• Creating Connections: Bonding With Baby Through Parent & Me Classes

    Experts From The City’s Best Parent & Me Classes Share Advice And Wisdom On The Importance

    By Mia Weber

    Jodi’s Gym

    NYC offers a wealth of parent & me classes, and they all create perfect opportunities for parents and their little ones to bond. To help you better understand why these early bonding experience are so vital—and to offer some handy tips to put into practice as your child grows—we turned to experts from some of our favorite local parent & me classes in the city.

    MUSIC

    “In addition to the proven benefits that music has on a baby’s development, we believe that early exposure can foster a life-long appreciation of music, whether it is ‘Hamilton’ or Billy Joel! Finding an educational and interactive class with music that caregivers know and love creates an environment where parents can bond with their child, as well as with other new parents.” –Jessica Trager, Chief Operating Officer, Applause New York, applauseny.com

    “When you look into your baby’s eyes and sing a sweet lullaby, you’re sharing real quality time and creating musical memories together. And you’re releasing Oxytocin—the calming hormone—in both you and your baby. It’s your voice that matters… Pick a song you love, slow it down, and croon your little one to sleep.” –Deanna deCampos, Executive Director, Eastside Westside Music Together, ESWSMusicTogether.com

    “Sing out and don’t be afraid to sing your favorite ‘grown-up’ songs! Your singing and talking are vitally important to your child’s development and I guarantee that your voice will always be your child’s favorite, regardless of what it sounds like!” –John Mothershead, Director, Gymboree Play & Music – Manhattan, gymboreeclasses.com

    “You only have one chance to introduce your child to music—make it the best experience, they will appreciate it forever. Enjoy it with them, it’s a win-win situation.” –Marni Konner, Founder and Owner, Little Maestros, littlemaestros.com

    “You can create a connection through music before birth by playing your favorite songs and relaxing classical music throughout your pregnancy. After birth, these same songs will soothe and comfort your newborn. During your child’s first year, be sure to attend a weekly music class together.” –Carina Zimmerman, Co-Founder, TLB Music, tlbmusic.com

    “[The parent-and-me activities at] WeBop create a family connection through listening, dance, and play. The moments of joy and recognition I see from week to week echo the joy and recognition expressed by our ancestors through jazz.” –Ms. Caroline, Instructor at WeBop, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Early Childhood Education Program, jazz.org/webop

    “Parent-child music classes are more than just fun. When you sing along with your child, it exposes them to a means of self-expression as they find and use new words in tandem with you. When parents lend their voice in song with their child, the experience is social, emotional, language building, and creates a secure bond to help the child shape their own music.” –Tamara Nolte, Director of Education and Curriculum Development, Kidville, kidville.com

    MOVEMENT

    “Some of the best bonding you can do with a new baby is when the parent and baby participate in a shared activity together… Asphalt Green’s Water Babies classes are great for this because parent and baby are in the water together, and it’s playful and fun while also teaching the baby important water safety skills.” –Andrew Bryan, Head Swim School Principal, Asphalt Green, asphaltgreen.org

    “Little bodies grow fast making physical activity so important. Schedule a weekly class that involves some sort of movement together. You’ll be modeling the importance of physical activity, helping them learn how to move as they quickly grow.” –Debbie Gleicher, General Manager of the Field House at Chelsea Piers, chelseapiers.com

    “The first year with a new baby is a special time for bonding. For me, it was through reading and movement. I continue to use books to generate movement ideas with my daughter as well as my classes. With one of our baby classes this week, I used Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe. A parent can use a rattle to bring the baby’s focus up and down, and they can gently kick their baby’s legs to follow along with the story.” –Katie Kheel, Director, Discovery Programs, discoveryprograms.com

    “In addition to the amazing physical, developmental, and cognitive benefits of a parent-and-me gymnastics class, time together with your child in a gymnastics setting is an incredible opportunity to bond with your child. Parents or caregivers can connect with their child without the distractions of home, work, or other disruptions where it’s hard to focus solely on enjoying physical time together with their child.” –Jodi Roenwasser Levine, Director, Jodi’s Gym, jodisgym.com

    “While it’s often last on our list as mothers, taking care of yourself—physically and mentally—is one of the best things you can do to better care for and connect with your baby. Consider taking an exercise class that allows you to bring your baby. This allows you to get some physical activity and connect with other moms, while spending time with your baby.” –Brittany Citron, Founder, PROnatal Fitness, pronatalfitness.com

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    ROUTINES & CLASSES

    “Bedtime is always a very important time for me and my children and baby. We have the same bedtime routine that I always do with them… If bedtime doesn’t work for you, what time in your day or week can they rely on you to always be with them? Take a special class together or do a special activity with them.” –Valentina Hantke, Director of The Art Farm, theartfarms.org

    “Classes are a great place to meet other new parents and make friends, get information, support, and advice, bond with your baby, and see other babies, too. There are so many changes associated with a new baby, and feelings you might not have anticipated. Give yourself a reason to get out and come to a place where people have experience with this stage of life.” –Wendy Goldstein, Associate Director, 92Y Parenting Center, 92Y.org

    “The best advice I can offer to parents is to stay involved and be enthusiastic. When my students see their parents stretching, singing, and dancing to the music, they join in the activities with more confidence and excitement. Most importantly, enjoy this special time in class with your little one!” –Ariella Aharon, faculty member, Ballet Academy East’s Young Dancer Division, balletacademyeast.com

