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Motor Skills : Smarter Baby
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How to Do Yoga With a Baby


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December 16, 2008


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Babies reap the same health benefits from yoga—improved balance, increased flexibility, deeper relaxation, better sleep and fewer digestive problems—as adults do. And when you do yoga with your pint-sized Buddha, you’re also establishing a physical and emotional bond that both parents and babies crave.

But don’t expect your 3-month-old to be striking her own downward-facing dog pose. When you take a yoga class with your baby, expect some deep-breathing exercises (for you), baby-massage techniques (for the diaper set), a few stretching and balancing poses (some incorporating your baby and some not) and a chance to meet with other new parents and enjoy some time interacting with your baby.

Difficulty Rating: Moderate
Things You’ll Need
Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
Yoga mat, blanket or towel

Step 1:
Create a calm, relaxing environment. Dim the lights; play soothing music.

Step 2:
Say some chants softly, holding your baby near as you do.

Step 3: Hold your baby close to your body and take some deep breaths, inhaling by filling up your belly and then slowly exhaling. Since babies naturally belly-breathe, you can even place your hand on your baby’s belly and mimic her breathing rhythm.

Step 4:
Place your baby on her back and bend her knees up to her chest, then let go. You can also perform a cycling motion with her legs. This promotes digestion and prevents constipation.


Step 5:
Stretch your baby’s arms and legs, even tracing her fingers and toes with your fingertips. This relieves muscle tension and encourages relaxation.

Step 6: Place your baby to your side and concentrate on some poses that will help you get your body back in shape. Roll your shoulders forward and backward to relieve tension. Tilt your pelvis off the floor as you lie on your back to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Tips

Don’t worry if your baby starts acting up. Yoga is supposed to give you peace and relaxation—not create angst. Just go with the flow and remember yours is not the first baby to interrupt a class.
Check out yoga and baby exercise tapes at bookstores; for classes, call health club centers, visit your local Y or even inquire with your obstetrician, pediatrician or local hospital.

Warnings
Get your doctor’s approval before beginning any postpartum exercise regimen.
Check with your pediatrician to find out if your baby is old enough to start baby yoga.

Donna Christiano is an award-winning free-lance journalist who has written extensively on women’s and children’s health for many consumer magazines, including Woman’s Day, Parents, Weight Watchers and others. Donna has also served on the staffs of Glamour and Bride’s magazines. She tries to live a healthy and strong life in New Jersey with her husband and two children.


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Baby Toys for a 6-Month-Old


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December 16, 2008


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By the time babies reach the age of 6 months, they are ready to develop skills beyond listening, crying and sleeping. Infant development toys can teach these babies to use basic motor skills, increase communication abilities and improve hand-eye coordination as they learn to balance and touch different objects. Colorful toys with different textures and puzzle games are among the most appropriate toys for a 6-month-old. You’ll need toys that stimulate all the senses and encourage your baby to play for extended periods. Here are a few ideas to add to your 6-month-old’s toy chest.

Colorful Mobile: Mobiles are a must for newborns and infants at every stage of development because they simultaneously provide mental and sensory stimulation. Mobiles made with simple, bold images can help babies to distinguish between different shapes and improve their vision skills. Babies love to watch patterns and colors, so this toy can keep them occupied for a long time.

Caterpillar—Plush or on Wheels:
The classic caterpillar toy is a longtime favorite for toddlers and young children and gives your 6-month-old a chance to play with different noises, buttons and textures. A colorful plush caterpillar designed with Velcro straps and shoelaces will help babies develop important motor skills, while the caterpillar on wheels can help them develop hand-eye coordination and navigation skills as they begin to move on their own.

Water Mat: Water mats are typically filled with gel-like substances, swirling toys, glitter and other objects that may keep your 6-month-old mesmerized for hours. Water mats can help babies distinguish between different shapes and colors while helping them develop their tactual skills as they learn to press and push certain areas of the mat to create different effects.

Bottle Sets: From soda bottles to shampoo and bath collections, a set of different-sized bottles can develop your baby’s matching skills and improve manual dexterity. Give your baby large, smooth bottles so that she can develop her natural grip and become comfortable with holding and carrying objects. Remove the lids and thoroughly clean and rinse the bottles before giving them to your baby.

Plush Picnic Basket and Food Sets: Toys designed to imitate food and other everyday objects can help babies become familiar and comfortable with the world around them, and plush picnic baskets filled with imitation food and picnic supplies are great toys to start with. Your baby can learn to distinguish between different shapes, textures and colors while engaging in creative play.
————
Sabah Karimi is an experienced freelance writer who enjoys writing about lifestyle, parenting, and childhood education topics. Sabah runs a web copywriting and marketing consultancy business in Orlando, Florida.


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How to Teach a Baby Sign Language


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December 12, 2008


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Teaching your baby sign language can increase her communication skills and encourage her to express her needs. The simple movements of sign language can overcome many communication barriers while your baby is developing her speaking skills, and it doesn’t take long to teach children how to use sign language for simple requests or expressions.

Step 1: Use picture books to identify objects and symbols. Choose picture books that tell simple stories to teach the basics of sign language. Point to a picture, and then sign the object or word so that your infant can make the mental connection. Encourage your baby to repeat the motions each time so she can learn by repetition.

Step 2: Use sign language before a new activity. If you’re getting ready for naptime, “explain” that it’s time for a nap using sign language. If you’re preparing a meal, sign “meal” or “food” whenever you serve it so that your infant can make the connection between the activity and the signing motions.

