The most popular child development classes in Warwickshire?

Have you seen this headline in the latest edition of Toddle About magazine?  The article talks about Dandy’s latest award and why Dandy classes keep winning.  What makes Dandy classes a real winner though, and the biggest compliment, is that you parents recommend classes to your friends and come back with your second and third children. Having said that, we are up for another award so please could you help us with a vote?!

It’s true, Dandy has won a huge amount of awards and I am immensely proud of what Dandy has achieved.  I have won three consecutive Networking Mummies awards, which include the brand new big one – Business Mum of the Year 2016.  Other accolades include being a Mumprenuer Top 100 Winner in 2015 and Winner of Netmums favourite pre-school class 2012. Dandy has also won three What’s On 4 Junior Awards, in 2012, 2013 and 2015 which are the Oscars of the industry.  These awards reassure parents of the quality level that Dandy classes provide and prove that parents really do rate them, so in those terms maybe Dandy could be called the most popular development class in Warwickshire, I don’t know. 


Awards are important because they raise the profile of Dandy and reach people who may not have heard of the classes.  Big franchises still do have so many head starts, readymade adverts, readymade high profile and expensive websites, advice at the end of a phone, national awards won by other teachers in other areas to fall back on,  and Dandy is run by just little ol’ me in my kitchen with my dog sat on my lap to talk to!  Awards do show people that there are smaller, independent options that are competing on the same level.

Dandy is now up for another one in the Leamington Business Awards in the small business category.  This one is important to me as it is Dandy’s town of birth and we have run classes in Leamington for very nearly 5 years.  It is difficult for Dandy to compete against some of the other nominees as they have large mailing lists, a shop face on the high street but this award isn’t just down to the number of votes gained. The judges look at the points scored in each category to give each business as ‘rating’ and take into account the comments written too.  I really do think that Dandy has made a difference to Leamington. Some of the first Dandonians are now at school and I still hear from their parents telling me how good their teachers says their language skills are and that they credit it to Dandy classes. 

In summary, it doesn’t really matter whether Dandy is the most popular child development class in Warwickshire or not.  What does matter to me is that children and parents continue to enjoy and whole heartedly recommend the classes to their friends.  Having said that I would love it if you could take a moment to vote for Dandy in the Leamington awards – it is all down to you and your continued support for the classes.  Oh, and if we were to become a finalist, which would be amazing, then maybe Dandy Development might be the most popular child development class in Leamington!



dandy classes April 2016!

The venues, times and classes are pretty much all finalised for the summer term which will start in week beginning 25th April.   Bookings via the book now link will open from Saturday 12th February.  The class timetable will be…


Mondays - Long Lawford Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am (Nikki) 

Tuesdays - Barford Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am  (Nikki)

Wednesdays - Burton Green Stage 1 at 10am and again  at 11.15am (Nikki)

Thursdays - Whitnash Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am (Nikki)  

Thursdays - Cawston Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am (Tara)

Thursdays - Warwick Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am (Becky)

Fridays – Harbury Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am  (Tara)

Fridays – Leamington Stage 1 at 10am and again at 1.30pm, and Stage 2 at 11am and again at 12.15pm (Becky) 

Fridays – Kenilworth Stage 2 at 1.45pm and Stage 1 at 3pm (Tara)   

We are always very proud of our re-enrolment rates as most people decide to join us for at least two terms.  Many of our Dandonians re-enrol for four terms and sometimes even 5 terms which is nearly two years of Dandy fun! Getting to know the little ones over terms is a real joy and it is wonderful to see them grow in confidence, watch their signing and speech develop and share their love for DandyLion! 


Our high re-enrolment rates do mean though that some classes completely fill up before opening to new bookings.  We appreciate how disappointing this can be to find that the class you were hoping to join has no space left.  There are now multiple Dandy classes on the most popular days so that if your first choice of venue is full, you might be able to join us at another.  However, if you are only able to join us at one venue and you find it is full please do join the waiting list on the book now link.  There will be potential to start new classes at particular venues if there are enough people interested.  We would get in contact with the people on the waiting lists to discuss possible timings of new classes and to give you the first chance to book! 


Feel free to contact us at any time to discuss bookings and we hope to have you along to join the Dandy fun soon!

free festive fun with dandy!

Join us for some FREE restive fun this Christmas! Whether you would like to see what a Dandy class is like or whether you would just like to get in the Christmas spirit, you are very welcome along!


Monday 7th December – Dandy at Kineton Toddler Group

Saturday 12th December – Dandy at the MKBW Christmas Party, tickets via the facebook group

Tuesday 15th December – Dandy Stage 1 classes at Little Sunflowers Soft Sensory Play Centre Kenilworth. Three sessions: 12.15pm, 1pm and 2pm bookable through Little Sunflowers.

