Intellidance classes teach new parents that baby’s best teacher is playtime with Mom or Dad
Intellidance classes aimed at teaching child development
All kinds of products promise to improve your baby. Buy me, the conflicting ads say, and your baby will be smarter/ happier/healthier.
But there is only one thing guaranteed to make your baby the best he or she can be, says Jessica Baudin-Griffin, an early childhood specialist, and former elementary school teacher — and that’s you.
“For babies and young kids, their most favourite plaything is a loving caregiver who will just spend some quality time with them, engaging with them at their level,” she explains, something that many parents have forgotten in a product-focused society where 18-month-old toddlers know how to use an iPad.
That is, if parents ever knew it.
When you’re a first-time mom like Kristina Mayr, everything about babies is new and unknown.
“It’s your first kid so you want to make sure development is going to happen right,” she says. But she just didn’t know how to make that happen.
A few weeks ago, Mayr and her five-month-old son, Bentley Gabriel, started attending an Intellidance program for babies from 0 to 12 months old. It’s part of a holistic program created by Baudin-Griffin to foster critical development in children 0 to five years old through dance and music activities in a multi-sensory environment. It’s based on her experiences raising daughters, Bria, now 6, and Malia, 3.
But the program is not just for babies.
“It’s definitely teaching me things to do with him,” says Mayr. “I feel kind of silly doing things at home with Bentley by myself, but I talk to him all the time. At least this way I can put it to a song so I don’t seem like such a weirdo,” she adds laughing.
Christine Otting also gets ideas for interacting with her five-month-old son Cole, at home.
“I love the time I play with my baby,” Otting says.
Baudin-Griffin starts every class with a brief rundown of the development topic to be tackled that week — this week it’s tactile or sense of touch.
Knowledge is power, she says, and explaining to parents what their babies get from doing certain activities empowers them and boosts their confidence.
Over the next hour, 11 moms with mini-me’s in their arms Walk ’n Waltz, move in a conga line, rock, spin, get down on the ground and cuddle and stretch their infants’ arms and legs while singing a medley of such well-known baby hits as You are my Sunshine, The Wheels on the Bus, RockA-Bye Baby and Mister Sun. They run their fingers up and down their babies legs and torso while reciting Itsy Bitsy Spider, bounce them on their knees in a pseudo horsey ride, before finishing up with a relaxing baby massage.
“Bentley likes the interaction, looking at other babies, because he doesn’t really get that anywhere else,” Mayr says. In fact, he has such a good time he conks out minutes before the end of the program and is literally carried out sleeping in his mother’s arms.
The program allows Jenny Pelchat to spend some special time with 10-month-old daughter Laura, while Laura’s big sister is at playschool.
“She really likes the music and she gets to interact with other babies,” Pelchat says.
The socialization is also what appeals to Jaylene Woloshyn for her nine-month-old daughter Wynter, and to Kelly Fraser for her 10-month-old son Benjamin.
It’s that social interaction and spending time with caregivers that push humanity forward, Baudin-Griffin explains.
“I think we’ve had such a focus on technology that kids are kind of losing other skills they need to develop.”
Baudin-Griffin remembers one mother asking her what was the difference between her child swiping on an iPad versus scribbling with a crayon. Baudin-Griffin explained that all kinds of processes are involved in a child using a crayon, from picking the colour, understanding how to hold it, to constantly monitoring and adapting the pressure required to move it across the page.
Swiping, on the other hand, is one movement over and over again.
“Basically, I swipe, I get instant gratification,” Baudin-Griffin says. “The brain doesn’t have to go through a hard process so it becomes addicting, kind of like, what studies have found with the movement required with VLTs and the instant gratification of lights flashing and bright colours going off.”
There’s a lot of pressure on parents these days to be able to do everything perfectly, including keeping a clean house, so when a product comes along and says sit your baby in front of this DVD and it’ll make him or her smarter, it can seem like a big solution, Baudin-Griffin says.
All that parents really need to do is slow down and acknowledge that they can’t do it all, and spend as much time as they can with their kids.
Jenny Pelchat helps her 10-month-old Laura stretch during an Intellidance class held at J’Adore Dance Studio.
Six-month-old baby Maryssa fingerpaints during an Intellidance class for babies 0 to 12 months of age.