As parents, we want to think that we know what is right for our children. We usually do, but there are times when help and collective wisdom are much needed. My first child went to daycare at 7 months. It was a great experience and he hit all milestones within the expected timeline. When baby number two was about to arrive, we made the decision as a family for me to stay home. It was a transition I wanted but I had little idea on the implications. Being a SAHM meant I had complete responsibility and control of agendas and activities. I had heard of the schedules my friends’ babies were in, full of classes and activities. I certainly knew I had to develop a schedule on my own, but it took some time before I realized there was a science to what I thought were overpriced baby classes.
When my younger son was 18 months old, we started to worry about his speech. Other kids were very vocal and in contrast, his frustration levels were starting to rise. After talking to our pediatrician, we were referred to the city services for early childhood intervention. Soon after our call, we had our son evaluated. Thankfully the only developmental delay at that moment was his speech, but the evaluation itself led me to understand the value and importance of baby classes.
Why baby classes?
Anyone who has gone through a developmental evaluation would understand the level of anxiety it generates. The simple idea of having an evaluation could turn many parents away. During an evaluation, a child is asked to complete simple tasks according to age, such as jumping, going up and down stairs and other fine motor skills. I am a big advocate of child-led play. I had read books and articles about how important it is to let your baby explore and discover, I thought I had crossed all my t’s. But the results were an eye-opener.
As part of the city program, I was referred to a parent coaching class. The program “It Takes Two to Talk” helps caregivers get an understanding of the dynamics and routines to help children develop their communication skills. Things like singing, reading the same books and letting them lead may sound intuitive, but many of us could miss them at points.
Baby classes became a new part of my routine and I valued them because of the ways my son would benefit. I enrolled in two different classes and started a stricter routine. We started to go to our local storytime, signed up for Zumbini with Amanda, and a movement class at the Dance Place. Almost immediately I started to understand the science behind them. Singing helped my son expand his vocabulary. Dancing helped him master the tasks we had seen from the evaluation.
Help, we are not meeting the milestones!
The progress he made from the speech therapy and the new routine was amazing. In a few months, he was combining words and finishing my sentences as we read along. His frustration declined and the interaction with other kids improved. Now, don’t get me wrong, he still has his episodes of frustration, tantrums, and fights with friends. But we now understood that he needed help and that classes were a great way to build skills were key moving forward. I am lucky to have found two amazing classes and great instructors.
My biggest takeaway is that we should not be afraid of reaching out for help if we think something is off and our perception of routines could be mistaken. In my opinion, baby classes are valuable and important, but not everyone thinks this way. In some instances, it might be a cultural issue since some classes could come across as just a new trend. It might also take time to convince your partner that these classes are helpful. Plus, it takes research to find classes and sometimes an investment. However, a great number of classes are available through city services too. It took me some time and I was very resistant to the idea of therapy. What is important to keep in mind, especially for kids that stay at home, is that a little help goes a long way!
There are a number of public resources available for parents. Ask your pediatrician for a referral or visit your local department of health and human services. Here are some good links for our area: