Parenting babies and toddlers provides an unmatched sense of joy, but let’s face it: Finding ways to enrich and entertain kids on a regular basis can be exhausting — not to mention a little mind-numbing. A potential solution for those days that seem to go on forever? Mommy and Me classes, which provide both socialization for mom or dad and a host of new skills for baby or toddler.
Wondering which Mommy and Me classes would be the best fit for you and your little one? Here are eight fun options to consider:
1. Tiny yogis
Easing back into an exercise routine is hard when you have a baby. Not only can rigorous workouts be daunting when you’re postpartum, there’s also the issue of finding child care when you want to sneak out for some exercise. Enter: Mommy and Me yoga classes. In addition to providing a gentle, nurturing way to care for your postnatal body, Mommy and Me yoga helps strengthen the physical and emotional bond between mom and baby through fun poses (think: holding your baby up on your shins while you lie flat), massages and songs. It’s also a great way to connect with other new moms during such a vulnerable time.
“I had never done yoga in my life, but I signed up for a Mommy and Me yoga class after my first daughter was born,” says Amanda Rossell, of Athens, New York. “I loved it so much that I was sure to do it after my next two babies, as well. It’s such a nice way to get out of the house with the baby — and I also met some of my closest friends there!”
For parents with older kids, most yoga studios also offer toddler yoga classes, where wiggly little ones can try centering themselves through fun poses, props and songs. These classes also help build body awareness and strengthen coordination.
Most Mommy and Me yoga classes are held at private studios, but community centers and YMCAs may offer them, as well. At Home Power Yoga in Cranford, New Jersey, drop-in kids’ classes are $22, but prices vary nationwide.
Best for: Ages 4 weeks – crawling for babies, ages 2-5 for toddlers
2. Go swimming
Not only is swimming an essential life skill, it’s also fun and a great way to bond with baby. Most swim schools, including the YMCA, offer Mommy and Me swim classes starting at 6 months. While it’s unlikely your little one will be doing laps by the time the session is through, it’s an ideal way to get them used to water — and it’s a great low-impact workout for mom, to boot!
Rates at the Y vary, depending on whether you’re a member or non-member, but eight-week classes typically are around $56 for members and $112 for non-members.
Best for: Ages 6 months – 36 months; after age 3, most swim classes are child-only
3. Music to your ears
Like peanut butter and jelly, toddlers and tambourines just go together. In addition to the fun that music classes provide for little ones, they also help the brain process new speech sounds. Babies and toddlers alike will love exploring the sounds, colors and textures of Mommy and Me music classes, and parents will forever cherish the catchy songs they learn together — even if they’re constantly stuck in their heads.
One of the more popular national music classes, Music Together, combines instrument play with dancing and catchy original tunes. Tuition varies by location, but classes generally run 10 weeks and include a CD.
Best for: Ages birth – 7 years
4. Budding artists
While babies are too young for crafts, art classes where creativity — and messes! — are welcome can be a toddler’s dream. (And yay! for not having to scrape paint off the dining room table.) Budding artists will be able to work with a variety of mediums, including paint, glue, collage and every parent’s favorite — glitter. The result is serious bonding time with your little one — and colorful masterpieces to display on the fridge.
Locations and types of classes vary, but at the Oh! Canary in South Orange, New Jersey, classes start at $30.
Best for: Ages 2-5 years
5. Read, read, read
Storytime is one of the most popular Mommy and Me classes, and there’s a reason for that: It’s usually free. Typically offered at libraries, community centers or Barnes & Noble stores, storytime is a great opportunity to cuddle up with your baby or toddler, foster their love of reading and meet other parents. Most storytimes are geared toward a specific age group, such as under 3 or ages 4-6, while others are more broad with 2-6-year-old ranges.
Best for: Ages 18 months – 6 years old
6. Gym time
Need to get your super energetic kiddo out of house so they don’t break (another) lamp? Take them to a Mommy and Me gym class! Whether you want to develop your baby’s coordination and gross motor skills or help your older child burn off some of his never-ending energy, gym classes, such as My Gym, offer a great space to move and interact with others.
“I signed my daughter up for a toddler gym class in the winter, when we needed to get out of the house,” says Ilene Palmieri, of Howell, New Jersey. “It was great for both of us! She got to run, jump and roll around, and I made a few mom friends.”
Prices at My Gym start at $160 for four weeks of classes.
Best for: Ages 6 months – 4 years old
7. Stroller strides
For multitasking parents who are looking to get moving, Stroller Strides, which combines exercise, fresh air and little ones, is the perfect activity. Using a stroller (with a little one in tow!), parents get a total body workout that focuses cardio, strength training and core restoration. During the 60-minute workout, kiddos will be kept entertained with songs, activities and, of course, the great outdoors.
Depending on where you live, an unlimited monthly membership for Stroller Strides (and Stroller Barre) classes is $75.
Best for: Babies and toddlers who can safely stay buckled into a stroller
8. Get cooking
Teach — or have somebody else teach — your child the joy of cooking by attending a Mommy and Me cooking class together. In addition to getting to work with fresh, healthy ingredients, kids will learn about the origin of their food. Your tiny chef will brush up on his motor, sensory and social skills, all while whipping up something sweet to enjoy at the end of class.
Prices vary for cooking classes, but The Kitchen Workshop in Paoli, Pennsylvania, is $74 for one pizza-making class — and that includes all ingredients and leftovers to take home. Also, keep in mind, some grocery stores offer one-off cooking class (for free!), as well.
Best for: Ages 4-9 years
Still not sold? Consider these perks of taking Mommy and Me classes.
They’re beneficial for both babies and toddlers
Your little one doesn’t need to be toddling about to enjoy these classes. In fact, signing up for a Mommy and Me class before your child’s 1st birthday can create a strong parenting and social foundation.
“You’re giving both yourself and your baby a chance to engage with the community and with each other,” says Dr. Katherine Hoops, a pediatric critical care physician at Johns Hopkins.
They promote bonding
Mommy and Me classes are the perfect setting for children to have mom or dad’s undivided focus — and what’s better than that?
“It is the attention of a child’s parent that provides enrichment, not fancy toys or electronics,” Hoops says. “Shared activities, like a music class, craft time or swimming lessons, give toddlers and older children the opportunity to learn something new, while also enjoying some protected time with mom and dazzling her with a new skill.”
They help children develop new skills
You can have all the flashcards in the world for your child, but some skills can only be learned through hands-on experience.
“In addition to helping your child adjust to being with people outside their immediate family, these classes can foster independence, help kids adapt to new surroundings, teach empathy and expose toddlers to the concept of sharing,” says Susan Newman, author of “Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.”
They come in free or low-cost options
If you appreciate the benefits Mommy and Me classes provide but are concerned about the price tag, consider looking into free Mommy and Me classes. From storytime at the library to seasonal events at the community center, there are always classes available for little to no cost at all.