- Baby Sensory
Today we speak with Karen Byrne-Smith the director of baby sensory Birmingham South about sensory play for babies, why it is so important, what the main benefits for, how and when you should start introducing sensory plat and what items you can use at home. You will leave this podcast understanding why sensory play is so important.
Karens Baby Sensory Classes
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[00:01:20] Hello and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby Expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the uk. To answer your questions on everything pregnancy to preschool.
[00:01:43] Today we are talking all about sensory play for babies, and I have the lovely Karen Byrne-Smith joining me, the director of Baby Sensory Birmingham South. I hope you enjoy this episode.
[00:02:03] Today I am joined by Karen Byrne-Smith, the Director of Baby Sensory Birmingham South, and we are gonna be talking all about sensory play for babies. So, hello Karen. How are you?
[00:02:15] Karen: Very well, thank you. Lovely to be here.
[00:02:18] Carla: Oh, we’re really excited to have you on here. So Sensory for Babies is something that’s becoming so popular. I say becoming, it is been popular for years. And obviously you own Baby Sensory in Birmingham, don’t you? How long have you had that business now?
[00:02:31] Karen: Um, 13 years. I started by taking my own daughter to baby sensory classes and I just thought, wow, this is a brilliant opportunity. Um, so I took it on myself.
[00:02:43] Carla: Wow. And you cover quite a few areas as well, don’t you?
[00:02:46] Karen: Yeah, so I’ve got, um, all of Birmingham South, Kings Heath, Harborn, Edge Baston, um, Bournville, and then I’ve also got Bronzes Grove Territory, which covers Barnt Green and Redditch as well.
[00:02:57] Carla: Goodness. You must be, you must be very busy .
[00:03:00] Karen: Yeah. Which is a good thing.
[00:03:02] Carla: It is, it is. Definitely. So you certainly are the perfect person to speak to about when it comes to about baby sensory. Really? So, so I’m gonna ask you a few questions if that’s okay. To help our parents understand baby sensory a little more. So what actually is sensory play?
[00:03:21] Karen: Sensory play is any activity that uses a baby’s, one of their sensors. So obviously we’ve got sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, um, and it’s any activity that develops, um, using those sensors.
[00:03:36] So for instance, we might do water play. So we’ve got tactile sensory play and that’s obviously developing baby sense of touch. And it can be literally any activity. That develops one or multiple of the senses.
[00:03:52] Carla: That’s brilliant. So, so the, there is a lot of benefits of sensory play. Can you, can you tell me a little bit more about those?
[00:03:59] Karen: Sure. Um, there’s so many, um, benefits and they can literally start from as soon as baby’s born, whether you’re doing activities at home or you’re venturing out into a class. But every single new sound, touch, um, taste, experience, piece of music. Any activity is developing neurones in the brain and that’s what we want.
[00:04:22] The first year of baby’s brain development is absolutely vital, and that lays the foundations for future learning.
[00:04:31] Carla: Wow, that’s really interesting. I know. Um, I bet. I mean, with the sensory side of things, there’s also something called, I mean, parents might understand, it might not cognitive development. Some of the words are a bit like, oh, what, what the hell does that mean? So what does cognitive development mean? Is that to do with all the brain side of things?
[00:04:49] Karen: Yeah. In essence, um, a baby is learning in the womb. But when they, um, are born, they can’t process really complex things like thought and memory. So we have to build those foundations. So cognitive development is about how the brain starts to understand those concepts and baby learns about the outside world, what things mean.
[00:05:15] Um, even basic example, like, um, looking at things like. Object permanence. A baby will realize if something has gone out of their immediate vision, it hasn’t gone away permanently, and it may come back, but the, the brain is not sophisticated when they’re born to understand that concept. So all the cognitive development, um, over time, um, develops and we start to understand all these major, major concepts.
[00:05:49] And by using those five senses, that’s how the brain is developing. Um, the site is developing, uh, growth, um, uh, motor skills are developing. So arms and legs, all to do with the brain sending messages to those, uh, you know, arms when we’re doing if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
[00:06:09] Carla: Wow. It is really interesting cause as a parent, obviously we’ve been doing a lot of these things all our lives, so you just assume, the babies will learn it and stuff, but there’s a lot more to it, so that is really interesting.
[00:06:20] Karen: Yeah.
[00:06:21] Carla: And, and with the baby sensory then it’s also about physical development as well, really, isn’t it?
[00:06:28] Karen: Absolutely.
[00:06:28] Carla: So, so how would it help with that?
[00:06:30] Karen: Um, so your baby is developing from the, um, head down to the toes because obviously the brain is developing first and the toes are tend to be the last thing to develop because babies are walking.
