When my two boys were little, the baby and toddler groups we went to were so important to me. They provided an opportunity to get out of the house, to mix with other new parents, as well as provide social interaction for the little ones and support their development. When I photograph babies, I'm often asked by the new parents if I can recommend any baby and toddler groups. I also see the question asked time and again on local pages on social media. During 2016, I was very fortunate to work with a number of fabulous local groups. Scroll down for my recommendations of places to go with your little ones.
Please note: all times and locations are correct at time of publishing (January 2017), but please do use the links to check with each group for their latest schedule.
Tree House Cafe
The Tree House Cafe located within Windsor Baptist Church on Victoria Street is a lovely friendly and affordable place for Mums, Dads and Grandparents to meet with others, make friends and relax while their children have fun playing in the well-equipped play area. The Cafe staff pride themselves on their warm welcome, great coffee and range of toasties, delicious homemade cakes and imaginative children’s lunch boxes. They are passionate about community and are proud to be linked to the Windsor Homeless Project which operates from the Church three days a week. The Cafe has a core of wonderful trained volunteers who work alongside the staff freely giving their time to ensure the smooth running and success of the Cafe. The customers support their charitable efforts by donating towards the suspended coffee and meal scheme which means that any one in need can be given a free hot drink and food when the cafe is open. The Tree House closely mirrors the values of the Baptist Church that is its home: Inclusive, Creative, Community and Family. The Cafe run a delightful toddler group "Tales from the Tree House" at 11am on a Monday, which I used to love taking my youngest son too. They also sell, in my opinion, one of the best hot chocolates in Windsor!
Find out more at the Tree House Cafe's facebook page.
I am proud to have been involved with the NCT over the last seven years both as a volunteer and working with them through my photography business. The NCT is run by volunteers locally who do an amazing job providing support for expectant and new parents. As well as local workshops and annual fundraisers, such as the Christmas Party and Summer Fun Day, the NCT run a regular Bumps & Babies group from 11-12.30 at the Mountbatten Room in the Holy Trinity Garrison Church on Claremont Road. This is a friendly and welcoming group for all expectant parents and those with non-mobile babies - a great place to meet other new mums and have a cup of tea, with lots of baby toys for the little ones. The NCT has also been running a similar group in Langley, although at time of writing this is looking for a new venue. There is also a sling library run monthly at the Tree House Cafe, and lots of other smaller events. Join the NCT to receive the newsletter to find out more. And if you have a little spare time - even if it's only an hour a month - they are always on the look out for new volunteers, are very friendly and it's a great opportunity to use your skills and meet others.
Get involved and find out the latest information on groups on the Slough, Windsor & District NCT facebook page.
Music with Mummy
Music with Mummy and Jolly Babies classes are run Monday-Thursday in Windsor by the lovely Fran & Mary. The Music with Mummy programme will take your child on a musical journey from birth, all the way through the pre-school ages. The structured weekly music classes use baby songs and fun activities for children to encourage listening and social skills, so essential not only in music but in all other areas of learning. They will develop a sense of rhythm, which will also help with learning and speech development. The fabulous music and songs for babies and children are an eclectic mixture of traditional tunes that are unique to our delightful programme. I loved joining these classes and seeing the babies and children enjoy the music, educational games and fun activities.
Find out more and see the class times on the Music with Mummy Windsor website.
Showstopper Babies classes are run on Monday in Maidenhead and on Friday in Windsor by Mairi, who has brought her experience producing West End musicals to a fabulous class for babies. These sensory classes offer a unique blend of popular musical theatre show tunes, using the sights and sounds of the theatre world, as well as nursery rhymes and songs created especially for Showstopper Babies. With lights, music, singing, movement and dance the little ones develop their vocal sounds, and encourage good coordination and musicality. As well as that all important bonding experience between you and your child. I came away from photographing these classes humming some of my favourite show tunes!
Find out class times and more information at Showstopper Babies' website.
Nurture Babes massage classes are run on a Tuesday in Datchet and a Wednesday in Windsor by Sharon, a trained baby massage instructor accredited by the Royal College of Midwives. Sharon loved massaging her twin boys and so trained to be able to help others learn to massage their babies. As well as helping with bonding, I found baby massage with my own sons to be great at relieving wind and aiding sleep, and there are so many other benefits. In addition to her scheduled classes Sharon offers one-to-one sessions and private group sessions.
Find out more at Nurture Babes website.
Last, but definitely not least, every expectant and new mum should take some time for herself and may wish to consider her health and fitness. Natasha at Simple Changes is a qualified pre- and post-natal instructor for pilates and exercise. Natasha runs classes in Datchet on a Tuesday evening for pregnancy pilates, and on a Thursday morning for new mums where non-mobile babies are very welcome. In addition to her classes, Natasha also offers one-to-one personal training sessions.
Class details and more information on exercising during and after pregnancy can be found on the Simple Changes website.
The Maternity Network
I'm also a member of the Maternity Network (along with a few of the lovely people mentioned above) - a network of specialists who offer support from when you are considering starting a family, throughout your pregnancy, the day you meet your baby and throughout your family life. All Maternity Network members have declared they are fully qualified, registered with a professional body and have full medical and liability insurance cover, so you can be assured of an excellent service. If you're looking for any support before, during or after your baby is born, take a loot at the Maternity Network directory.