Molly Whitehead-Jones on the fun classes helping to inspire little culture vultures
THE numbingly-repetitive nursery rhymes, the icky undertones of parental competitiveness, the face ache from plastering on your most enthusiastic smile… for mums and dads, baby and toddler groups can be pretty hardcore.
And with everything from swimming classes to baby sign language sessions out there nowadays, how are you to know which ones are going to enrich your relationship with your little one, and which are going to send you into a tailspin of stress with their play politics and sheer perkiness?
To help, here’s my pick of the best chilled-out classes that you’re sure to enjoy almost as much as your kiddo. (And, as they’re all ‘pay as you go’, you won’t have to sign up for a term at a time and then end up losing cash/your mind when you inevitably can’t make it to every single one.)
Brighter Sound presents Shake, Rattle and Roll
Think you might have a future rock star on your hands? Then this is the place to let your budding musician bang, clatter and dance away a portion of their endless energy.
These Saturday morning sing-and-play-along sessions are suitable for both babies and toddlers. While it’s definitely not a wise choice if you’re suffering an ‘adult headache’ after a night out (it gets REAL loud), this is one of the most parent-friendly classes in Manchester – there are tea and biscuits on tap, the gig venue setting makes you feel like you’re still vaguely cool, and you’re only a stroll away from the Northern Quarter if you fancy a family brunch after (tips on the top places to head for this here).
Brighter Sound presents Shake, Rattle and Roll , Band on the Wall, 10am and 11am, every Saturday morning during term time, £5 per family group
Another one that allows your mini-me to hone their racket-making talents, Music Makers is held in a lovely bright room within the stunning Bridgewater Hall and is suitable for littles aged up to 4 (morning sessions for toddlers; afternoon ones for babies).
Each class is inspired by either a genre or specific piece of music, and lets them get stuck in with different instruments, stories, songs and bits of visual art – and you’re only a short distance from the all the delights of the city centre when you’re done.
Important note: Make sure you book your ticket in plenty of time as Music Makers is (rightfully) mega popular and sells out super-fast.
Music Makers , monthly, Bridgewater Hall, toddler sessions at 11am and 12pm; baby sessions at 1.45pm and 2.45pm, £3 (advanced booking required)
Artbaby – Musicbaby
There’s nothing like taking your little one to hang out in an art gallery for the morning to make you feel like you’re more than doing your duty when it comes to raising a culture vulture.
For these sessions, one of the gallery spaces is festooned with various stimulating sensory bits and bobs, while a musician makes their way around the room providing a suitable calming accompaniment to all the gentle play.
It’s about as relaxing as a baby class ever gets, and the Whitworth’s excellent café is the ideal place to retreat to after too.
Don’t forget that there’s also a free Toddler Art Club here on Mondays for when they’re a touch older.
Artbaby – Musicbaby, Wednesdays (term time only), The Whitworth, 10.15am-11.15am or 11.30am-12.30pm, free (advanced booking required)
Little O’s at Oxygen Freejumping
Although you can visit Oxygen Freejumping at any time, under 5’s get exclusive free reign of this gigantic bouncy house down in Trafford Park every morning from 10 to 11 am.
They whack the Disney tunes up loud and put out plenty of toys and instruments for the kids to interact with, and the open, airy and spotless space is a much more pleasant place to spend an hour than any soft play centre I’ve ever been to.
Kids absolutely love charging up and down the trampolines and chucking themselves around. Plus jumping’s a real good workout, so why not get stuck in yourself?
There’s a good café on-site, and the Trafford Centre’s just across the way too.
Little O’s at Oxygen Freejumping , 10am to 11am every day, £4 per adult and £2 per child plus £2 per pair for jumping socks
Ever seen a seven-month-old totally mesmerised by a tuba? It’s time you did…
Classical Babies gives pre-schoolers the chance to experience a live concert in a relaxed setting where they can freely feed, play and shriek away. There’s a nice soft floor space for them to roll around on and plenty of toys should the music not hold their attention the entire time.
As different instruments and musicians are featured each month, no two sessions are the same, and your ticket includes as many cuppas as you can handle plus copious amounts of cake. Win, win, win.
Classical Babies , first Tuesday of every month, Emmanuel Church Didsbury, 10.30am, £10
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