[00:06:44] So in that first year, we are going from the top down. So physical development, so from the brain to facial expressions to maybe reaching up and lifting our arms up. That would be an indicator that babies want to be picked up. Then we might get at six month baby clapping. So we’ve got physical development working, the core muscles. Sitting, that’s so, so important and that’s why we talk about tummy time all the time cause we need strong tummy muscles in order for babies to sit up. Um, and um, stop gravity. So if they’re slightly going to fall, if they’ve got strong tummy muscles, they can bring themselves back in together. Um, and then also the most exciting time probably is when babies start to, uh, coast around furniture and start to walk.
[00:07:33] So we’ve got to have strong leg muscles. So the activities that we do are fun. Um, they’re physical. Every time we do a physical activity, we release endorphins and happy hormones, and we also reduce the amount of cortisol in the body. And the cortisol is the stress hormone. Let’s face it in this day
[00:07:50] Carla: The babies, do babies feel stress?
[00:07:53] Karen: Yes. Yes.
[00:07:54] Carla: Wow.
[00:07:54] Karen: Absolutely. Yeah. So, if, if mums or dads or carers are stressed, then baby might pick up on that as well. So we have loads and loads of fun and by singing and dancing and smiling, if you are smiling, a baby’s gonna look at your whole face and think, oh, I’m gonna try and copy that lovely smile.
[00:08:14] And then we get the cooing, the babbling, the gurgling, the giggling. So physical development is an essential, um, in baby’s first year cause all their muscle. Are developing and strengthening all the way.
[00:08:28] Carla: It was really interesting hearing you say like, from the head down. Cause I’ve never thought about it like that. My little girl, she’s, um, nearly in fact 11 months tomorrow and she’s at the, she’s coasting around the furniture at the moment. Not literally at the moment, she’s having a nap at the moment, but . Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s exactly that. Like you said, the first year, it’s amazing all of the things that they learn.
[00:08:50] Karen: Yeah, the, the brain is doubling in volume in the first year. So we’re filling it with all this stimulus and it’s, it is literally like a sponge soaking up everything, and we’re filling it with all these wonderful things. Um, and as I say, every new learning experience, neurones are firing in the brain and there are trillions of connections going off, and it’s like,
[00:09:17] Carla: Yeah. Fireworks. Yeah. Oh, brilliant. And then obviously with, with the baby sensory side of things, it also helps with social emotional development as well doesn’t it?
[00:09:28] Karen: Absolutely.
[00:09:28] Carla: So can you explain a little bit more about that?
[00:09:31] Karen: Yeah. Um, baby sensory’s, encouraging adult and babies learning through exploration, curiosity, problem solving, creativity. But it’s that social element of building that beautiful bond between, um, parent or carer or grandparent. Um, and baby’s been able to be loved in that social environment. It gives them cues on how to perform later on. So we’re developing and nurturing the bond and that special relationship between baby through loving touch, through kissing and cuddling and dancing, um, massage, et cetera.
[00:10:11] And our class leaders are particularly brilliant at being role models for, you know, this beautiful touchy feeling, behaviour because no baby, um, doesn’t deserve love and nurturing. And so we wanna really promote that healthiness, um, of that social interaction. And then that will later lead on to good social cues.
[00:10:33] When little ones go to nursery and preschool. When we look at things like turn taking and sharing, because those concepts don’t come in until about the age of four.
[00:10:43] Carla: Oh, yes.
[00:10:44] Karen: So it’s really, we have to start really early to build those foundations.
[00:10:48] Carla: That’s brilliant. So, so obviously we at My Bump 2 Baby encourage parents to go to baby groups all over the uk and it’s really important, we think, for so many reasons.
[00:10:59] It gets the parent out. Also, the parent feels like they’ve done something, you know, with the, with the child that day and then they can go on with the rest of the day, et cetera. But obviously there are times when dad wants to get involved and he might not be able to go to these baby groups and stuff. So it’s, what age you did mention from zero.
[00:11:16] Karen: Yeah.
[00:11:16] Carla: They can start sensory play at home, but what.
[00:11:19] Karen: Absolutely.
[00:11:20] Carla: What type of items would they potentially buy for at home to start this?
[00:11:25] Karen: Okay, so, um, sensory play can start from birth literally. Um, and babies are developing right through, um, when they’re in the womb. The sense of hearing develops at 25 weeks.
