19 Ways to Make Baby Smile

Music, Playgrounds, Dancing & More

9. Take a Music Class. Group music classes for little ones have sprung up everywhere. The best ones aren't about classical music and laying the groundwork for future geniuses. Mostly, they're about singing, dancing, playing with simple instruments, and having a grand old time. The bonuses are that your child learns about rhythm and counting, develops his language skills, and maybe makes a few friends to boot. And don't worry if you can't carry a tune.

"Some parents are shy about singing, even to their child," says Lee Stern, a lyricist and Music Together teacher in New York City. "The class helps adults loosen up and realize that everyone has some musical ability -- and that children love sharing music with their whole family."

Check out these three national programs.

  • Music Together
    http://musictogether.com
  • Kindermusik
    http://kindermusik.com
  • Gymboree
    http://gymboree.com

10. Hit the Swings! The playground has saved the sanity of many a frustrated mother. Unfortunately, not all playgrounds are designed with kids under 3 in mind. Here's how to spot one that's baby- and toddler-friendly.

  • Look for playgrounds that have separate areas for young children.
  • Check out the equipment: Are there baby swings? Is there a low slide or a small hobby horse?
  • Scope out the neighborhood: Is there a bathroom nearby? A place to grab a quick snack or, better yet, a drugstore if you need supplies?
  • See who's at the park: If you see lots of older children tearing around areas reserved for younger kids, this is not the park for you.

11. Make It Up. "Entertaining young children is about turning everyday moments into fun experiences. For example, if you're making sandwiches for lunch, squirting a bunch of jelly into a zippered sandwich bag for baby to squish with his fingers is great fun. It's all about being in the moment," says Sheila Ellison.

12. Dancing Queen (or King). Dancing to silly songs is great fun and great exercise, says Ellison. And you don't need to buy special kids' music to find tunes you and baby will love to move to. Here are some fun CDs you may already have in your collection -- or just buy them off the Internet.

  1. Headquarters by The Monkees
  2. Grease Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  3. The Beatles Greatest Hits
  4. The Sound of Music Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  5. Thriller by Michael Jackson

13. Make a Play Gym. Sometimes the weather's bad; sometimes it's just too complicated to drag your child and his paraphernalia out of the house. Make your boring old living room a fun indoor place space with tips from Louise Jones of Sydney's Playground.

  • Choose a cushioned, baby-proofed area with lots of crawling and walking space.
  • Children are drawn to bright colors, so use your couch throw pillows, or cover pillows with colored cases to brighten up the area.
  • Stack couch or chair cushions for baby to climb on.
  • Mix things up by letting your child use an outdoor toy inside.
  • Kids love playing with real things. Make the play space special by taking the batteries out of your phone or remote and letting your toddler play with them there.
  • Unearth old toys your child may have forgotten about and place them in the space.

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