Author: Lynette van Wyk


Toddlers’ Workshop offers age-appropriate classes for different age groups in both Afrikaans and English from Monday mornings 09:00 until Saturdays 13:00.

  • New-born – 14 months: BabyGym 2 (recommended);
  • 3 – 6 months;
  • 7 – 12 months;
  • 13 – 20 months;
  • 21 months – 4 years.

Parents sign up for a ten-week term and need to give a term’s notice in advance to guarantee their toddler’s space in the group is not taken by someone else on the waiting list.

Each toddler/baby receives a Toddlers’ Workshop T shirt on registration and a certificate when ready to move on.

All classes offer intellectual, social, emotional, physical development enhancing sensory motor integration. The program is structured to enhance the toddler’s drive towards independence, whilst offering the emotional security of having mom at hand. A variety of instruments help develop a sense of rhythm and the songs contributes to language development. A huge focus is placed on sensory motor activities and messy and creative activities helps develop the whole child.  The other focus is on gross motor development to reach the appropriate milestones and to develop them in sequence. Tea times accommodate the mom’s desperate need of contact with other moms/parents.

Introduction to the Baby Group (3 – 22 months)

Toddlers’ Workshop is a child development programme for toddlers of 3 months to approximately 4 years. The programme for toddlers 3 months to 22 months is different to the older age group.

A toddler is a perceptual motion machine. At the workshop the toddler can move forward in a “yes” environment encouraged by the fun-filled experiences to be found at every step of the way. The workshop enhances the child’s sense that the world is a safe and exciting place to explore.

Toddlers’ Workshop – Baby Group is the result of many years of development, starting with toddler groups in Green Point, Cape Town, where Celia Kossar, a teacher psychologist and remedial teacher with experience in family therapy, now the principal of Toddlers’ Workshop, designed the toddler programme. Together with her husband, Otto, an educationalist, they combined a psychological approach with an emphasis on the concept that “acceptance is the key to growth”.

In 1988 the first experimental baby group developed at Green Point and gradually developed a recognition of the strong need for motion in early childhood. Over the years the programme has been refined and developed, and new and better equipment has been designed to enhance the child’s sensory – motor integration process, the basis for all higher learning.

Programming has been designed to take toddlers step by step through early motor development while educating the parents so that they become more aware of what to expect and when. The awareness of the sequential nature of developmental stages helps to reduce the negative psychological stress that results from unrealistic expectations.

The basic motions of jumping, rocking, spinning and balancing are as essential to the child’s growth as food. Often in the home the child hears “NO!” when attempting to “feed” his or her needs. At Toddlers’ Workshop we say “YES!” to those needs and help the child and parents to understand the basic nature of those requirements.

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What to expect from the Baby Group

The programme is divided into three activity periods.


This first section comprises of:

  • equipment time – e.g. puzzles
  • creative play – e.g. finger painting
  • gym time
  • and tactile experiences

This section of the programme is intended to provide sensory stimulation, particularly tactile (touch) and kinetic (movement), as this lays the basis for further cognitive and co-ordination skills to introduce them to a variety of new and appropriate experiences. We recommend that the mothers work individually with their babies during this time and focus on encouraging the child’s experimentation with the activity being presented.

The toy time is not a test of the baby’s intelligence or skills, but rather allows for a freedom of natural curiosity rather than organised play procedures.

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What is Toddlers’ Workshop?

Toddlers’ Workshop is a child development programme for toddlers (age 20 months – 4 years).  It offers a weekly session of 90 minutes which is attended by both mother, father, granny or nanny and child.

The session includes working on an extensive array of specially selected educational equipment, as well as movement activities, a group music session, story time, social activities, consisting of a snack time and outdoor play time. (Climbing equipment, swings, water play, etc.)

Professionally trained leaders

Workshop owners and leaders hold a Certificate and/or Diploma in Family and Child Development. They are available to answer mother’s queries and to assist them if necessary.


The aim of Toddlers’ Workshop is to establish in the toddler an independent work style which is at the same time orderly. By providing the toddler with opportunities to work with a variety of interesting apparatus, his curiosity is aroused, his mental activity and motor co-ordination are challenged, and his concentration is developed. The presence of the mother is important in that it reduces the child’s anxiety and sets him free to concentrate on his environment. Her presence also facilitates and enhances the child’s learning patterns.

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“Platvloers” or stylish?

Why should my baby be on the floor?

For your baby 0 6 months

In Afrikaans, we have a saying that someone is platvloersif they are more than just down to earth.  “Platvloers” has a negative connotation and refers to people that are rather common or low class?

Parents are currently bombarded by the most beautiful and clever baby gear companies, who claims that their produce is a must have.  But is it? That is the issue I want to address today: does your baby really need all these impressive must haves” – rockers, prams, different supporting chairs, etc.? How does these contribute to your babys development?

Recent research in the Netherlands has found that the variety of movement in the first four months of a babys life has a huge impact on the babys development. According to Dr Melodie de Jager from the BabyGym Institute it is a known fact that a baby needs to move to build his or her brain.  Does equipmenthelp baby to move?

