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by Tanya Kovarsky mother of baby Max, a magazine editor, and 8-time Comrades Marathon runner. Aside from her family and friends, she considers chai tea, her Blackberry, running shoes, baby jogger, Grey’s Anatomy, Glee and Twitter among the great loves of her life. Follow Tanya on Twitter @TanyaKovarsky

EXPLORE  PLAY – Year One

I have long stopped reading about where my baby “should be” with his milestone developments, so I was a little nervous about watching Explore Play, frightened that the experts would be telling me that my baby would be ruined for life since he wasn’t crawling or feeding himself with a spoon. I needn’t have worried, for on Explore Play, it felt like I had found friends, who encourage humour rather than strict rules when playing with babies, and who give extremely useful advice that any mom, new or experienced, can benefit from.

Explore Play sets out to encourage play and support milestone development, and features the producer Tanya Haffern, along with Ann Richardson (of Baby Sense fame), and Shannon Eggers, a play therapist. The DVD is divided into four sections (0-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-9 months and 10-12 months) and features discussions and play ideas relating to each baby stage. The play section is divided in outdoor, kitchen, water and general, plus there are safety tips, and a helpful ingredients list (ie what you need for each game). Before each game, we are also told which skills are developed (eg physical, intellectual, language).

One of the first bits of expert advice is that your baby is an individual with his own strengths, that no two babies develop the same way, and that milestones happen along a natural path of progression. My favourite advice though was that we should relax, take pleasure in our babies, enjoy playtime, and never make it a mission or chore.

There are great discussions and advice around stimulation and overstimulation (echoing Ann’s BabySense philosophy), and how to understand your baby and read their cues. I felt it would have been useful to cross-reference to pictures or real babies while the experts were talking so that the viewer could have visually “got” what they were talking about.

I liked many of the games, and appreciated that most of the materials can probably be found at home. The games are age-appropriate, though I’ve already tried some of the younger games with my baby, and he loved them, while two or three of the games in his category are a little bit too tricky. But as the experts in Explore Play say, if babies aren’t ready or enjoying a game, move on, and try again the following week. Our favourites have been water balloons and syringe squirting in the bath, a play drawer in the kitchen, and flowers in floating water.

I will definitely follow Explore Play Year Two when we’re ready for more fabulous advice, reassurance and play ideas that come with no guilt or big expense!

Click here for  information about Explore Play

BABYNASTICS (3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months)

With so many baby stimulation classes out there, I often worry that as a working mom, I don’t have the op portunity to participate with my 10-month-old son in them, plus I’m sometimes concerned that maybe he is not reaching his development potential. So I was ecstatic (and relieved of the guilt) when I came across a DVD that offers easy and accessible stimulation exercises at home.

The exercises, formulated in conjunction with a paediatric occupational therapist, are aimed at encouraging brain and body development, and can be followed straight from the TV (think Jane Fonda aerobics for parents and babes!). The three DVDs have exercises and advice for each respective age group (eg learning when to stimulate for 3-6 months, developing skills for sitting, rolling and crawling for 6-9 months, developing gross and fine motor skills for 9-12 months). The DVDs don’t assume that your baby will definitely be at a certain stage, and so exercises are adapted, for example in cases where babies are crawling, and when they’re not.

What I loved is that the exercises are easy to watch and do – they’re gentle and fun, and often done while singing songs or using basic equipment such as different textures, boxes, paper or a stability ball. What’s more, you’ll probably find that you do some of the exercises already, without realising it. The exercises aren’t too overwhelming, but when my baby did get tired or lose interest, I simply stopped and started when he was ready again, as per the suggestion.

Another reason why I liked this DVD series is that there’s “real talk” from mom to baby – no baby talk or cootchie coos. My baby’s childminder has also watched the series and enjoyed it, and it feels like we’re effortlessly adding more stimulation exercises daily. Now if only there was an adult version of the DVD that could help one shed those last few post-preggo kilos!

Click here for more information on Babynastics or to order accessories

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