Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense sessions are a popular way to encourage babies' learning and development. Here, the founder of Baby Sensory Dr Lin Day talks to QA Nursery editor Victoria Galligan about how the sessions can improve communication and coordination from birth onwards…
What is Baby Sensory/Toddler Sense and how are sessions delivered?
Baby Sensory was the first (and original) baby programme designed specifically to aid your baby’s learning and development from birth to 13 months. The 3-part session lasts 60 minutes and follows your baby’s natural play-rest-play cycle. The session begins with a signature sing and sign song ‘Say Hello to the Sun’, followed by a wealth of sensory and physical development activities. All activities are supported by useful information to help you interact with your baby and discover what she can do. During the rest-break, your baby will enjoy exploring toys and equipment at her own pace, while you share experiences with other parents, make new friends, and gain ideas for home use. The session ends with more sensory activities, and its ‘Wave Goodbye’ song and a comforting cuddle to soothe and settle your baby before sleep. No two Baby Sensory sessions are the same so there are always new sensory activities to look forward to. When you're ready to move on to the next multi-sensory adventure in your baby's life, there’s Toddler Sense, sensory classes that are especially designed for busy toddlers from 13 months to 5 years.
How are Baby Sensory classes connected to speech and development?
Baby Sensory classes use a combination of original and traditional songs, rhymes, books, ‘parentese’, action games, and signing activities, to develop early speech and language skills. For example, rhymes, songs, parentese and books help your baby learn new words, develop listening skills and identify the different rhythms, stresses and intonations of language in a fun way. Action games with a repetitive theme such as ‘Pat-a-cake’ and ‘Round and round the garden’ encourage participation and turn-taking, and play a key role in the development of language. Signs based on natural gestures together with expressive speech, eye contact, and facial expressions help you and your baby to communicate from birth. Repetition and positive praise also helps your baby to take the first steps towards the understanding and meaning of language, and the production of speech.
What specialist equipment do settings need for Baby Sensory sessions?
In our play area, you’ll find many resources that are unique to Baby Sensory from beautifully designed ‘Say Hello’ toys of different weight, size, texture and shape to ‘Say Hello’ play mats with interesting textures, baby-safe mirrors and peek-a-boo flaps, and activity gyms to encourage your baby to exercise, and achieve essential reaching and grasping skills. In our sensory area, you’ll find books to share with your baby, musical instruments (including our own branded shakers) to release stress and tension and heighten listening skills, sensory objects such as colourful blocks and shape sorters to develop hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Your baby will also find endless opportunities for creative thinking and learning, when your teacher introduces simple, safe household objects such as measuring cups, boxes with lids to open and close, and containers to stack or nest.
Each piece of equipment has a purpose, and is thoroughly researched and tested to ensure that it meets your baby’s learning and developmental needs. For example, the mats in our sensory area are arranged to match the distance at which your baby can track moving objects, and the decibel levels of our instruments are measured to ensure they are not too loud.
Should more nursery staff need to be trained in sensory play and can Baby Sensory sessions be delivered in nurseries?
Multi-sensory play is so important to the learning and development of babies and children that it simply has to be introduced to the nursery environment. Early years practitioners can design sensory play activities to stimulate one or more of the five senses from paint, sand, dough, clay and water to treasure baskets filled with natural objects, and outside activities that build vocabulary, and knowledge and understanding of the world. There are plenty of resources and ideas to be found online as well as courses to help practitioners gain a deeper insight into the sensory world of young children. Baby Sensory teachers, who complete a rigorous one-year training course, are ideally placed to deliver sensory sessions in nurseries. However, the requirement is for the parent to be present throughout the session to help and support the baby, and to provide loving attention and physical comfort when needed.
What advancements have there been recently at Baby Sensory in terms of the programmes provided?
Since the launch of Baby Sensory in 2006, we have launched three new programmes and we are in the process of launching two more. We initially launched our Toddler Adventure play programme Toddler Sense, which helps with physical development and the imagination based on our themed lesson plans, more recently we launched Mini Professors, a science based programme for two to four year olds, developed by two scientists and KeepaBeat paediatric first aid for parents with young children. We are currently in the process of launching Reading Fairy a programme which develops the love of stories and provides the building blocks for learning to read and Baby Sensory Foundations a programme which provides vital information for parents who are expecting or have just had their first baby. All programmes have been developed by subject matter experts and are aimed at helping parents through the vital pre school years.
Can young children with special needs benefit from Baby Sensory classes and how?
What makes the Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense programmes so special is the warmth and enthusiasm of its teachers, who are passionate about every child regardless of physical or sensory impairment. This commitment is obvious to parents and the reason why we have won so many awards both nationally and internationally. All babies and toddlers benefit immensely from the diverse range of sensory activities, social play, movement and exercise opportunities, specialist equipment, and musical resources with the reassurance, help and support of the class teacher. You’ll enjoy exploring new smells, sounds, sights, tastes, textures, toys and equipment with your baby or toddler, and you can celebrate every precious new skill or achievement together. Best of all, you’ll spend quality time with your baby or toddler in a warm and nurturing environment that meets every child’s needs and abilities. In addition, Baby Sensory classes are also important for parents with disabilities and impairments, and for mums and dads suffering from postnatal depression, because they provide social therapy and help them feel part of a supportive community.
Why is sensory play so important for babies and toddlers?
Babies and toddlers have an extraordinary capacity to learn. The fact that the brain doubles in volume by the end of the first year, reaches 80 per cent of adult volume at the end of the third year, and 90 per cent by age five reinforces this. Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense classes offer a valuable opportunity for parents to develop their child’s learning potential, self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and problem solving skills through structured and unstructured free-flow sensory play. During the free-flow session, a play gym gives your baby the opportunity to focus on and track objects that move at speed and in different directions, while climbing over soft foam shapes develops sensory perception and spatial awareness in toddlers.
Other sensory play activities for your baby include tummy time on silky textures, listening to different genres of music, and seeing stars projected on the walls and ceiling. If you have a toddler, being immersed in a ball pool, squeezing through narrow tunnels or going on an indoor nature walk makes sensory play fun and exciting. During structured sensory play, your baby or toddler will enjoy a complete sensory experience, from singing to dance, games, books and music to magical light shows, treasure baskets, puppets, water play, bubbles, and much more. All these things stimulate the senses and give your child the knowledge, experience and skills that they need for future success.