Unfortunately, not.  Baby needs to be on the floor to be able to exercise all the muscle groups that will allow him or her to reach all milestones in sequence.  But this is where the problem comes in:  what mother will put her baby on the floor?  That sounds rather platvloers”.

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An insightful article on biting, hitting and bullying by our own occupational therapist, Elrie Maree

BitingBabies as well as adults all gain comfort and self-regulate through oral activities such as sucking on a pacifier or on candy. Biting builds strong jaw muscles, it provides neck and thoracic stability and it is used for organizing and grounding the body. Parents expect a baby to chew and bite on things, but if the older child still bites on things or people one should recognize his possible sensory reaction or behaviour and provide him with acceptable items to bite and chew on. One of the most basic demands of our daily existence is to process the sensory information from our enviroment in such a way that the body can respond to it in a relaxed and joyful way. Learning or survival is therefor the ability of the central nervous system to integrate the information from our senses so that the body can respond in an appropriate way on a physical as well as on an emotional level. Our sensory system consist of touch, smell, taste, hearing, vision, vestibular and proprioceptive input.

Read more: Biting (pdf 175 kb)

When does a baby start to learn?

New moms and dads often think of learning as something that starts when a child goes to school, but learning starts a few weeks after conception when baby responds to touch, a few weeks later to smells and tastes and a few months later to sound. Baby’s eyes mostly develop after birth and that is why shining a torch on your tummy is not a good idea.

What is remarkable, is that your baby’s ability to read, write and reason six and a half years later when he enters Grade 1 is substantially developed before he is only 14 months old!

Read more in this insightful article from dr Melodie de Jager: When does a baby start to learn (pdf – 331 KB).

What is Low Muscle Tone and how does it affect my child’s development?

“Can you imagine the frustration and the agony to be constantly reminded by a parent or a teacher to sit up straight and to pay attention. You are putting in such a lot of effort and energy to maintain an upright position and yet your muscles feel so heavy and your movements feel akward and clumsy. You try so hard to sit still, but your muscles keep on moving and adjusting to enable you to to find a more comfortable position.

Some children has to put in more effort and energy to maintain an upright posture and some children has to constantly move and change position to be able to pay attention and focus on given tasks. The child with low muscle tone often seems weak and he tires easily because he has to use a lot of effort to just hold his head and body up against the pull of gravity. Symptoms of hyperactivity e.g. wiggling, rocking, swinging or shifting can occur in an attempt to keep his body upright. (Ayers,2005: 52, Kranowitz,2003: 125).

Man is dependant on the maintenance of an upright position in sitting, standing and walking to be able to perform more complex and skilled movements of the arms and hands without fatigue. Functional muscle tone assist the body to maintain an upright position, allowing the individual to focus effectively on the more skilled activities e.g. to read or write or to independently eat and dress himself. If a child finds it difficult to process information from his muscles and joints, his arms and legs feel heavy and it is difficult to guide him through activities e.g. putting on shoes and socks or to lift him onto a chair or a jungle gym.”

  • Download this excellent article by Port Elizabeth based Occupational Therapist, Elrie Maree: Low muscle tone (313 KB), to read more.
  • Elrie’s number is 041 3642923, should you wish to contact her.

Kruising van die middellyn

Wanneer baba twee blokkies met groot bravade teen mekaar kap, is hy eintlik besig om noodsaaklike boustene vir leer en gedrag neer te lê. Gedurende die eerste paar maande van ‘n baba se lewe maak hy baie verskillende bewegings met beide kante van sy liggaam wat miskien vir ons doelloos mag voorkom. Die brein stoor egter al hierdie sensasies en ervarings van die sintuie en die spiere sodat die liggaam later hierdie ervarings kan gebruik om meer doelgerigte vaardighede te kan uitvoer. Ons kan hierdie proses vergelyk met ‘n padkaart wat vir liggaam (“body mapping”) opgestel word sodat hy presies weet hoe om sekere bewegings en motoriese vaardighede spontaan en met gemak te kan uitvoer.

Soos die baba sterker word, raak hierdie bewegings meer doelgerig en gekontroleerd en vind daar spesialisering plaas van ‘n meer vaardige of dominate kant van sy liggaam. Op hierdie wyse is akademiese vaardighede bv. lees en skryf dan op ‘n latere ouderdom die eindproduk van goed geintegreerde bilaterale motoriese koördinasie en kruising van die midlyn bewegings wat baba so natuurlik uitgevoer het.

Wanneer ons as volwassenes ons bewegings dophou, kom ons agter dat ons voortdurend ons twee hande spontaan saam gebruik of dit is om ons baba se doek om te ruil of om onsself aan te trek. Wanneer iets dalk verkeerd gaan bv.daardie ongemaklike gevoel wanneer daar ‘n seerplekkie op jou een hand is wat verhoed dat jy jou hande saam kan gebruik, is nie altyd so ‘n aangename ondervinding nie. Jy voel lomp en onbeholpe en dit vereis ekstra energie om eenvoudige take uit te voer. ‘n Kind vir wie dit ‘n uitdaging is om beide kante van sy liggaam saam te gebruik, kan daarom moontlik lomp en onbeholpe voorkom en dit kan vir hom ekstra inspanning wees om spontaan saam met sy maats te speel en te leer.