In search of a weekly class that will entertain and stimulate her independent one year old, Louise Emma Clarke tries out Boogie Babies at Favourite Things.
To your child, Boogie Babies is 30 minutes of singing, dancing, and playing – but as a parent, it’s reassuring to know that there’s a lot of thinking behind it too. The people behind Boogie Babies designed the class to coincide with the first three years of a child’s life when brain development is at its peak. So not only do little ones get to have fun in an exciting, musical environment, but the classes help to accelerate development of language and coordination skills, increase creativity, and improve manual dexterity.
It all sounded very promising, so I headed along to Favourite Things in Marina Mall to try out the class on a Thursday morning. I was joining the session for ‘Babies and New Walkers’ with my still-crawling 13-month old and Bev, the warm and enthusiastic class leader, warned me that he might feel overwhelmed by the noise and activity on his first lesson. I told her that my main concern was that he’d ignore what was happening and concentrate on making a break for freedom, as was often the case with my little independent spirit. She laughed and told me not to worry; he could crawl around and investigate, but I should try and encourage him back into the circle whenever possible. “By the way, I’m a terrible singer” she added with a chuckle.
Taking our place in the circle of mothers and caregivers on a large square of mats, those beside me turned to say hello and I was struck by how warm and welcoming the class was. When Bev joined the circle, revealing a puppet that would help us with the first song, she had the children’s undivided attention. The music started and we took it in turns to introduce our child - and as I sang “Stanley is here!” in the best singing voice I could muster, my son smiled broadly.
A few songs in, the familiar tones of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ started up and he crawled off my lap into the middle of the circle. I feared that an escape plot was hatching in his mind, so was relieved when he began dancing energetically, clapping his hands, and beaming at the other adults in the circle. His joy continued when a large colourful parachute was placed on the floor followed by handfuls of plastic balls. The children sat on top, while the adults flapped the sides to create a wave effect - and without exception, the little ones were captivated.
Pulling out the parachute from underneath them, we then held it high over their heads and moved it slowly up and down as we walked around the circle to an energetic soundtrack. This was the part Bev had warned me might be a little overwhelming and some of the adults stayed underneath with their child for reassurance. Stanley, however, seemed ecstatic about it, sitting right in the middle of the circle as he watched the parachute fall to within an inch of his face, beaming broadly and trying to touch it. I did feel like a bit of a loon as I danced around flapping a giant parachute, but if it held his attention for more than a few seconds, it was well worth it!
The activities and songs continued for the full 30 minutes, with props including musical instruments, hobbyhorses, teddy bears, and cuddly dinosaurs. Stanley only made for the door once (remarkable) and seemed to enjoy every second.
The great thing about Favourite Things in Marina Mall is that the class fee includes 30 minutes playtime, so we all piled into the soft play area at the end of the class and I got chatting to the other mums. Denise Lynch, mum to 10 month-old Liam told me: “This is our second term of Boogie Babies and I’ve really seen Liam’s confidence grow, especially in the last few sessions.” As we talk, her son disappears from sight as he crawls through a tunnel and out through the other side. “See” she points, “he would never have done that a few weeks ago!”
As I watch my son throw himself down a slide and plunge head first into a ball pit laughing, I can totally see where she’s coming from. They love the music and activities, it clearly boosts their confidence, and they leave happily exhausted. And as an added bonus, my body is aching from all that dancing, so maybe I will finally shift some of this baby weight too...
Boogie Babies at Favourite Things, Marina Mall costs Dhs65, which includes 30 minutes soft play (before or after the class). www.boogiebabies.org.