The Workout: Strength Training
baby version: lifting objects
Building baby biceps happens much the same way as building grownup biceps-it requires lifting weights and plenty of reps. Of course, baby rattles are the dumbbells of choice for little arms. "Baby is strengthening muscles and learning about the relationship between hands, arms, shoulders and back, which all work together to help him push up and eventually pull up by 7 months," says Dr. Brennan. Little muscles fatigue easily, so be sure to help him lift-or change activities altogether-if your little guy becomes tired or frustrated.
what to do Each day give baby a sturdy bin filled with new objects of varying size, shape, weight and texture (being mindful of age appropriateness and safety compliance). Since the bin can't tip over, baby will have to use his muscles to lift each object out of the bin, building arm, neck, back and core strength. A constant rotation of new objects will keep this activity fresh and interesting.
make it fun Give those budding biceps (and baby's budding confidence) a boost. Place a small assortment of safe, easy-to-grip objects in front of your little guy. One by one, move an object right in front of him and ask, "Can you lift this?" As he successfully picks up each object, cheer, "Hooray!" If an object proves too tricky, put on a silly show of picking it up yourself. Big muscles and big grins are sure to develop.
The Workout: Yoga
baby version: twisting and bending
While muscle strength is important, so are flexibility and coordination. Both provide the dexterity and stability required for smooth, precise movement. Baby's happy disposition and natural flexibility make her seem like an ideal yogi (There's even a yoga pose called Happy Baby!), but those pretzel-like postures are still hard work. Setting the tone now has benefits down the road. "Gentle stretching and yoga in the younger years sets a great foundation for making relaxation exercises easier later," says Dr. Shu.
what to do Around 4 months, baby is ready to roll from front to back and in the opposite direction a month later. To help the movement along, catch her attention with a fun toy during tummy time. Hold the object just out of her reach, and as she stretches for it, slowly move the toy sideways until it's near the side of her head. Eventually, she will twist her body as she reaches, and if she twists far enough, over she goes!
make it fun Yoga improves balance for grownups as well as babies, so try a little mommy-and-me yoga to help you both feel Zen. Check out itsybitsyyoga.com for a range of DVDs you and baby can try together at home. Once you're finished getting your Down Dog on, count on Savasana ("Final Resting Pose") to settle you both down for a much-needed post-workout nap.