Raising a Cultured Kid: Creative Classes for Baby

The number of activities for babies as young as three months is sometimes remarked upon with derision as classes like French for pre-walkers, baby yoga and toddler theatrics are held up as yet more proof of urban hyper-parenting. There isn't a city in America that doesn't have an abundance of mommy-and-me and other baby classes. They're in every neighborhood, price range and theme and even offer time slots well suited to the working parent. (Lots of places schedule evening classes so Mom or Dad can enjoy the bonding time '- and meet other neighborhood parents '- without taking a day off from work.) Find out about your city's trove through the usual suspects: local parenting books and free giveaways, city magazine articles and Websites. And don't forget to ask about trial classes.


Working out together

Sometimes baby exercise classes are not even about the babies! Today, there's an entire cottage industry dedicated to helping new moms get their bodies back in shape without losing precious baby bonding time. Mommy and Me workout classes, now in every city, offer exercise geared to postpartum bodies that incorporates babies into the routine. Stroller-based exercise programs like Strollercize and Stroller Strides (they or their variants can pretty much be found now in every city) get moms together in city parks under the leadership of a fitness expert who engages them in a variety of strengthening and cardiovascular exercises using the stroller (complete with baby, of course) as a prop. And there are many local versions now, some of which focus on jogging strollers for the more running inclined. San Francisco-based Baby Boot Camp, has become so popular it has expanded nationally, and offers stroller-based interval training with baby-friendly homework exercises to take home with you. For instance, sit-ups are much harder with Rufus on your belly providing extra weight resistance, and "push-up kisses" make all that hard work worthwhile. (Photo: Moms and strollers at Baby Boot Camp.)




The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't think any child is physically capable of truly learning to swim until age four, but your child can take lessons for other reasons: to get comfortable with water, to have something different to do one day a week or simply to cool off during the sweaty summer season. Just expect more splashing than stroking. At many Ys and community centers, your baby can start at the age of six months. Also look for specialized facilities '- sports complexes, even health clubs '- that offer swimming for tots. FYI: Maybe men think pools are cool; we've been noticing an increasing number of dads showing up to baby swim classes.


"Sign" of the times

The latest kiddie craze is baby sign classes for the hearing. The idea is that children are able to understand language far earlier than they are physically capable of talking, and children who learn a pre-language communication tool have a leg up. The research is compelling: Studies have shown that babies who learn to sign tend to have a stronger command of verbal language and speaking at an earlier age and may even score higher on IQ tests later on. And according to parent devotees, signing apparently cuts down on those temper tantrums. In Atlanta, you'll find Little Signers classes, in Portland, OR, they're called Smalltalk and in Seattle, Signing With Your Baby is the popular program.


-- Courtesy of Kathy Bishop & Julia Whitehead, authors of The City Parent Handbook

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