feed. And that was him on hungry baby milk! So around 15 weeks we started introducing first tastes – fruit purees and spoonfuls of baby rice here and there. It’s been a fun and mixed journey (more poo chat for another day!) but it’s safe to say he’s been far more content and satisfied since he’s started the slow and steady journey to solids.

First massage
Baby massage was always something I was keen to sign baby M up for, as I’d heard that it’s meant to work wonders for colicky babies. Unfortunately, I was unable to book onto the free massage block at the local library (if you’re not fast you’re very much last in these situations!) but I didn’t let that deter me. So I went in search of some other classes around the area, and came across Teddy’s Baby Massage, which was advertised in my local Costa. After speaking to Michelle who runs the classes, we were able to secure the last spot in the Helensburgh block for January. Our first class was on 10th January and we haven’t looked back since. I’ll be sad when these classes come to an end next week, but with a handy massage guide and plenty of oil, the wee man will feel the benefit long after thanks to plenty of home massages.

First hartbeeps
I’ve already written about Hartbeeps, the baby play and development classes, and it’s something that the wee fella absolutely loves. With songs, nursery rhymes, toys and dress up, it keeps him totally entertained and stimulated for the full hour so he’s ready for a much needed rest afterwards! I’m looking forward to Baby M progressing through other Hartbeeps classes, Baby Beeps and Happy House, as he grows.

First yoga
We ran into the same issue with the local, free, Baby yoga classes as we did with massage – block of classes were fully booked on the day they went online for registration. In this instance, I decided to add our names to the waiting list, to see if anything would come of it. I wasn’t as fussed about yoga as I was for massage, though I’d heard there were some great benefits for development of bones and motor skills, as well as moves that would help ease the dreaded wind pains. Luckily, we got a notification near the end of the month to say that there was now a space for us. We missed the first half of the block but still had our first class in January with one more left to go. Since we started, I noticed a great difference in the wee man’s movements and am pretty convinced that baby yoga helped us achieve the next first!

First roll
Ok so it happened just last week on the 31st, but that’s still January! We were at our weekly baby massage class when the wee surprise occurred. It was time for the back massage section of the class, which usually pains Baby M as he hates tummy time if it lasts any longer than 20 seconds. However, much to my delight, he seemed quite happy on his tummy. No screams, no rigid body. And then it happened. He just rolled right back over onto his back. Convinced it was a fluke, I tried not to make a big deal out of it, and carefully placed the little wriggler back on his tummy. As I attempted to continue the back massage he did it again! So far he’s refused to do it when any of his family are watching, and if he’s on his back he can only get as far as rolling onto his side before he gets stuck, but we’re getting there!

First bookbug
Bookbug is yet another local, free service in the area for which spaces are like gold dust. As you can imagine, this early bird was not early enough and so didn’t quite catch the worm. Though yet again, a few weeks into the current block, we were notified to say that we were top of the waiting list and a space had opened up. Bookbug is exactly as the name suggests, a class that encourages your little ones to become book bugs. As far as I know it seems to be a government initiative, with sessions held at libraries up and down the country. For 45 minutes nursery rhymes are sung, babies and toddlers play games and of course sit down for some story time. It turns out the wee man’s big cousin, who’s just turned one, is also at the same bookbug class, so there’s a familiar face for mum and baby!

I can’t believe we’ve accomplished so many firsts in January, it means I’ll need to reevaluate the “firsts list” for the rest of the year already!