 Wednesday 16th December – Dandy at BBR coffee morning Chirstmas Party, Leek Wooton

Thursday 17th December – FREE Dandy festive fun classes at The Open Door Café, Hampton Magna, Warwick. Stage 1 at 10am and Stage 2 at 11am, strictly limited numbers so book your palce via Dandy’s Book Now link using the Special Events tab.





face to face time!

There is so much more to speech than the words we say.  Body language, facial expressions and tone of voice add so much meaning. Babies and young children learn best when they can hear your words and also see you and your face.  Verbal communication (the words) provide the raw information- facts and the non-verbal communication (facial expression, body language and tone of voice) provides the ‘flavour’, the attitude and emotion. The two need to be together as often as possible to aid development.


To maximise developmental potential adults need to get right down to little one’s level or get the little ones up to their level.  Being face to face so that eye contact is easily established is so important and means that you have your little one’s full attention and that they have yours.  Good eye contact not only boosts communication and speech it also develops the bond between you.  This is easier said than done with a little baby who is not yet sitting up or crawling away, or toddling up and down!  There are times in the week though when you can get face to face time into your routine.  Here are Dandy's Top 10 ideas…


1. Nappy time: this is ready made face to face time! Take this opportunity to talk to your baby, sign to them and get that wonderful eye contact.

2. Meal time: sit opposite your baby whilst you feed them so that you can talk to them at eye level rather than rushing around the kitchen.

3. Daytime Books: get down on the floor, turn your little one to face you, turn the book to face them and then you read upside down!  This means they have a perfect view of the book and your face: double the fun! In the photo above you can see a mummy and a little one sharing wonderful face tim with a book in this postition.

4. Shopping trolleys: ready-made face to face time! When your baby is laying or sitting in a trolley your eyes are pretty much at the same height so look at your little one as you go around and talk to them about what you are buying.

5. Buggy time: Some push chairs have a reversible chassis so that your little one can face you rather than look out. This is great for eye contact and language development and gives you lots of time to talk about what is going on around you.

6. Bath time: sitting on the floor next to your little one whilst they are in the bath has endless eye contact opportunities!

7. Cooking: bring your little one’s high chair into the kitchen or put their booster seat safely on the kitchen side and talk and sing away whilst you are busy. Little ones will be fascinated and you can take opportunities for being face to face whilst washing up!

8. Playtime: make time to sit on the floor with your little one at least twice a day for 10 minutes. With babies, sit them facing you and talk to them about what they are playing with, just helping them when they need it. With crawlers, get on your hand and knees and craw with them! Let them see that what is important to them is important to you. With toddlers, initiate shared games like rolling a ball to each other, but also take time to just sit and commentate on their play. All that language and your undivided attention will do wonders for speech development and confidence.

9. Sing songs: sitting with your baby facing you and singing is a great way to gain quality eye contact. Songs which encourage baby to concentrate on your face are great: the Little Green Frog Song and Pop Goes the Weasel are great examples of this.

10 Sign! Every time you use a sign your little one is learning to look at you.  They very quickly learn that they will only see the sign if they are looking at you and this in itself will increase eye contact and face to face time.  In the photo above, you can see a little one enjoying a book with his daddy but he heard me speak and turned to get eye contact with me to see the sign.


You can’t possibly do all of these every day and you would go crazy trying!  If you can get two or three of these into every day you will be boosting so many areas of development.  You and your baby will have more opportunities to smile and enjoy each other too.  Let me know how you get on!


let's get started!

The autumn term is here at last. I’m not one to wish away summer, I have loved time with the children, but now it’s time to get the signing started again!

My interest in signing started way back in 1998 when I began my PGCE to become a primary teacher. There were evening classes in British Sign Language (BSL) and I was told that any extras you could get on your CV would help!  I didn’t realise deciding to enrol on that course would be so important later on!


Signing was very useful as a teacher.  I used it with the whole class, even when teaching Year 6 and with children with special educational needs.  It helped everyone learn words to songs quicker, learn rhymes to spell tricky words and remember facts in science. I only heard about it as a tool for communication with babies when my nieces were born.  It made so much sense to me that babies would be able to sign earlier than they could speak that we didn’t hesitate in using it with our children. 

The key to successful signing is repetition, consistency and patience! Get it into your routine and make it part of your lives so that it is second nature. Every single time you say ‘milk’ use the sign. Babies acquire the physical skills to sign between 6 and 9 months and will only attempt it themselves if there is an inextricable link between the sign, the word and the ‘thing’.  I have had babies of 5 months clearly signing for milk in class, so much so that one time I could see the sign from right across the class whilst I was singing! I have also had toddlers of 15 months learn more than seven separate signs in one week.  One little girl learnt and used ‘more’, ‘all gone’, ‘eat’, ‘pain’, ‘dog’, ‘cuddle’ and ‘up’ between the first and second class of the term!


Successful signing isn’t all about babies and toddler signing back to us though. Purely by signing you are building up word understanding and building vocabulary.  Research shows that babies who have been signed to have a higher IQ than those who have not, even if they never signed themselves.


