Parents have often asked me over the years two very pertinent questions:
• What do I do with my newborn baby when he’s awake, looking around, and not crying?
• What toys does he need at each stage to assist with his development
Early Play is influenced by the drive for sensory motor experiences. Infants spend a great deal of time in exploratory play looking for new challenges as well as familiar and comforting sensory experiences. Research and evidence all point to the role of play in children’s development and learning across cultures (Shipley, 2008). Many believe that it is impossible to disentangle children’s play, learning and development. The most guarded secret in parenting is that you really don’t need expensive baby toys to keep your baby happy and to help him learn and grow. Remember that you are your baby’s ‘best toy’
As a Paediatric Physiotherapist I’ve seen and treated the effects of decreased early movement and opportunities for play – poor head control, upper body and poor core stability, coordination issues, sensory processing problems, misshapen head shapes and Torticollis and more.
Here are a few very simple play ideas for play with your baby in the first months of life to enhance his help sensory and motor skills.
Nappy Change activities
Ensure when you are changing your baby as he is lying on his back that his head is in the middle (midline) and that your baby is engaging or looking at you as this is a signal that he is ready for some interaction. Remember your baby loves your soft talking and your caresses and this will help to build a trust between the two of you.
• Massage your baby by slowly stroking diagonally across his chest from his shoulder down to his opposite hip, gently talking to him and trying to maintain eye contact.
• Bring his arms forward with his elbows bent and hold firmly. Allow your baby to feel his own hands and stroke his face with his hands. Take his little hands to his mouth and allow him to suck on his hand/hands.
• Bend your baby’s legs up with his knees together and hold. Gently rock his legs from side to side in a small arc of 30°.
• Baby aerobics: Gentle and slow movements of his legs in a cycling movement.
• Pick your baby up by turning him onto his side (alternate sides) and leaning him forward into your hand. This will help to improve his head control.
• The simple act of talking to your baby in a nested position will help your baby to bring his hands to his mouth and encourage him to kick his legs in a cycling fashion as gravity will be eliminated in this position.
If your baby starts to fuss, squirm, has jerky movements of his arms and legs or starts to cry you will need to stop with the activities and calm him down by turning down the noise or light in the room, holding him close in your arms or swaddling him in a receiving blanket.
If you feel that your baby is not responding to play opportunities or is not progressing as to how you would expect, a developmental assessment by one of our physiotherapists may be indicated. If you have any concerns or would like to talk to our friendly staff, call us on 98994004.
Adapted excerpt from PlaySense- Author Desiree Frigenti
Desiree has recently joined the team at Stepping Forward Therapy Services. Desiree is an experienced Paediatric Physiotherapist who is dedicated to providing excellent, evidence based individually tailored physiotherapy to children. She understands that every child develops at their own pace and in their own way and enjoys working with families to identify and help achieve their goals.