You may have seen baby gym classes advertised and thought, “my child is a baby, what could a gymnastics program possibly offer us?”
While it is true that your baby won’t be cartwheeling their way around the gym [just yet], the development milestones that they need to meet on the way to that in the future are well and truly catered for. Baby gym is all about providing a safe environment for meeting development needs, encouraging some guided risk-taking, getting some assistance or support with skills such as rolling, sitting, or crawling, and as important as anything else, some social time for carers.
What exactly happens at a Teeny Tinies class at Twisters? Our baby gym program, Teeny Tiny Tornadoes, is a 30-minute semi-structured class. Each session commences with a music component. Music is an important part of early childhood development for brain development related to sound processing, memory, language development, and speech. The use of the same introduction song and finishing song each week gives the little ones a sense of structure and familiarity and it is incredible how quickly they recognise and respond to the known songs. After the introduction song, there is a quick body connection/massage (provided it is a young class – this connection drops off once the babies are on the move as they already have an awareness of their body by this point!). Then there is a warmup song which changes from week to week.
Circle time, with the use of props, is a fun time for the carer to share some focused one-on-one time with their little one. Props might include maracas, scarves, balls, a parachute, soft toys, puppets; rhythm sticks, pool noodles – the list is endless! The props help us to introduce visual tracking and hand-eye coordination, a sense of rhythm, object permanence, dexterity, grip, and grasp. Music is also included for brain stimulation and to improve focus…and sometimes just to dance! Sometimes the little ones are more interested in what the coach is doing, or even some of their little friends. Socialisation is another fun part of circle time so whatever keeps everyone happy is perfect here!
Activities are included each week to focus on a key developmental milestone or developmental area. These activities build on or overlap slightly each week with an opportunity for each child to work at their own pace and at their own level. The activities include visual tracking and hand-eye coordination activities; rocking; rolling; swatting; kicking; sitting; crawling; ball play; pushing; pulling; weight-bearing; balance; and many others. All activities are suitable for a range of ages and abilities. Everyone is encouraged to try the focus activity at some point in the session.
Then there is an opportunity for free exploration. This is where the little ones get to explore a range of equipment at their own pace and at their own level (under the supervision of their carer, of course). The equipment is set up to encourage safe risk-taking, enable everyone to have a turn at trying the focus activity, work on focus activities from previous weeks, and meet individual developmental milestones. The coach is there to support anyone who needs it, to answer questions, and to assist with any movement-related development issues that might have presented outside of the gym, within the scope of their knowledge (such as, “how do I encourage my baby to roll from back to front?” or “my baby has started rocking on their knees: how do I encourage them to start crawling?”
Circle Time, focus, and free exploration activities are all designed to include activities that will stimulate and activate different sensory systems. Development of the vestibular system and providing proprioceptive input, are a key focus, as well as providing vast amounts of visual, auditory, and tactile experiences. The more input from a young age, the better for development.
Our goodbye song signifies the end of the class and our tired little friends are ready for a nap after all of that synapse building!