In­tel­l­i­d­ance classes teach new par­ents that baby’s best teacher is play­time with Mom or Dad

In­tel­l­i­d­ance classes aimed at teach­ing child de­vel­op­ment

Edmonton Journal - - FAMILY & FITNESS - CHRIS ZDEB [email protected]­mon­ton­jour­nal.com ed­mon­ton­jour­nal. com Watch a video of moms and ba­bies tak­ing part in an In­tel­l­i­d­ance class at ed­mon­ton­jour­nal.com/ life

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.

LARRY WONG/ ED­MON­TON JOUR­NAL

Jenny Pelchat helps her 10-month-old Laura stretch dur­ing an In­tel­l­i­d­ance class held at J’Adore Dance Stu­dio.

JES­SICA BAUDIN- GRIF­FIN

Six-month-old baby Maryssa fin­ger­paints dur­ing an In­tel­l­i­d­ance class for ba­bies 0 to 12 months of age.

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