In the past few weeks, I’ve been visiting friends and family with newborn babies and it really got me thinking about those first months. Even though it’s not for everyone, I threw myself into baby groups to keep busy as the days seemed so long. Initially I thought it would be a great way to meet people, as well as giving me & Emma a little routine.
We’re very lucky in Brighton as there seems to be endless amounts of things to do with the kids – if you think of something you’d like to do with your baby/toddler, you can bet your money that someone has already set up a class. So I thought I’d gather my top 10 baby and toddler groups that I loved going to when I was on maternity leave, which is by no means an exhaustive list.
Mother & Baby Playgroups
Carden Tots (Old Corner Boat Community Centre, Brighton BN1 8GN | Mon-Fri 10am-1pm £1.50 per person)
This group is a big church hall for the kids to play and run around, with tea and coffee served too. It’s located in Hollingbury/Patcham and possible to access on the 5B bus but better to drive. There is a huge amount of toys at this group including a bouncy castle on certain days. It is a bit overwhelming for very little ones as the age range is up til 5 years old so I only took Emma when she was 6 months+.
Dragonflies Toddler Group (Knoyle Hall BN1 6RB | Thursday 10-12pm during term-time £1.50 per person)
I love this group, run every Thursday with lots of crafts, messy play and activities for the toddlers. They also provide a healthy snack table towards the end of the session with fruit and raw vegetables. Emma loved going to this group and as it was close to where we live, we met some other mums along the way. I’m only sad these days that I have to work on Thursdays and we don’t have a chance to go!
Fiveways Children’s Centre (8-10 Florence Road, BN1 6DJ | Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10:00-11:30am, free)
There are lots of children’s centres in Brighton, which each have their own stay and play sessions, including ones for Dad’s only. But the stand out one is the Fiveways Children Centre on Florence Road. It is such a beautiful place with lots of toys and paintings the kids have drawn on the walls. I first visited when Emma had her 1 year review and thought it was brilliant. They also have a nursery/playgroup attached to the centre which I’ve heard is one of the best in the area.
Tumble Tots (various locations and times around the city, usually Monday-Friday term-time | £6 per session)
When Emma hit 18 months, she starts climbing on everything. We have our very own fearless gymnast, so I decided to find a little group to take her to. This one is great and we love it especially as it’s something to do together on my day off. The classes are in various locations around Sussex but have lots of soft play activities for the toddlers, which seems to be great for her development as she is now walking on her own up the stairs!
Red Jelly (Hove Methodist Church, Portland Road, BN3 5DR | Mon, Wed, Thurs mornings | £7.50 per child)
I’ve never been shy to admit that I’m just not a very crafty person. There are no paints in our house, and only very recently when I realised how much Emma loves colouring, did I buy a few crayons for her. But this group solves it all as they run weekly themed classes, where the children make things with paints, glitter and glue…they all absolutely love it, and we enjoy going to the classes with a group of friends.
I noticed from such an early age how well Emma responded to music, so these are some of the first baby groups I tried – we still sing the songs together now and I can tell she remembers them from all those months ago. Of the many music groups there are in the city, these are my two favourites:
Under The Bridge Music (7 Trafalgar Arches, Brighton BN1 4FQ | Monday-Friday 10am & 2pm | £7 per session or £62 bulk deal for 12 sessions)
Emma adored this class so much – Jacqui, who runs the classes is very friendly with the babies and really makes an effort to get to know the mums. I really think this made a huge difference to me as most of the time I was incredibly sleep deprived! She runs a baby class, which is very gentle and sings nursery rhymes that are a little different to your usual Twinkle Twinkle and The Wheels on the Bus. The toddler group is a little more lively and the children can run around more.
Baby Boogie (various libraries around the city | free)
As a little bookworm, Emma loved going to this class – a small group run by each area’s library so the days and times vary. It’s such a lovely session with the only drawback being that you have to arrive quite early to be able to sit near the instruments. I was very impressed that the council offer such a fantastic class with lots of singing and plenty of instruments to share with the babies.
Sensory (various locations around the city | £8 per session)
Baby sensory was something I had never thought of when I first had Emma. I came along with a mum friend to keep her company and was so impressed with the classes. There was a good sized area with toys including walkers, activity tables and a ball pit for the babies to play before and after the sessions. Then when the class started, it was a mixture of baby signing with lots of different textures, lights and sounds to introduce them to. I was pretty sad when my maternity leave ended and we didn’t go anymore.
Sing & Sign (various locations around the city | £7.50 per session)
Sing & Sign was Emma’s favourite class of them all, which I decided to start to help with her speech. Although I was never worried about it per say, and nor should I have been now we see what a chatterbox she is (!), I thought it would be a way for her to express herself to me before the speech arrived. Our teacher was wonderful and so engaging with the kids, and Emma still loves watching her sing and sign DVD if only to see the cat hand puppet that they use in every class.
Swimming (Carden Avenue, Brighton BN1 | Thursday, Friday & Saturdays various times | £11 per session)
I’ve written before about the swimming lessons we started quite early on. I’m glad we did them to get Emma used to water, but she was definitely not a natural water baby! There are lots of swimming classes in Brighton for babies, but the best we found is Flippers and Fins. The teachers were very friendly and understanding of the difficulties with babies who are tired and grumpy sometimes, but Emma enjoyed the setting in a private pool rather than a leisure centre. As well as this, I found these classes much more affordable per term.
It was such a trip down memory lane rounding up this list and I hope you enjoyed it. Do you enjoy taking your baby or toddler to classes? I’d love to know in the comments below as there’s always something new to try!