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A birthday for baby

Baby Bungalow, a child resource center, turns 2 Saturday and plans a birthday party to celebrate.

By BABITA PERSAUDTimes Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 5, 2002

With all that sleeping, eating, burping and pooping, sometimes babies just need a place to get away, unwind, relax.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Ranita Holland, 5 months, gets a massage from her mother, Beverly, during Baby Kneads, an infant massage class. The class is taught by child life specialist Andi Bennett of Baby Bungalow, a child development resource center on Azeele Street.
A place where they can get a decent massage.

Or teach mommy how to work those fingers.

Walk into Baby Bungalow, a little marigold yellow house at 3106 W Azeele Street, just past Henderson Boulevard. It's a place for all those moms out there who have said in angst: "I wish this kid came with a handbook."

Baby Bungalow is the handbook -- a child development resource center with classes, play groups and seminars, including an infant massage called "Baby Kneads." It specializes in babies up to 5 years old.

"We try to give parents answers to questions like, 'What happens when my baby does this? My baby is doing this, is that normal?' All of those questions that parents ask when they have a new child," spokeswoman Terri Byrd said.

This Saturday Baby Bungalow turns 2. And in typical kid fashion, the staff is throwing a party from 10 a.m. to noon with cake, ice-cream, face-painting and a petting zoo. The public is invited.

Baby Bungalow is a non-profit enrichment program of the Child Abuse Council next door. It is supported by grants. The Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County and the Junior League of Tampa also contribute.

There is no membership fee. Classes have a small charge; for example, three weeks of infant massage is $15.

"We are an any-baby, any-parent organization," said Byrd. "Our goal is to strengthen families."

About a dozen different classes are taught here by child development specialists.

Peek into the Growing Together play group for a sample of the fun. Toddlers, just starting to walk, bang on small tambourines.

But the tambourines are strategic development, stimulating the part of the brain that also helps with walking.

In another class, Baby Sign Language, a mother learns to recognize baby talk, before the actual talking begins.

"Children can communicate through hand motions before they are able to verbalize what they are trying to say," said Byrd.

A child puts his fingers together and touches his month. That means he is hungry or wants more. Twenty different signs are taught.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Six-month-old Dean Byrd stretches happily while his mother, Julie, gives him a massage during a Baby Bungalow class.
In addition to classes, this five-room house on Azeele is a meeting place for support groups, such as the local chapter for the national Mocha Moms for Hispanic and African-American moms and Sincerely Single for single parents.

Baby Bungalow keeps up with current research, sending staff to seminars, among them, the Resources for Infant Educarers conference in Los Angeles.

The RIE philosophy of child rearing teaches parents to allow their children independence, said Byrd.

A parent sees a child take another child's toy away. Her first response might be to interfere and say, "No, no, no, don't take the toy away."

The method, which has gained popularity with such moms as Jamie Lee Curtis and Annette Benning, allows children a few minutes to deal with the situation themselves.

"It is a confidence builder in the parent and the child," said Byrd.

Baby Bungalow was started on a simple notion "to have a parent's place," said Liz Kennedy, a longtime advocate for children and parents in Hillsborough County who has worked with the Child Abuse Council and the Healthy Start Coalition.

She -- along with others -- saw a need in the community for affordable parenting assistance. It wasn't hard to ignite others, who helped raise funds for the groundwork for Baby Bungalow.

Luckily, the house next door to the Child Abuse Council was for sale.

The 1922 home, with rotted floors and termite damage, was renovated through grants and money raised by the Junior League.

The rooms inside are sunshine yellow and lavender.

Baby Bungalow has a library of about 100 books, which can be checked out. It also has a file cabinet filled with articles on everything: biting, nightmares, baby's first steps. The staff combs magazines and newspapers to keep the file system up to date.

In the two years since Baby Bungalow has opened, it has served 300 families, including the Littles -- Marisol Little and her 4 month old, Lauren -- who were at last week's infant massage class.

Michael Row the Boat Ashore played softly from a tape player. Marisol moved her hand across Lauren's chest, shoulder to shoulder. The baby giggled on the stars-and-moon quilt.

"When she's cranky and fussy, I massage her," said Marisol. "She loves it."

-- Times Researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Baby Bungalow Programs

BABY KNEADS. Massage therapy for babies.

BABY SIGN LANGUAGE. Parents learn to communicate with their babies, some as young as 8 months old, through hand gestures.

PARENTING WITH RESPECT. Based on the RIE philosophy of child rearing, which teaches moms and dads to allow their children freedom in decisionmaking.

WEE FIT! Exercising with your baby.

GROWING TOGETHER. A play group for beginners at walking.

PARENTS NETWORK. A play group with trips to farms, barbecues and holiday gatherings.

MOCHA MOMS. Support group for mothers of color, including Hispanic and African-American women.

SINCERELY SINGLE. Support group for single parents.

-- For more information call Patricia Pead, Baby Bungalow director at 356-1293, ext. 245.

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