There’s a certain expression that toddlers adopt when they recognise a song. Their eyes light up, a grin spreads across their face and they start to jig around as the familiar strains of ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ emanate from the car stereo. Of course, all this is done while sneaking sideways glances at you, to make sure they’ve got an appreciative audience.
Add a crew of other, like-minded young performers and classics like ‘Hot Potato’ to the mix, head to a mall, and you’ve got yourself a Boogie Babies session. Launched in 2006 by Emma Brinson, the half-hour dancing classes for preschoolers have been going from strength to strength recently – and it’s not just the kids who enjoy it, judging by the look of the mums on our visit to the Mall of the Emirates’ Sunday morning session.
Like most successful businesses, the idea came to Emma when she noticed a gap in the market. ‘All the classes out there were so disciplined and structured,’ Emma explains. ‘Of course, those sorts of sessions have their place, and discipline is very important. However, I thought it would be nice to give three year olds a chance to do what they love doing naturally – and in the process, develop social skills, coordination and balance. Plus they can get some exercise without even realising they’re doing it,’ she adds.
The Boogie Babies classes are divided into under threes and three to six year olds, with the little ones being split into ‘babies and new walkers’ and ‘toddlers and confident walkers’. One session tends to follow the other, which is handy if you’ve got two tots close in age. The ample number of classes means that the group size is always small, with children being able to interact with others of a similar level of development. A bonus for mums is the fun workout it provides, raising the heart rate and hopefully going some way towards toning the much-bemoaned ‘mummy tummy’.
The toddlers’ class we visit is nestled deep inside the Mall of the Emirates’ Magic Planet at Peekaboo, a bright, cheerful and über clean venue. Mum-of-two Kirsteen, our class leader, is a qualified primary school teacher, and her son Alex, age two, has come along for the ride. Proceedings kick off with a rousing rendition of ‘Willoughby Wallaby Woo’. Dancing in public can be a daunting experience at any age, and with it being early in the term, there are a few initial bewildered looks. However, comfort is close at hand in the form of reassuring smiles from parents, and soon the entire class is kicking and clapping with gusto. A few old favourites (including the ever-popular ‘Incey Wincey Spider’) are trotted out, and then it’s onto our feet for some boppy numbers from the Wiggles and High 5.
The additions of ‘tickle sticks’ (aka feather dusters), a parachute and a toy elephant help make the class even more enjoyable, but Boogie Babies is also a valuable learning tool. Emma explains, ‘Through the music, preschoolers are introduced to numbers, colours, animals and parts of the body. It also helps to develop their attention span and channel all that energy.’
According to Emma, classes for the over-threes are even more flamboyant: ‘The kids are really into it by this age – they come dressed in their fairy outfits and superhero costumes, covered in sparkles.’ And, of course, this age group also benefits from the sessions. ‘We use music that children love to encourage their natural desire to express themselves physically. At the same time, they learn important lessons like taking turns, following the teacher’s instructions and developing imagination and confidence,’ Emma says. One change for this age group is that parents are no longer present: without the distraction of having people to perform for, children can concentrate on developing social skills with their peers. Assisting kids’ social development and having half an hour to go shopping? Boogying’s never looked better.
Boogie Babies has weekly half-hour sessions at Mall of the Emirates, Arabian Ranches, Emirates Hills, Ibn Battuta Mall, Mirdif and Old Town. All classes are led by qualified primary school teachers and terms run in 12-week blocks. Prices range from Dhs500-600 per term, depending on location. For more information, visit www.boogiebabies.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Emma on 050 884 1966