Step 3: Identify objects by pointing and signing. Take your infant on a tour of the home and point to different objects as you sign their meanings. This helps your infant identify each item around her environment. Next time you point to the object, your baby can respond with the signing motion.

Step 4: Employ signing to teach colors. Use a book or point to different-colored objects while signing. This is another way for infants to make the mental connection between the color and its matching signing motion; repetition will encourage them to do this each time you point to a color.

Step 5: Use signing at the grocery store. Pointing out or picking up new objects, and then teaching your infant the matching signing motion forms new connections and definitions about what your baby sees. Do this every time you go to the grocery store to encourage your baby to sign different items while you shop.

Step 6: Describe people with sign language. In addition to introducing friends and family members using their first names, encourage your child to identify the person’s gender or who he is (for example, an uncle or a brother) by using the appropriate signing motion.

Tips:
Repetition will make signing a habit in your child’s life.
Use every opportunity within your environment to teach signing; everyday activities can easily be turned into an educational lesson.

Warnings:
Avoid signing before infants have developed basic speech and communication skills. Allow babies to integrate signing abilities into their everyday lives, but not to the point that it replaces their natural speaking abilities.

Resources:
KinderSigns’ Baby Signing Dictionary
Signing gestures from SignWithMe.com

Sabah Karimi is an experienced freelance writer who enjoys writing about lifestyle, parenting, and childhood education topics. Sabah runs a web copywriting and marketing consultancy business in Orlando, Florida.


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How to Increase Skill Development With Baby Toys


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December 12, 2008


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Things You’ll Need:
Pictures, objects and toys in black, white and red patterns
Baby play mats
Baby gym
Wrist and ankle rattles

Watching your baby learn new skills is one of the true joys of parenthood. Babies are constantly experimenting with new ways to move and use their bodies. With the right baby toys, you can provide an environment where your baby’s full potential will be realized.

Step 1: Stimulate your baby’s vision. Because babies begin to hone their visual scales right from birth, this is one of the first things you can do to increase your baby’s skill development. Babies are drawn to patterns of black, white and red as well as the human face. Choose toys that use these striking, alternating colors to stimulate your baby’s improving vision and hold his interest. Also spend lots of time giving your baby face-to-face interaction that will intrigue him while he develops better visual skills.

Step 2: Offer lots of tummy time. Because of safe sleep recommendations, babies are spending more time on their backs and less on their bellies. It is important that babies do spend time on their stomachs; tummy time is essential to babies’ growth and development. When infants spend time on their tummies, they increase upper body strength and head and neck control. All of these skills must be mastered for babies to sit up, crawl and eventually walk. Choose toys such as play mats that provide stimulating black, white and red patterns, mirrors and different textures of materials to make tummy time more enjoyable.

Step 3: Add toys such as baby gyms and wrist and ankle rattles. Toys like these encourage the brain to strengthen the connections that are in control of hand-eye coordination. In the beginning, you will watch your baby reach for and miss her target. Keep watching; she’ll be grabbing the toys in no time!

Step 4: Encourage your baby to grasp, which is a significant milestone. Babies will eventually use this grasping skill to feed themselves, change their clothes and color with crayons or markers. Once your baby is fairly adept at accurately batting at his favorite toy hanging from the baby gym, place several toys just out of his reach to encourage him to grab for them. Don’t place the toys too far away, and make sure they are objects that he can easily grasp like donut rings, board books or soft blocks. Later on you can encourage your little one to pick up and eat soft foods as he learns to develop his pincer grasp—grasping and holding onto items with the index finger and thumb.

Lara Alspaugh is a freelance writer living in Michigan. She is a Registered Nurse and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Michigan State University. Her writing has been found in parenting and fitness magazines nationwide and the Internet, addressing health and fitness as well as wellness concerns of families.


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Baby Walking Development Toys


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December 12, 2008


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Baby walking development toys help babies use and develop the key muscles they need to walk; these toys are also designed so babies learn how to balance and position their bodies to walk at different speeds. Toys that require pushing and pulling while standing effectively encourage babies to use their basic motor skills, since these toys provide some support as babies begin to stand and take those first few steps.

Baby Walkers: Baby walkers are essential tools for helping babies sit and stand up straight as they practice using their legs to move. Many baby walkers are equipped with trays and toys that will keep your baby busy as she moves around the house. Allowing babies to walk without shoes in the walker develops the important muscles in their ankles and improves flexibility in the soles of their feet.

Caterpillar or Duck Pull Toys: These toys encourage babies to balance, squat and walk with ease, since babies must move ahead of them. These lightweight toys encourage your child to crawl and move ahead or take a few steps as the toy follows. Any pull toys that also make noises (such as quacking or squeaking) can teach your baby to recognize and respond to new sounds. The classic Radio Flyer wagon is another popular choice for babies and toddlers at all stages of development.

Lawnmowers and Other Push Toys: Push toys such as lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners and shopping carts make excellent toys for teaching babies how to walk because they encourage babies to get up and lean on the toy for support as they move. It doesn’t take long for babies to learn how to stand up and use these toys, and the process helps them learn important walking and maneuvering skills so they can walk on their own.

Ride-on Toys: Imitation vehicles that require babies to use their feet to move around are also valuable for strengthening key muscles in their lower bodies. These toys encourage babies to use their legs and feet to move and navigate around the home, and some are equipped with other toys and puzzles for extra stimulation.

Sabah Karimi is an experienced freelance writer who enjoys writing about lifestyle, parenting, and childhood education topics. Sabah runs a web copywriting and marketing consultancy business in Orlando, Florida.


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