Even the littlest among us crave socialization, and organized classes for babies and toddlers offer the chance to get out and about.
Here are six options that go beyond the typical music parent-and-me classes to focus on special interests or niche activities, such as ballet class open to children as soon as they can walk. “Even at that age, I believe you should teach it properly so they learn good habits,” says Nicola Ciotta, owner of Baby Ballet Long Island.
Many of the venues are limiting class sizes, requiring masks for adults or limiting each child to one caregiver, so be sure to ask about individual precautions.
Children ages 18 months — or fully walking — can chasse into class to learn basics of ballet such as pointing the toes and tiptoeing. Participants wear little ballet slippers or socks with grips, and some even wear tutus. The children are exposed to Classical music, and there’s a warmup at the beginning of class and jumps and a curtsy at the conclusion. “They learn the structure of a ballet class,” Ciotta says. Classes are offered at various dance studios, play spaces and libraries as far west as Great Neck and Rockville Centre and as far east as Commack. The cost for a 10-week session depends on location but starts at $250. 516-582-2132.
Fun with speech and language
Children ages 6 to 18 months and their caregivers can focus on developing vocabulary and communication together during the Speech and Language sessions offered by Happy Feet Suffolk, which is opening in a new location in Speonk. The class is designed for children with typical speech and language development and is meant to support their development and milestones, says owner Christie Andreassi. It is led by a speech pathologist.
“The speech pathologist is going to be planning activities for the children to do and help the parents guide them through it,” Andreassi says. For instance, the speech pathologist will show parents how, when reading books to their children, they can encourage them to point to things, help turn pages, and to talk about the story, Andreassi says. “It’s just modeling activities you could do at home,” she says. The four-week sessions cost $110. Happy Feet also offers other parent-child classes. 295 Montauk Hwy., Speonk; visit happyfeetsuffolk.com.
Messy Art is the most popular class offered at Oh My Goodness children’s wellness center in Garden City — and families will be able to also take the course at Oh My Goodness in Port Washington when that location also opens in April.. Families paint with edible paint that is made in house. At sessions for children 16 months and younger, Oh My Goodness sets out tablecloths on the floor and offers different items to paint with, such as sponges and cotton balls. At sessions for children 16 months to 4 years old, kids paint on paper at a table, using items such as marbles or even ice to paint. “It’s not about what they go home with, it’s about them having fun and embracing it,” co-owner Margaret Elenis says.
Oh My Goodness also offers a Sound Healing class for children, during which Tibetan sound bowls are used to create vibrations and sounds. Kids quietly listen for 30 minutes, and then have 30 minutes of play time on slide and ball pit. The cost for Messy Paint is $30 per class; for Sound Healing it’s $22. 61 New Hyde Park Rd., Garden City; 301 Main St., Port Washington. 516-636-5444, ohmygoodnesskids.com.
Toddler Sensory Session
This drop-in toddler sensory play at The Nesting Place in Farmingdale encourages children ages 12 months to 3 years to use the five senses. The toddlers experience different touch items that are squishy, scratchy or soft, for instance, says Nesting Place co-founder Jacqueline Aiello. They’ll be exposed to different musical sounds, different scents, even taste — a class might offer crushed graham crackers or squished grapes, Aiello says. The next toddler drop in (though pre-registration is required) is at 3:15 on March 29 and is $25 per child. One caregiver per child permitted and class sizes are restricted for COVID safety. Sessions for baby sensory play for ages 6 months to 18 months are also available on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. 2043 Wellwood Ave. Suite 1, Farmingdale. 631-318-3382, thenestingplaceli.com/schedule. The Nesting Place is planning to open two additional locations this year, in Merrick and Yaphank.
Have A Ball
Kids ages 20 months to 35 months can start to learn skill of soccer and baseball at the L’il Athletes Sports Multi Sport Combo Class. The parent-and-me style class leads participants through how to dribble a soccer ball, how to bat off a tee and more. Each 50-minute indoor session first focuses on soccer, then gives kids a water break, then switches to baseball, says L’il Athletes owner Bret Suffis. The next round of classes begins in March and costs $179 for seven weeks at L’il Athletes locations in New Hyde Park, Garden City, East Northport, Farmingdale, Ronkonkoma and Commack. 516-874-0345, lilathletes.com.
Baby Sign Language
Even before they can talk, babies and toddlers can learn simple signs to express their needs, says Lisa Curley, who runs classes at libraries. “Every class has a different theme,” Curley says. A session focused on food might include signs for “finished” or “more” or “hungry.” “The purpose of the class is so you can interact with your little one with less frustration between the two of you and more communication. The whole point of it is to zone in on your kid and how they are feeling or what they are needing or wanting,” Curley says. Curley suggests calling your local library to see if they are offering the class — she is at libraries including, for instance, Brightwaters, West Babylon, Copiague and Brentwood. The classes, often dubbed “Signing Stories,” are usually free for library patrons, she says. For more information, message Curley through her Facebook page, Cues For Kids.