Getting the Most from an Online Baby or Toddler Class
When you thought about enrolling your little one into a baby or toddler class you may not have imagined doing the class in your living room! We have all had to get used to new ways of doing things over the last few months though haven’t we, and at times where it’s not possible to run classes in the community, or even if you struggle to find a class at a time or place to suit you when it is, it’s now becoming common place for classes to be delivered online.
Strange as this may sound initially, there are a number of reasons why attending an online class can be a great alternative to the more traditional format, not least of which is providing the opportunity to join in with a class wherever you are, and even if the class is initially delivered live, there are usually options to replay the session meaning you can also take part at a time to suit you, plus repeat your child’s favourite activities again and again.
If you haven’t tried these before though, you might be a bit unsure about how an online class works or worried about whether it will actually provide the benefits you are looking for. You might even have tried some online classes in the past and not had the best experience, and so are reluctant to try them again.
Just like when you attend a class at a venue however, the role you play, as parent or carer of the Tot enrolled in the class, is just as, if not more, important than that of your class leader, and there are lots of things you can do to make sure both you and your little one get the most from the class, however or wherever it’s taking place.
For today though, we’ll focus on online classes for babies and toddlers, how to make the most of them.
Taking part in an online baby or toddler class is not the same as sitting your little on in front of a screen. There are often concerns that children this age won’t engage in activities through a screen, but, in most cases, they are not at all expected to. The Tots Play programme in particular has always been about you and your child taking part in the activities together, and this is the same whether you are with us at one of our venues or taking part at home.
Your class leader will explain or demonstrate and lead you through each activity, but it is you who engages your little one and puts that activity into practice, and it will be you who they respond to the most too, as you are their first and most important play mate. So while you will need to view the screen for at least part of the time to get the information you need to carry out or join in with the activities, your child will rarely, if at all be watching the screen, they will be watching and playing with you.
These offer a real opportunity to get to know each other better through the play activities you will be enjoying together. Try the following tips to get the most from the sessions.
Engage with your Baby
Once you have the gist of an activity, don’t worry about watching the screen. Engaging and making eye contact with baby is more important than getting moves or words exactly right (but do listen to any safety instructions from your class leader). Here's a lovely example of this sent in by one of our families taking part at home.
If you are watching a replay, you might even like to watch an activity through first, and then repeat it again with the focus on your baby.
If it’s an activity where you do need to follow along more closely, such as a sign language song, it may be useful to have your baby facing the screen with you for those few minutes and then repeating the song face to face after class, so consider what might work best for different types of activity and finding the balance between getting to know the activities and sharing them with your little one.
Think about varying baby’s position through the session. While you will mainly want to have baby facing you, at different times or for different activities they may be laid down, sitting up or you may be up on your feet with them. This all helps keep your little one engaged and the different positions and movements are also part of the learning and development they will be getting from the class.
Look out for Cues
Even the youngest babies have lots of ways they communicate with us, from facial expressions to the way they hold themselves, as well as sounds and movements. We call these a baby’s cues. Looking out for cues that indicate your baby is starting to get tired or grumpy and getting up and moving around with them, or even taking a short break if they start giving off those cues, can help shift their mood and avoid them getting past the point where it’s harder to settle them.
Classes are for You Too
If the class is being delivered live then do join it even if your baby is sleeping or feeding. This can help you stay connected with other parents in your group, which can be as important for you both as what you do in the class. Sometimes a bit of interaction with other adults, even remotely, is just what you need to get you through the day!
You may also have the opportunity to take in more of the information being shared with you than you will sometimes do the first time around when you are joining in with your baby, to ask questions or join in more easily with the conversation. You can use this knowledge and try out the activities later when baby is ready to play
Shared play with your toddler is an ideal way to enjoy time together. At this age it is even more important for you to engage your tot in doing the activities together, and this can help to strengthen the bond you have and really get to know your growing tot.
Expect them to wander!
As one of our class leaders likes to put it, toddlers are free range - meaning they will wander! If you are expecting them to sit and follow along with activities throughout a session then you will both end up frustrated. Instead, rather than asking them to sit still, engage with them on their terms. If they don’t want to participate in a song or activity, do it on your own then repeat it later, or move to the part of the room where they are and do the activity with them there.
Equally, don’t expect your child to be able to do or join in with all the activities, straight way or in the same way that you would as an adult. Classes are there to support their learning and development and if they can already do everything within the session perfectly, they will perhaps benefit more from the next stage in the programme you are following (although nothing wrong with joining in with something just for the fun of it).
When you look like you’re having fun it’s infectious. Do the yoga moves, or whatever activity the class leader is showing you, by yourself for a while, your toddler may just watch you or gradually join in. They don’t have to participate in every move to learn from it.
This is no different in a physical class setting, and it will always be the case that children of this age will learn from things in different ways. Some like to watch first, some learn by doing, and some love to show their personality by doing things “their way”. All of this is learning and all completely expected with this age group. Many times, children will look like they are not paying any attention to what is going on, but will repeat the moves or songs you have done later on, demonstrating that they had taken in much more than you thought. You are their role model here, so the more you take part and the more enthusiasm you show for the class, the more your tot will get from it.
Have some play options
Having some favourite toys, instruments or sensory items to hand for your little one to look at during class can help them feel like they are choosing their play, and will engage much more when they feel this way. They might play as the class leader explains an activity, or sing a song for example, but they will see when you start to join in, and that’s great. They might decide to join in too, or watching you while also engaging with their toys, might even help them to recall it better.
Give lots of praise
Talk to your toddler about what they’re doing throughout the class and praise those things.
Try to avoid the negative, praise them for leaving the screen alone, rather than keep asking them not to touch it for example. They’ll soon disengage if they feel they’re being told off for joining in.
Everyone loves to be told they’re doing well, even the youngest tots, so the more you find to praise and celebrate, the more your tot will want to do more of those things.
Keep on trying
Just as when you attend a class in person, it often takes children a while to settle in and get used to a class, and this is no different with online classes. The more of a particular class you do together, the more both of you get used to the routine of it and familiar with the structure and the activities, the more benefit the class brings, so be prepared to give a class at least a few tries, taking into account all the tips above, before making a judgment about it.
Some days we are all in the mood to do things more than others too, so you may find that one day your tot will join in with just about everything, and other days hardly anything at all – and that’s ok.
With an online class, you are often able to watch it back at a time that suits you both, and get the benefits at a time when your little one is in the mood to join in a little more, and repeat favourite activities over and over again too.
Give it a go!
I hope this has inspired you to give online classes a try and that these tips will help you really making the most of these sessions. Whether or not you are also able to attend a class in person, doing class activities at home will really support your child’s learning and development, so whether that’s in the form of a full class session or just taking activities you have learned through these and doing them individually at different times there really are benefits to be had.
At Tots Play we have always reinforced the idea that play is not just for class time, but something to enjoy every day of the week, so I hope that our online classes continue to provide both ideas for things you can do together at any time and the opportunity to share some focused time doing those things along with your class leader, and perhaps also other families, in real time too.
Here to support you
If you haven’t yet joined, you can find lots of online activities to try out in our Facebook group, Tots Play Families UK, too, so do come and join in the fun.
Tots Play is all about you and your little one enjoying a wide variety of play activities together, and the more you engage with these, whenever and wherever you happen to be doing them, the more fun they will be and the more benefits you will both see too, so why not give an online class a try today and see what fun you can have.
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