So, whether you are enrolled in Dandy or not, get the signing started. Don’t be worried about it or embarrassed to try signing out. Get your hands ready, practice, practice, practice in class and be proud that you are aiding your child’s development so positively.    


a dandy way to celebrate!

Over the last year or so I have a huge number of parents bring their second child to Dandy classes.  I always think this is the highest compliment that they enjoyed Dandy so much that they want to do it all again with their next child.  However, the elder siblings have not thought it very fair at all! I have been writing Dandy stickers each week for the elder sibling and even sending emails to them so they don’t feel left out as their younger brother or sister gets to come to Dandy and they don’t!


So, I had the idea to hold a weekend event where families could come along and share the fun together. That way all the children in the family would get to see DandyLion and hear the Dandy songs. On Sunday 13th September Dandy’s Big Birthday Bash was held at Chase meadow Community Centre. The event had been getting bigger and bigger since I reserved the venue back in early March and I found so many wonderful local businesses willing to come along and add to the fun, that we ended up taking over the whole Community Centre!

I was overwhelmed by how many people came to see Dandy, Georgie, Becky and I. I had never expected there to actually be a queue to get in and thank goodness a friend stepped in to help on the door otherwise some people may never have got in!   The highlight for me was seeing all the smiling little faces joining in at the Big Sing Along. I cannot tell you how incredible it was to hear all the parents and lots of the older children singing ‘Talk Share and Play’ and signing with me. I could feel myself going red and my heart pumping and I had to hold back the tears!


There was such a warm buzz of friendliness throughout the whole event and I would like to thank every single one of you for coming. These are only some of the many photos so do pop over to facebook to see them all.  I couldn’t have done it without so many local businesses’ support, they were all amazing. I cannot recommend them enough and please have a look at the list below and if you need their services, say Dandy sent you!


I have already had a lot of people asking if I am going to do it again next year. Well, give me a few weeks, or even months, to recover and I will probably say yes, so watch this space!

Best Party Hire – amazing bouncy castle and diddy track hire and so much more

CSW Active- balance bikes and cycling classes

Spongeblob Facepainting – just incredible art

Get Cooking! (Anne Marie) – cooking classes for all and wonderful biscuit decorating!

Caking and Baking – the best cakes in town

Crazy Kiln – pottery painting and baby print extraordinaire!

Sweetheart Nannies – wonderful mobile crèche and nanny service

Ella Toys – the best educational toys in Leamington

Ella Art – beautiful art and personalised designs

Learning and Explore Through Books and Perfect Readers (Usbourne Books), Little Splashers, Twirling Toddlers, Soft Touch Baby Massage, Baby Button Lane, The Little Nappy Tree and Apricot Jewellery. Really hope I haven’t missed someone out!  


dandy’s first blog!

Dandy Development - Warwickshire - Combines baby sign, music and sensory fun

Why now?
4 years ago I started Dandy Development because I couldn’t find an engaging and fun class for my son where I could learn how to support his speech development. I used my 10 year experience as a primary school teacher, my knowledge and enthusiasm for baby sign, my musical background where I had learnt the piano, flute and cello, and my love for all things creative to build Dandy’s curriculum. The combination of baby sign, music and sensory fun was born!

I wrote the plans, built the Dandy lesson structure, choose the resources, designed the unique parachutes which my mum then made for me (thanks mums!) designed the logo, wrote the advertising material, wrote and recorded the music and wrote and designed the website all on my own. I started with just four classes a week in Warwick, Offchurch and Leamington but we now run fourteen all across Warwickshire. In those four years technology has moved on hugely, we now all use our phones as first port of call to search the website and find local information. My simple, plain website now can’t keep up with all the latest technical terms such as ‘fully responsive’ and ‘search engine optimisation’ so I have bought in the experts to design me a new all-singing, all-dancing website and my fab designer has left me a blank page for a Blog, so here I am writing the first one!

What will Dandy’ Blog be all about?

Each week I will post developmental tips, signs of the week, speech and language techniques and games and interesting links that parents can use to build an understanding of how their little one’s development can be boosted - all the things that I was originally looking for when I started Dandy back in 2011. Each blog will not be specifically linked to the term of Dandy (the supporting information emails will still have lesson information) and it is for everyone up and down the country as well as for us here in Warwickshire! If there is anything you would particularly like to see on here then do get in touch.

We are holding a Big Birthday Bash on 13th September 10.30am – 12.30pm to celebrate the last four wonderful years at Chase Meadow, Community Centre. There will be Dandy sessions (bookable here on the website), a big Dandy sing along. Bouncy castle, Diddy Car Grand Prix Track, balance bike course, biscuit decorating, kids crafts, face painting (£1 extra per face), games table, Dandy sensory area for babies and crèche area all included in your £5 entry. You will also be able to join in with pottery painting, do some sand art, browse the engaging child-specific local stalls and enjoy the refreshments. See you there!

got a question? just ask! Or book now..

dandy's recent awards

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