Exercise and Bond With Your New Baby

You love everything about being a new mom -- well, with the exception of the post-pregnancy baby weight. If you’re like many moms, you’re probably wondering how you'll find time for fitness after having a baby.

Fortunately, losing baby weight doesn’t have to be time-consuming and you don’t need to miss precious moments with your baby in order to shape up. The key is to bring your new baby with you to your sweat sessions. Slimming down can actually be fun when you work out with your little one – and it’ll bring you two closer! Use these tips to get started.

Hit the pavement

Whether you’re a walker or a runner, taking your baby with you while you log miles is a great way to lose baby weight. Just wait until your baby is at least 6 months old before using a jogging stroller, since the upright position isn’t safe for a baby who lacks head support. While you’re walking or jogging, keep your baby engaged by talking to her, such as pointing out the scenery as you pass (“Did you see that dog?”). Walking or running together can be a fun and stimulating way for a mother to bond with her young baby – it’ll be a new environment and activity for your baby and it’ll be nice for you to have a little workout partner.

Take a class

From yoga to cardio, many gyms offer mommy-and-me classes. You get the benefit of having an instructor guide you through the best post-pregnancy workouts for losing baby weight, and your baby gets to watch the other moms and babies move about the room.

Take your baby to the mat

Incorporating your new baby into your toning exercises can be fun for both of you. Your baby loves being held by you. Just make sure you are able to maintain proper form while keeping a firm, safe grip on your baby. Start with these three moves:

·         Up-dog stretch: Lie on your stomach and keep your hips on the ground as you lift your chest up toward the sky. Lay your baby on the ground in front of you and shower her with kisses when you come back down.

·         Bench squats: Hold your new baby as you squat down and sit on a park bench or the couch. Engage your core (as if someone is about to hit you in the stomach) as you drive through your heels and stand back up.

·         Shoulder press: Stand up tall with your core engaged and hold your baby securely in your hands. Lift her up in the air and bring her back down for kisses.

On days when working out is the last thing you feel like doing, remind yourself that your new baby needs stimulation and fresh air, too. Knowing you’re doing something healthy for your baby while also losing the baby weight should help get you out the door. And you definitely won’t regret spending this quality bonding time together!

Fun Craft Activities for Toddlers

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Or are you just looking for some toddler play ideas that will keep your child entertained for ages? These toddler crafts are ideal -- they aren’t complicated and don’t require you to drop a bundle of cash. All you need are a few basic supplies.

Sensory activity
Let your toddler engage in experiencing different textures and colors. Cook up some spaghetti and place a handful into four or five bowls. Drip a few drops of food coloring to change the pasta’s color. Then let her have at it! She will love the uniqueness of the colored pasta, the slipperiness of the noodles, and the squishy sound they make when squeezed. 

Motor skills activity
Encourage fine motor development with this easy and fun toddler activity. Set out a muffin tin and some different colored pom-poms -- most craft stores carry these inexpensive colored puffs. Let your child sort her poms into the individual muffin holes.  She’ll have fun grabbing at the soft balls, and eventually the game can help her learn colors.

Creative activity
Another toddler play staple is finger painting -- just be prepared for a little mess! Simply squeeze some paint onto a plate or tray and let your toddler use her fingers or hands to draw designs on blank pieces of paper. Be sure to protect the surface where you’re working with a washable cover or old newspapers. You can use a clipboard to keep the paper from shifting around. If you’re looking for new ways to decorate your toddler’s room, consider framing and hanging some of her favorite finger paint masterpieces.

No matter which craft you pick, keep toddler safety in mind. All activities should be highly supervised, especially when you’re working with smaller pieces.

How to Keep Your Walking Baby Safe on Stairs

Another developmental milestone is here! Your baby is walking around like she owns the place. She’s so confident that she already wants to take the stairs -- two at a time!

If your baby is new to walking, though, she’s probably not quite ready for stairs yet. So put the brakes on and take a few precautions. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Continue to keep the stairs in your home gated -- at the top and bottom -- and don't let your walking baby out of sight. Even though she's getting good at walking, she still won't be able to mount stairs for a while.
  • She's going to push for her independence, but let your baby know that if she wants to use the stairs, she needs to hold Mommy’s or Daddy's hand.
  • When descending stairs, teach your baby how to slide down on her belly. Not only is this the safest way for now, you can also treat it as a game she’ll enjoy.

Before you know it, your baby will be mobile enough to walk up and down stairs on her own. Just teach her to always hold on to the railing so she stays safe. Next up? She’ll be running -- cover your eyes!