    “A great way to learn tools to help bond with baby is to attend parent and caregiver classes or playgroups. At Bija, our teachers model positive communication methods and teach children and adults songs and activities that can be replicated at home… These approaches help foster bonding and interaction between adult and child by giving adults ideas and specifics of what works well at different ages.” –Lauren Maples, Founder, Bija Kids, bijakids.com

    “Creating space in your day to bond with your baby is vital. Babies respond naturally to a parent’s voice and touch, stimulating their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Unplugging and dedicating 45 minutes to your baby in a structured class environment can give them the opportunity to grow and flourish—helping you and your baby have a happy healthy and strong relationship.” –Tracey Frost, Founder, Citibabes, citibabes.com

    “As a mom of a 2-year-old and a 2-week-old, I know how important it is to find the right way to bond with your baby! Every baby and parent relationship is special and unique and can be cultivated cozily at home or in the amazing city we live in… You should do something with baby that you also enjoy… Yoga not your thing? That shouldn’t be the thing you choose to do with your babe.” –Lindsey Peers, President of the Craft Studio, craftstudionyc.com

    “Experiencing your child as a learner in a class setting can be a great opportunity to get to know them better. You gain insights into what intrigues them, what doesn’t appeal to them (yet), what they’re drawn to, and where they self-initiate or need encouragement.” –Melissa van Wijk, Director of Tiny Tot Fitness, Gymtime, Gymtime.net

    “If you develop a solid sense of trust with your child, you give them confidence for life. Play together. Give lots of spontaneous affection. Take the pressure off and put the emphasis on being close and happy together. Bonding over fun activities in a safe, family-oriented, accepting environment is ideal.” –Gail Ionescu, Director, Poppyseed Pre-Nursery, poppyseedprenursery.com

    Asphalt Green

    TOUCH

    “Skin-to-skin, also known as Kangaroo Care, provides a stage for falling in love and provides life enhancing cuddles between baby and you. Cuddling allows new babies to regulate body warmth and breathing by synchronizing with their parent. Perhaps most compelling news is that skin-to-skin allows babies to fall asleep faster and stay sleeping longer.” –Kiki Schaffer, Program Advisor, the 14th Street Y Parenting Center, 14StreetY.org

    “The best way to build strong connections with your baby from the start is through physical touch, eye contact, and talking and singing regularly. Not only do these connections help solidify bonds, but they also promote brain development.” –Patty Diaz, Associate Director of Programs for Infants + Young Children at JCC Manhattan, jccmanhattan.org

    “Babies first begin to understand emotion through touch. A relaxed, attentive touch conveys a sense of calm and security to the child that will aid healthy development. Participating in Parent & Me classes, having scheduled ‘electronics-free’ playtime, or even daily walks, can give parents focused time in a relaxed environment to physically interact with their child away from modern-day distractions.” –Katharine Nedder, Kick & Play, kickandplay.com

    “Baby massage can be a wonderful way to form an emotional bond with your little one and encourage blood flow to developing muscles… Start by gently rubbing your thumb in a circular motion at the base of baby’s foot, do this for 20-30 seconds, then switch to the other foot. Do the same on the inside of baby’s hands or wrists. Then place your hands, palm down, on baby’s shoulders and run your hands down their tummy to their toes.” –Julie Wolf, Director, MAGIC Activity Center, magicactivitycenter.com

    “I always recommend that parents spend as much time in skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact as possible—what I call birth bonding. Prenatal Yoga Center offers Mommy and Me yoga classes twice a week, and these classes inherently create a natural way for mom and baby to bond. Mom has a lot of time to gaze at, sing to, and hold her baby, as the asanas (or poses) practiced incorporate holding baby.” –Debra Flashenberg, Founder, Prenatal Yoga Center, prenatalyogacenter.comhttp://prenatalyogacenter.com

    VERBAL

    “By always responding to your baby’s looks, cries, or sounds, you teach your baby that he/she is important and that you will meet his/her needs. Making eye contact with you and learning your voice will teach your child that you are an important, consistent figure.” –Julie Kendall, Director Columbus Pre-School, columbusgymnyc.com

    “Always talk to your baby—tell them what you’re doing, what you’re thinking, and what your plans are going to be for the day. It doesn’t have to be important—language and your voice is important for their development; consider Baby Sign Language, another great way to bond and to help them communicate.” –Shari Vilchez-Blatt, Founder and Director, Karma Kids Yoga, karmakidsyoga.com

    “Build your baby vocabulary by attending an age appropriate class (such as our Infant Milestones) in which you will learn new songs to sing, baby massage techniques, baby sign language, new dance moves and, most importantly, the opportunity to learn best practices from the real experts in the room—other parents just like you.” –Gair Morris, Chief Learning Officer, NY Kids Club and NY Preschool, nykidsclub.com

    “It’s a brand new experience to learn a new language, for example, Mandarin, with your baby. Exposing your baby to Mandarin while young allows him or her to optimize his or her learning potential, helping to shape the brain at its most flexible stage. Young children are uniquely suited to learning Mandarin since it is a tonal language.” –Irene Coeny, Director, Planet Han, planethanchinese.com

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