[00:11:36] So babies can recognise mum’s voice, so singing, um, playing music, um, right from, um, when baby’s born, they’ll actually recognise some of those tunes. So, it’s not essential to buy loads and loads of equipment. You can actually utilise loads of resources at home. Pots and pans and spatulas and plastic tubs all are brilliant. Um, for entertaining little ones You can use rolled up towels to do tummy time, which is really brilliant for strengthening the muscles. Because our classes now welcome all of our visitors. It’s great when we have dads or partners come along to class and then we can also run weekend specials, um, to get them involved.
[00:12:19] But I would say, If you want to start with a really good piece of equipment, the one of the most versatile things is bouncy ball, it can be used for so many activities and it’s so cheap. Uh, we can do tummy time, we can roll baby forward and backward and develop and strengthen their back, neck, and shoulder muscles.
[00:12:40] We can do pushing, we can do padding, we can do rolling. We can play hide and seek. We can even football kicking to strengthen the gross muscles in the legs. So that’s my top tip. Everything can be used as a resource. And you know, the internet is brilliant for printing off things like black and white resources, brilliant for visual stimulation and developing the eye muscles.
[00:13:04] You can use a brightly coloured item, whether it’s a ball or a piece of fabric, and moving it slowly so that babies can track the item and really, um, help with what’s called eye teaming. So getting both eyes working together at the same time, focusing and moving, um, on a single object. So those are.
[00:13:25] Carla: You’ve got some brilliant tips there.
[00:13:27] Karen: Yeah. I mean, you don’t need to buy lots.
[00:13:29] Carla: No.
[00:13:30] Karen: You really don’t, save your money.
[00:13:32] Carla: Yeah, exactly. And also go to a baby group where they have all of these, you know, items available to you for, to use, because. Kids love it, don’t they? Olivia, every time we go she’s like looking around at other baby. She wants to kind of get to know the other ones, snatch things off them and all sorts, but it is really good to do that.
[00:13:51] So Karen, can you just tell us a little bit more about your classes, um, and where people can find you as well? Is that okay?
[00:13:58] Karen: Okay. So, um, I run, um, two different classes. I’ve got Baby Sensory, which is for babies from birth to 13 months approximately. And then we’ve got Toddler Sense, which is our follow on program, both written by, uh, Dr. Linde, who’s got over 40 years in paediatrics, um, and education. And she’s a renowned author. She’s written all of our programs and every single thing is tested before it goes into the classroom setting. It’s not just a case of, Ooh, let’s throw a piece of music in here, or let’s throw some shakers in there.
[00:14:32] There’s research and fundamentals behind each activity. Um, and our classes run all over Birmingham. We’ve got Edge Fast, and we’ve got Harborne, we’ve got Bournville, we’ve got Kings Heath, we’ve got Bromsgrove, we’ve got Barnt Green, we’ve got Redditch, um, and Toddler Sense in Edge Basin and Kings Heath. It’s a wonderful, wonderful opportunity and we welcome anybody to come and try out.
[00:14:57] We have lots of, um, parents who are nervous. We have lots of mums who have post-natal depression and we have research to show that the Royal obstetrician and Gynaecology College, um, really understand the benefits of mums or dads coming out early and trying to engage in things like our baby sensory classes.
[00:15:22] And it’s a real welcoming environment, you know, we’ll look after everybody. We’re there to, um, chat and make them feel at ease. You’ll probably find that you’ll make lifelong friends if you come to class. And even if you are the most nervous, please come along. I remember my first class. I remember trying to get my car seat in the car and it just went horribly wrong. And I was crying on the phone to my husband saying, I’m a useless mum. I can’t do this . And he just calmed me down. I went back in the house, came back out again, drove to Baby Sensory and that’s where the, the journey started. It’s, it’s a wonderful, wonderful class and we’ve got 60 different lesson plans, so you are never going to experience the same lesson plan twice.
[00:16:08] We do have some elements of repetition. Brilliant for babies learning, but we have such, we have hundreds and hundreds of resources from fiber optics, from lights. We do water play, we do messy play, we do singing, we do dancing, signing everything to develop all five for baby centuries, and that’s what’s most important in that first year.
[00:16:31] Carla: That’s brilliant. You can hear the passion shining through, honestly. And I love that. It’s really, honestly, it’s, it’s a brilliant class and I think, you know, definitely give Karen a follow on social media as well. I’ll share . And I’ll share the links at bottom of this podcast. So if anyone’s got any questions, they can, they can come to you and ask you.
[00:16:50] Karen: Absolutely.
[00:16:51] Carla: Um, but thank you so much, Karen. That was so useful.
[00:16:55] Karen: No problem at all. My pleasure.
[00:16:57] Carla: Thank you.
[00:16:58] Thank you. Thank you for listening to today’s My Bump 2 Baby expert podcast. If there is a subject you would like more information about, please send your requests in to [email protected].