After a month of 24/7 baby time I decided to look for ways of bringing some variety into our daily life and meeting other parents with babies around the same age as Birdy. As I set out to find an appropriate activity, two things became immediately apparent.
One, baby classes is a booming market and the list of options and providers is looooong. There’s baby massage, baby swimming, various playgroups… I even saw offers for toddler yoga or music classes!
Two, as with everything in this country, or at least this city, courses book out fast and I was starting late. But, after a week of Internet browsing and a few phone calls, I had finally landed us a place in a PEKiP class for babies born in March.
Let me make a short detour here to answer the question that might be on your mind: what is PEKiP? I must admit that all I knew about it was that several of our friends had participated in one as well and that it had to do with naked babies in a warm room.
The abbreviation PEKiP stands for Prague-Parent-Child-Program (in German: Prager-Eltern-Kind-Programm), the course concept is based on the work of the Czech psychologist Jaroslav Koch. PEKiP is probably among the most popular baby classes in Germany, the association’s homepage brags about a total of some 65 000 families in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland who participate in these classes each week.
The PEKiP group is usually composed of 8 parents and their babies who are of around the same age, and the classes run in three blocks throughout the first year of a baby’s life. PEKiP at its most basic is about two things: gently supporting the baby’s development through different age-appropriate games on the one hand, and helping the parents to better understand their babies and the way they see the world on the other. Oh yes, and babies spend the 1,5 h of class butt naked. Supposedly it helps them to gain awareness of their own body.
I must admit I was quite excited about the first class and the way Birdy will react to having other babies around. I imagined it might be a bit exhausting for the little one but, hopefully, also fun. I certainly did not expect the first class to go the way it did.
Woken up earlier than usual (our Birdy is more of an owl than a lark), she had to skip her post-breakfast playtime and undergo a bus ride being completely awake. Even worse, she was brought to a wholly new place, loud with the sounds of chatting adults and cooing babies. And then mommy wanted to play with her and she had to follow some silly red ball despite it being high time for a nap! Really, the only appropriate response to such aggravating circumstances was complaining loudly. And complain Birdy did, loud and long. She calmed down only when I packed her back in the sling and fell asleep immediately.
The disastrous first class made it clear that some adjustments needed to be made if the both of us were to enjoy this experience. I decided to take the course instructor’s recommendation to the letter: act as if you were in your own living room. Besides, we could always do the games later or try them at home.
In the second class I made sure that Birdy gets enough time-outs by allowing her to observe the others from the safety of my arms or by taking her to a more quiet corner of the room. The strategy appeared to be effective: by the end of the class, when most of the other babies were tired and cranky, Birdy was calmly looking around at all the crying babies around her. The third class went even better: Birdy enjoyed the new games with the big beach ball and was able to relax so much that she almost fell asleep during her mid-morning meal.
I hope that the baby classes will become more and more fun as Birdy grows bigger and her awake periods and attention span will increase. They are already fulfilling my expectations: I get plenty of new ideas about playing with the little one, learn about handling the baby, plus get to socialize with other moms.
Instead of a conclusion, let me sum up our PEKiP experience by answering two simple questions:
Are baby classes necessary? Definitely not. As the African proverb says: grass does not grow faster if you pull it. Your baby will develop all the necessary skills at her own pace independent of conscious efforts you put into it.
Should you participate in one? If you have the time, money, and willingness such classes can be a nice activity for both you and your baby.