Devised by an associate of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology and based on medical research, Baby College began in Reading in 2000, with the aim of helping parents by boosting their confidence in how to stimulate and play with their little one and understand the milestones of infant development. By placing equal emphasis on stimulating parents as well as their babies, and including the science behind the fun, Baby College therefore significantly differs from other classes aimed at this age group.
Classes have been operating successfully in other parts of the country for seventeen years, but this is the first time they’ve been available in this region, where they are being run Rebecca Jennings, a former primary school teacher.
Rebecca, who lives in Long Eaton, has a year old baby daughter, Amelie, and is excited about her new venture.
‘Baby College is addressing issues that I feel very passionate about,’ says Rebecca, who began teaching Year 2s but switched to foundation stage because she was more interested in working with a younger age group.
‘But even then it’s often too late,’ she explains. ‘We were seeing foundation stage pupils with lower and lower attainment levels, children who don’t know their own name, can’t sit still and listen and have poor social skills.’
Rebecca became part of a team looking at what children need to be doing in the crucial first three years, part of a government implemented base line trial exploring age related expectations.
Rebecca’s school was shown to be 50% below accepted levels, and inspired by the studies carried out by teacher (Rebecca, who is he?) Paul Young, on ‘container babies’ who spend time in baby chairs and bouncers and are not given enough opportunity to move freely, she became fascinated by the importance of vestibular reflexes, for instance, which need to be stimulated before children start school.’
Rebecca returned to school after maternity leave, but then saw an advertisement for a Baby College franchisee and has now handed in her notice.
Vestibular development, which is all about balance, is just one topic covered by Baby College. Children who have not adequately matured in this area might have a fear of the dark, display signs of emotional instability, avoid change or dynamic situations, and lack hand to eye coordination, for example. Simple exercises to stimulate all three planes within the inner ears include spinning, dancing, and skipping.
The Baby College programme is based around a series of gentle physical, neurological, communication and cognitive exercises to help a baby’s balance system mature, replace infant reflexes, and explore communication and connection to other people. The benefits of touch for growth, circulation and reduction of stress are explored as well as how to recognise and reduce separation anxiety. How do children learn to make friends and how can parents identify the ‘right’ amount of stimulation?
Rebecca has big plans for Baby College in her region.
Her classes will take place in three venues to begin with, but Rebecca is looking to increase these by employing a second teacher. She aims to bring the classes to children’s centres, with recommendations from health visitors and subsidised places for lower income families. As well as looking forward to being her own boss she’ll enjoy seeing how parents and children benefit equally from the Baby College classes.
‘My mum will be looking after Amelie while I work,’ explains Rebecca. ‘Though as a retired primary school headteacher she’s quite keen to teach some Baby College classes herself.’
’The sky is the limit,’ Rebecca says.
Rebecca is not the only new teacher to join Baby College. The word is spreading across the world with Baby College now operating in countries as far afield as South Africa. Another international franchisee is Neuroscientist Aletheia Lee, DPhil Oxon who endorses the science behind the programme.
‘With full appreciation for the intricacies of human development, I believe that the Baby College programme powerfully addresses the various neurophysiological as well as psychological aspects of child development,’ Aletheia says. ‘The classes support and enrich the growth of individual children during these formative years. Just as importantly, the programme supports and enriches every parent, strengthening not just the beautiful bond they share with their little one, but impacting relationships that will last a lifetime.
Rebecca’s weekly classes will be held in Borrowash and Allestree. See website for times and details.
Offering a real flexible alternative to parents returning to work, the Baby College franchise is growing from its roots in Oxford. New franchisees around the country are offering the insightful and fun parent & baby classes to parents with 0-3 year olds.