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Babies love to kick, and there's a reason: They may be getting those little legs ready for walking, or perhaps just trying out new skills. Prime your budding biped (and liven up diaper changes) with an impromptu horizontal "spin class."
Appropriate for: Newborn to 10 months
Skills developed: Gross motor
What you'll need: No equipment necessary
When your baby is lying on her back on a changing table or pad, hold her legs and give them a little workout. The classic move is the bicycle, but you can also teach her the cancan: Raise her knees up and give each leg a high kick.
And no need to neglect the arms: Move them out to the sides, then raise them up above her head. (This could be thought of as "the frog.") Finally, don't forget the disco fun of "Y-M-C-A" – babies especially love the exuberance of the arms-in-the-air "Y."
Adding a song or some words of encouragement enlivens any pedaling session.
She'll be banging on pots and pans before you know it, but you can ready your baby's sense of rhythm in the meantime. And there's nothing that cheers up a cranky baby (try this at the 5 p.m. witching hour!) like cuttin' the rug with Mom or Dad to the strains of some good music with a thumping beat.
Appropriate for: 6 weeks to 1 year
Skills developed: Sense of rhythm
What you'll need: Some great dancing music with a strong beat, such as Cajun, zydeco, or reggae
Many parents attest to the therapeutic effect of Cajun music's syncopated rhythms on colicky babies. Lay your baby on her stomach across your arm, putting light pressure on her tummy with your hand (sometimes known as the football hold). Place your other hand on her back to hold her securely, and sashay away. Or if she prefers being held upright, hold her in a seated position facing forward, with one hand under her bottom and the other on her tummy. If bayou music isn't to your little one's taste, try some Bob Marley, a waltz, mambo, or a Singin' in the Rain-style soft-shoe.
Remember: Each baby develops at a different pace, so if yours isn't quite ready for this week's activities, don't worry – just try them again in a few weeks.
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