At all stages of your child’s development, play is an integral part of everything he learns. Movement is of course one of the first major achievements a baby masters.
Watching your baby grow and develop is one of the most fascinating aspects of being a parent. Always remember that babies develop and learn to move at different rates and there is a wide variation of what is normal.
Your baby will learn to move through age-appropriate play and exploring his environment. Here’s what you can do to help.
Development is a progressive process. As your baby achieves one skill, he will move onto learning another.
Very young infants do not have independent control of movement to alter their positions as they choose. As a result, from the very first few weeks your baby needs a variety of positions and opportunities to develop quality movement skills.
Time On His Tummy
Daily play time for your baby, both on his back and on his tummy, will allow him to practise various movements while gaining muscle strength.
In the first few weeks you can give him some tummy time when you are changing his nappy, dressing him or at bath-time . After his bath or at change time, turn him onto his tummy to dry and massage his back. This will help him to enjoy longer periods of play on his tummy as he gets older.
What If He Doesn’t Like Lying On His Tummy?
During the first three months, infants develop neck control and begin to prop on their arms when on their tummies. Now that it is recommended to put babies to sleep on their backs , it is more important that they have lots of play time on their tummies.
With progressively more play time on their tummies, infants gain strength in their necks and their backs in preparation for sitting. If your baby dislikes lying on his tummy, try to give him plenty of tummy time across your knees.
Top Tip: When your baby is on the floor on his tummy, you could also try a rolled up towel under his shoulders, with his arms forward over the rolled towel, as this is often more comfortable for him. It may also give him a better view of toys – which you can place on the floor in front of him.
Get Down On The Floor Yourself!
While baby’s on his tummy, you could also get down on the floor yourself and talk to him, thus encouraging him to lift his head and look at you.
Another way to accustom your baby to floor play is to lie on the floor yourself and place your baby tummy-down on your chest, facing you. This can be a fun way for parents and infants to play and communicate with each other.
On Their Backs
It is also important to give babies some playtime on their backs, when they can strengthen their tummy muscles in readiness for rolling.
Try introducing hand-to-foot play or give him the experience of movement by encouraging sideways rolling from back to tummy on the floor.
For hand-to-foot play, try sitting on the floor with your back supported against a wall or couch and your legs stretched out in front of you. Alternatively, sit on the couch with your legs crossed.
Put your baby on your legs with his head at your knees and his feet towards you, so he can see your face. Put some brightly coloured socks on his feet and encourage him to touch and feel them.
It’s not necessary to provide lots of toys in the first few weeks. It’s more important to talk to your baby at feed, bath and change times.
He has been listening to you since before birth, so use your voice to cue him to the daily activities. During the day, when he wakes for a feed and at playtime, use a bright, cheery voice. For settling and during the night at feed time, use a soft, soothing voice.
From one month of age babies often enjoy nappy-free time to kick about and move their limbs. Put a clean sheet or play mat down on the floor in a safe, draft-free space. Take your baby’s nappy off, leaving his shirt on, and let him spend a few minutes kicking.
It’s best to hang mobiles over the change table or play mat, not over the cot as this can confuse your baby because it stimulates him when he is trying to calm down and go off to sleep.
Toys, Picture Books And Music Will Help
Between three and five months of age, your baby’s interest in toys and objects will increase as he develops the ability to reach and grasp. Encourage this by introducing toys while cradling your baby in your arms.
Place toys within reach when he is on the floor or in his stroller . During play time, provide a variety of toys that are lightweight, easy to clean, and which offer a variety of textures for your baby to touch, feel and taste.
Ensure that toys are safe, with no sharp edges or small pieces or buttons that could come off easily and be swallowed or that your baby could choke on.
Continue chatting to your baby at feed, change and play time. He will now be experimenting with more sounds. Include music and picture books as part of play time each day.