10 things you should do during your baby’s first year

From baby yoga to music, dance and massage

Modern parenting is tough. With the birth of the ‘yummy mummy’ expectations, and the introduction of 1,001 parenting classes from baby yoga and massage to music, dance and baby gym, how do you pick the best stimulation for your baby without over committing and stretching your budget?

We’ve picked our favourite 10 activities to help you decide.

1. Musical play to build strength and sensory engagement

Writing and parenting whiz Jo Middleton, the author behind SlummySingleMummy recommends a rattle rave with all your baby pals:

“When Belle was little, we went to a music class called ‘Jolly Babies’. We would all sit around in a circle, trying to get our babies to coordinate themselves enough to sit up straight and shake a rattle at the same time! I’m sure a lot of it was more for our benefit, in terms of getting out of the house, but the babies definitely seemed to enjoy it too! I think the social aspect of these sort of activities is really valuable for everyone – we are still friends, 13 years later, with a mum and daughter we met at Jolly babies!”

2. Baby massage stimulates growth

Before learning to speak, babies communicate and respond to tactile and sensory experiences. “I dabbled in baby massage at home” says Gemma Smith, a makeup artist from Suffolk.

“My baby boy has sensitive skin so I used an emollient cream, and massaged his tummy, feet, legs, hands and arms after a bath.”

Massage is thought to not only improve bonding between parent and child, but also stimulate growth, help a baby fall asleep and strengthen their digestive system, and give them a more comfortable first year in the world. There are baby massage courses nationwide.

3. Twist (don’t shout) at baby yoga

Birthlight Yoga says: “For every hour that babies spend in car seats, five minutes of baby yoga provides stretching as a start to a healthy lifestyle.”

Catherine Adams went to an antenatal baby yoga class when her daughter was three months old: “It was a very gentle pace and the movements only involved little twists and stretches. The teacher told us to look into our baby’s eyes and I felt so close to her.”

4. Baby gyms encourage brain development through play

Baby gyms encourage exercise that stretches and strengthens their muscles, while also enhancing brain development, communication and coordination.

As well as investing in a cute piece of furniture to brighten any room (check out this cloud inspired design, or this roaring trip to the zoo) you’ve also prepared a comfy space for your baby to roll over when it’s ‘tummy time’, and when they’re a little older, to sit up and hit the gym with both hands.

5. Singing, ballet and mime for body awareness

BabyBallet.co.uk hosts nationwide classes for tots aged 6 to 18 months for musical playtime, with singing and mime.

Hayley Thompson took her 7-month baby and loved the atmosphere: “The class size was really small, so the teacher could come and work with us individually, it was so supportive. There were antenatal exercises, as well as introductory moves that made both me and the baby feel really relaxed. She napped for hours afterwards!”

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6. Let sleeping sprogs lie

HUGGIES Wipes baby bonding expert, Gayle Berry knows mums and babies should cuddle as frequently as possible: “Oxytocin is known as the ‘love hormone’ and is produced whenever you have skin-to-skin contact – holding hands, cuddling or stroking your baby. It chemically changes how you feel about the person you’re doing this with.

Skin-to-skin contact nurtures feelings of love and bonding.” So if they fall asleep on you, enjoy it (even if there are 101 chores waiting!) They’re only small enough to do this for such a short while, so keep the selfie stick at arms length and get some super-cute photos in the bank too.

7. Learn to swim

Baby swimming classes can start when babies are just six weeks old. Jessa Wright went along, baby in tow, with a small group of other parents and their children: “I wasn’t really prepared, but at least I had swimming nappies with me! It’s a good idea to bring some bath toys from home so they feel calmer, and a dressing gown for afterwards in case it’s a bit cold.”

Babies have a natural instinct to splash about and make basic swimming strokes, the instructor will build your baby’s movements throughout the session.

8. Baby sees the signs

Babies can pick up the meanings behind gestures, lickety-split. They reach out to mum or dad to be picked up, and quickly start waving and pointing too. You can develop these skills into signs which correspond to milk, cuddles and anything you like from birth.

When a baby is nine months old they will combine these gestures with sounds, before finally starting to speak at around 12-months.

9. Baby sensory classes

Baby Sensory sessions are nationwide, teaching parents social and physical development exercise which can be replicated at home. Jon Cullen, father of twins, says: “In one lesson we sat together as a family watching vibrant puppet shows full of music and bright colours, and in another the twins fell asleep to bubbles swirling in front of their eyes.

Baby sensory classes have not only helped the girls develop, but I love it too!”

10. Run, baby, run

With all the yoga, gym, ballet and swimming, your baby is going to be as fit as a fiddle, but mums and dads need some exercise to keep them at the top of their game too (on the days when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, that is!) Taking up running with a buggy (there are BuggyFit classes nationwide) is an accessible fitness option.

Before running laps, look closely at your wheels. Buggies need to have tyres 16 inches or larger for a smooth ride, but there are differences between specialist off-roaders and pavement-friendly models, so chose wisely based on your running route.

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