Baby Babble: During the pandemic and beyond

Baby Babble is a programme for parents/carers and their babies. It aims to support early language and communication using stories, rhymes, baby signing and sensory experiences. Originally developed by speech and language professionals, it is now delivered by trained library staff over a series of five sessions, and it continues to be in high demand across the county.


Introduction

Baby Babble is a much-loved programme for parents/carers and their babies. It forms a comprehensive part of our EY offer and it aims to support early language and communication using stories, rhymes, baby signing and sensory experiences. Originally developed by speech and language professionals, it is now delivered by trained library staff over a series of five sessions, and it continues to be in high demand across the county.

baby holding its face

The challenge

  • To replicate library services to families throughout the pandemic via an online platform.
  • Be responsive and proactive to national evidence that the lack of interaction with others was contributing to a delay in babies developing early speech and communication skills.
  • To safely relaunch the face to face offer in our libraries as part of the service recovery plan.

The solution

  • Once we resumed face to face sessions, we initially intended to continue to offer virtual sessions alongside physical sessions. However, take up had dwindled and couldn’t compete with the benefits of offering these engaging sessions in person. We have steadily increased the number of Baby Babble programmes in our libraries and we are now in the position to return to pre-COVID levels and we offer a rolling programme across the county.
  • We have paused the virtual sessions for the time being, focusing on rebuilding in person events. We realise the benefits of virtual events and it is something we plan to revisit in the future. The need for a virtual offer was evidenced by one parent attending as her baby was immune suppressed and she was unable to leave her house because of this. For all it helped with social interaction with others and maternal wellbeing.

Here are some of the comments we received from our feedback forms:

Similar to our face-to-face sessions:

  • making friends
  • learning new rhymes
  • prompted to visit the library
  • more accessible to more people when online.

Other comments highlighted:

  • that a good wifi connection is needed
  • using a laptop is better than using a phone 
  • some parent didn't want to put their babies in front of the screen
  • social connections and interactions are better face-to-face.

The impact

  • The sessions were advertised on our social media platforms and listed on Eventbrite, which is how participants enrolled. Due to being advertised on a global website we were unable to control where families were living. During the sessions it was discovered that one of the participants was from Hackney and one from our neighbouring county. We inadvertently went national.
  • Our first live session attracted 6 families and we had an average attendance of 4. We were very pleased with 6, as we only have a maximum of 8 families on our face to face sessions.
  • The reaction from the participants was very positive, however some families did express a hope that face to face would happen as soon as possible.

babies playing in the screen

How is the new approach being sustained?

  • Once we resumed face to face sessions, we initially intended to continue to offer virtual sessions alongside physical sessions. However, take up had dwindled and couldn’t compete with the benefits of offering these engaging sessions in person. We have steadily increased the number of Baby Babble programmes in our libraries and we are now in the position to return to pre-COVID levels and we offer a rolling programme across the county.
  • We have paused the virtual sessions for the time being, focusing on rebuilding in person events. We realise the benefits of virtual events and it is something we plan to revisit in the future. The need for a virtual offer was evidenced by one parent attending as her baby was immune suppressed and she was unable to leave her house because of this. For all it helped with social interaction with others and maternal wellbeing.

Here are some of the comments we received from our feedback forms:

Similar to our face-to-face sessions:

  • making friends
  • learning new rhymes
  • prompted to visit the library
  • more accessible to more people when online.

Other comments highlighted:

  • that a good wifi connection is needed
  • using a laptop is better than using a phone 
  • some parent didn't want to put their babies in front of the screen
  • social connections and interactions are better face-to-face.

Lessons learned

  • Virtual activities can be beneficial to some families who can’t access the library. For this reason, we have not entirely abandoned the use of Teams to deliver some of our activities.
  • A good Wi-Fi connection is essential, at least two families had to abandon the sessions because of poor connections.
  • Families using a Laptop or tablet had a far better experience than those trying to log in on their phone.
  • Be prepared to be flexible and alter content to match the method of delivery.