At my branch, I do a Baby Lap Time program every other week. Being that we have a HUGE demand in my neighborhood for early childhood programs, they are strictly pre-registered and limited to 35 children. The program lasts about 25-30 minutes and consists of rhyming songs, movement activities, fingerplays, and simple stories.
I put out comfy mats for the babies and grownups to sit on and spread around age-appropriate, “neural stimulating” toys and board books. One of the most popular toys are these amazing clear tubes filled with objects of the same color- such as a red feather, a red ball, a red piece of cloth, a red bell, etc. Babies, toddlers, and grown-ups are fascinated.
I start out each session by putting on some music. I am not a fan of most children’s music- so I have a few select favorites that I use over and over. One of my favorite CDs to use at both Baby Lap Time and Toddler Time is Elizabeth Mitchell’s You Are My Sunshine. Mitchell takes traditional children’s favorites and makes them into folksy lullabyes that grown-ups, too, can appreciate. (Sidenote: You may recognize Mitchell as one-half of the band Ida).
Stealing a great idea from my colleague, Susie, I usually blow bubbles while the babies are settling in. This is also a tried and true method for getting almost any crying baby to stop.
I try to balance every activity by having an aural and visual component. So, when I sing “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” I take out my Monkey Puppet Glove so that babies who aren’t able to appreciate the words can focus on the monkeys. I read about 3 books each session and I usually do 3 or 4 songs/fingerplays/movement activities between each book. Near the end of the program, we bring down the house with “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” and that perennial favorite, “The Hokey Pokey.”
I’ve found that the Baby programs are a little calmer and slower-paced than the Toddler programs. Since the babies are not yet roaming around the room, trying to climb up or pull down everything in sight, I have more opportunities to converse with the adults and explain what I’m doing and why.
One big difference I’ve noted between Baby and Toddler programs is the frequency and zest with which babies will put virtually anything into their mouths. This is perfectly normal and expected behavior for babies- thus the ultra sturdy board books and drool-resistant toys. Babies are learning to use all five senses, and it makes sense that discovering the world around them would entail a bit of chewing. Being now accustomed to this totally natural but still gross behavior, I am prepared with a box of antibacterial wipes at the end of every program. After all the babies and their grown-ups have left, I wipe down every last book and toy. In this small way, I’m hoping to do my part keeping the flu-epidemic at bay.