As a new mum I found the choice of things to do with my baby confusingly scary. Who knew that babies wanted to learn French?
I mean apart from French babies – obvs in France it’s a basic requirement along with being chic, not getting fat and writing books telling everyone else how much better French people are at everything.
Being French must be exhausting.
Here’s a beginners guide to what to expect when what you expected arrives and even though you read the fucking book you still have no bloody clue what you’re supposed to do with it.
Expensive excuses for new mums to hang round and make friends because apparently it’s frowned upon to spend every morning in the pub with a baby.
There are sessions for music, sensory play, signing, foreign languages, massage, yoga and swimming.
On top of sleepless nights and the stress of ‘Is my baby feeding/breathing correctly?‘ parents can now also worry that their child will be the only one that can’t sing a pitch perfect Frere Jacques whilst executing a downward facing dog.
I did massage, music, yoga and swimming with my first baby and absolutely fuck all with my second.
I did learn how to pick up a baby that’s been basted in vegetable oil (carefully) and discovered if you are on all fours doing cat pose for too long a small child will incorporate you into their train track.
Usually as a bridge, but once as a station. I’d rather go into any more detail about that.
Often you will get one session free, this is because small children LOVE doing something for the first time.
Once they’ve enjoyed the taster session and you’ve paid for a full term of tennis classes children tend to change their minds and you will both spend the next 5 tuesday mornings wishing you had ignored your inner Judy Murray and stayed at home watching telly and eating biscuits.
Big green space full of flirting teenagers, happy-go-lucky dog owners and carefree office workers sunbathing and picnicking at lunch.
This is not for you.
Your bit is over there in the corner where all the screams are coming from.
Aka ‘The swings’.
Don’t expect to relax you will be far too busy pulling scabby plasters and half chewed crisp packets out of your child’s mouth as they munch their way through the sand pit.
Playgrounds are even worse when it’s cold, the UK is not really a standing round outside kinda place. Not like France.
As an adult you will spend most of your time trying to defrost your hands in your pockets whilst watching a 2 year old face plant off a spinny roundy thing.
Imagine a playground that someone has covered in brightly coloured bubble wrap and thrown a big net over before moving it indoors.
Add in some discarded socks, weird sticky patches, a smell of puke and special corners where 7 years of dust can collect.
Finally throw in some giant foam rollers and tunnels for adult sized humans to get stuck in and a plastic slide so fast everyone over 18 shouts SHIIIIT! the first time they use it.*
That is soft play. Make sure you read my rules before visiting.
*OK maybe not everyone.
Traditionally a playgroup will have two sections – one for babies and one for toddlers.
The toddler area is the one where all the mums are on their smartphones while a massive fight ensues over a germ encrusted ride-on police car.
The baby area will have mats and cushions on the floor in case anyone collapses with sleep exhaustion.
Allow yourself 45 minutes to leave at the end as everyone tries to locate their pram in the ‘buggy park’ and ram it through a heavy swing door without hitting a child in the face.
Before you go check out: How to survive Playgroup.
Stay & Play
This is where you take your child to play but have to stay with them. Exactly like a playgroup – but also totally different.
If someone has gone to the trouble of calling a session ‘Stay and Play’ you will be very much expected to do both the staying and the playing.
Sitting on a chair live tweeting the awesome tantrum you’re witnessing is generally frowned upon.
You are going to be on the floor ‘engaging with your child’ whilst pretending that you do this kind of stuff all the time at home.
Hideously expensive things marketed as a ‘Fun day out for all the family!‘
The reality is they are always at least an hour too far away and then none of the rides are suitable. I recently tried to explain to a man in charge of a fairground ride that ‘no unaccompanied children under 3’ clearly implies that children under 3 are allowed to ride if accompanied.
He was not impressed with my impromptu English lesson so Mr Eeh Bah and I paid £2.50 for my daughter to ride on a big pink plane while we ‘accompanied’ my 2 yo son crying in despair.