The Power of Toddler Play

If you watch your toddler play by himself or interact with his friends, you’ll quickly realize that play takes many wonderful forms. Your child might spend all day building block towers or feeding his favorite stuffed animal while his cousin races around the backyard for hours. Trying out different ways to play can help your toddler develop new skills -- and have fun at the same time.

Active play helps your child’s body control and movement
As your toddler gains more control over his body, he’ll test the ways he can move. The result: a child who is jumping, climbing, swinging, and bouncing all over the place. The nonstop movement may tire you out, but it’s actually an important part of his development. Active play not only helps build a healthy body, it also strengthens critical thinking skills as he learns about size and shape (“Can I fit through this tunnel?”) and direction (“I can jump up and down!”).

Create a safe environment for active play by removing sharp or dangerous objects and providing toys to encourage movement, such as pillows to jump on or boxes to crawl through.

Creative, imaginative play is key to cognitive development
As your toddler’s imagination develops, you’ll notice that his play becomes more creative. His favorite blankie is also a cape, his blocks turn into zooming cars, and a cardboard box transforms into a castle. This imaginary play isn’t just cute to watch, it’s also key to your child’s development: It helps build problem-solving skills and language development.

Encourage your toddler to engage in imaginary play by supplying him with plenty of toys that will spark creative scenarios. These could include dress-up clothing, soft animals, and everyday objects, such as a wooden spoon (a wand!) or plastic cups (a row of little houses!).

Playing with others means learning valuable social skills
While solo play is a key part of your toddler’s development, play that involves peers or siblings is also crucial. Playing with other kids helps foster the social skills he'll need to navigate preschool and kindergarten in the years ahead. These skills may include sharing, resolving conflicts, and empathizing. Try to arrange playdates each week to give your toddler the opportunity to engage with other children his age.

While active, creative, and social games are all important, any and all playtime will be beneficial to your toddler. Just be sure not to skimp on the fun!

Five Ways to Spur Your Toddler to Talk

Wait a second -- is your toddler pretending to read to his favorite teddy bear? Cue the big, proud-parent grin!

After your baby reaches 12 months, he’ll start to take steps toward becoming a talking toddler. As his speech begins to develop, though, it’s important not to compare your child’s abilities with other children’s. Every child develops language skills at varying speeds, and all children have different demeanors. Even after they turn a year old, some children just don’t chatter as much as others.

That said, here are five things you can do to encourage active and open word experimentation with your toddler. Prepare for a babbling bonanza!

Pretend play
Most toddlers know about 50 words by the time they turn 2 years old. Many can even tack two words together and communicate a sentence, albeit a short one. Imitation is an important way that toddlers learn. You can mock-play with your child by giving him speech-related actions, such as talking on the phone, that he’ll have fun mimicking.

Other games that spark toddler talking include setting up a restaurant with stuffed animals and play-food, or using a toy cash register to act out grocery shopping. Try to give your child a block of unstructured playtime every day, so he can get creative. You’ll be amazed as you watch him assemble his toys and start to jibber-jabber with them.

Read together
Try to read at least a few books together out loud every day. You can also take frequent trips to the library together. As you read, ask your toddler to help turn the pages. Point to illustrations and ask questions to encourage a dialogue (“What does the doggie say?” or “Where is the farmer?”). Once you have a new collection of books at home, read the same ones again and again. You may be amazed at how quickly your child will remember the story; he might even start to chime in at certain parts. Later, invite him to read his favorite stories to his dolls and stuffed animals.

Talk to your child
Maintain a dialogue with your child in your everyday, adult voice. Once your child crosses the one-year mark, you can tone down the chipper, high-pitched tones and start to talk to him in your everyday, conversational voice. He’ll begin to pick up on cues and mimic the sounds you are making, and will likely start toddler talking. Use gestures so he can imitate them when he can’t find the right words.

Ask questions
Some 2-year-olds start venturing into longer sentences of two or three words. You can prompt these responses by asking your toddler questions throughout the day (for example, “What toy do you want?” or “Who is that?”). Though his “sentences” may not be complete thoughts, they will typically get the point across. Communicate with your toddler constantly, and nod or smile even when his response is technically incorrect or nonsensical.

Introduce new words
Your baby’s first words will most likely be family names, favorite toys, and household items encountered daily, such as milk. The most important thing to remember about speech development is that toddlers learn by listening and practicing on their own. Keep pointing at and describing new items to your child, from body parts, such as arms and legs, to natural objects, such as birds and trees. Above all, have fun with it!