Unique Baby College classes have just started in and around Swindon, offering a weekly development programme for parents as well as their babies, from birth to three years, through fun and informative activities including music, singing, language and play.
Devised by an associate of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology and based on medical research, Baby College began in Reading in 2000, with the aim of helping parents by boosting their confidence in how to stimulate and play with their little one and understand the milestones of infant development. By placing equal emphasis on stimulating parents as well as their babies, and including the science behind the fun, Baby College significantly
differs from other classes aimed at this age group.
Classes have been operating successfully in other parts of the country for 17 years, but this is the first time they’ve been available in this region, where they are being run by Kathryn Hopes, a former secondary school teacher with a Masters in Education. Kathryn, who lives in North Swindon, has 3 children Amelia 5 years, Owen 3 years and
Martha 6 months, and is excited about her new venture.
‘Baby College is addressing issues that I feel very passionate about,’ says Kathryn, who began teaching secondary school students. But after having her first child switched to childminding because she was interested in early years education. ‘working closely with parents and young children as a childminder I discovered that many parents want to bond and play with their babies and young children but often don’t know what activities to do with them to help their development’
‘’As part of my role as childminder I had to work closely with foundation stage teachers’ she explains. ‘these teachers are seeing foundation stage pupils with lower and lower attainment levels, children who don’t know their own name, can’t sit still and listen and have poor social skills’
During her pregnancy with her third child Kathryn saw an advertisement for a Baby College franchisee and decided to set up a franchise in Swindon and the surrounding areas.
Vestibular development, which is all about balance, is just one topic covered by Baby College. Children who have not adequately matured in this area might have a fear of the dark, display signs of emotional instability, avoid change or dynamic situations, and lack hand to eye coordination, for example. Simple exercises to stimulate all three planes within the inner ears include spinning, dancing, and skipping.
The Baby College programme is based around a series of gentle physical, neurological, communication and cognitive exercises to help a baby’s balance system mature, replace infant reflexes, and explore communication and connection to other people. The benefits of touch for growth, circulation and reduction of stress are explored as well as how to recognise and reduce separation anxiety. How do children learn to make friends and how can parents identify the ‘right’ amount of stimulation?
Kathryn has big plans for Baby College in her region. Her classes are taking place in two venues to begin with, but Kathryn is looking to increase these by employing a second teacher. She aims to bring the classes to children’s centres, with recommendations from health visitors and already offers subsidised places for lower income families. As well as looking forward to being her own boss she’ll enjoy seeing how parents and children benefit equally from the Baby College classes.
’The sky is the limit,’ Kathryn says.
Kathryn is not the only new teacher to join Baby College. The word is spreading across the world with Baby College now operating in countries as far afield as South Africa. Another international franchisee is Neuroscientist Aletheia Lee, DPhil Oxon who endorses the science behind the programme.
‘With full appreciation for the intricacies of human development, I believe that the Baby College programme powerfully addresses the various neurophysiological as well as psychological aspects of child development,’ Aletheia says. ‘The classes support and enrich the growth of individual children during these formative years. Just as importantly, the programme supports and enriches every parent, strengthening not just the beautiful bond they share with their little one, but impacting relationships that will last a lifetime.
Kathryn’s weekly classes are held in Cricklade Town Hall Annexe and Abbeymeads Primary School community room. See website for times and details.