Have fun and help your baby’s development with these physical games.
Physical activity helps your baby develop important skills. It’s also fun for you both, and your baby will thrive on your attention.
“Keeping your baby active not only stimulates her brain, it can also make you feel good. After all that interaction you’ll feel closer to your baby than ever,” says health visitor and baby yoga instructor Angela Davy. “And she’ll think you’re the best mum in the world!”
Like you boost your physical development at the gym, help boost your baby’s physical development and help her reach those important milestones with these easy play ideas for an action-packed day with your baby…
Since you’ve been advised to put your baby to sleep on her back, tummy time is even more important to help your baby to reach the big motor skills milestones of sitting, crawling, and walking.
According to GP Dr Lowri Kew, “It’s very important to put your baby on her tummy to help her develop strength in her muscles such as her neck, which are essential for sitting and crawling. But it may take a bit of getting used to.
“Aim for 30 minutes of tummy time a day. This may need to be broken into smaller blocks. And always supervise your small baby so that if she falls asleep you can turn her onto her back.”
“The first time I put Jimmy on his tummy he seemed a bit unsure about it and he squirmed a lot. So, to begin with I tried lying on my back and resting his tummy on my knees while I held onto his hands and made aeroplane sounds. He lifts his head right up now and loves it!”
Alex, 34, mum to Jimmy, 3 months, and Edith, 2
If you’re baby’s slightly older and is starting to crawl and explore more of her surroundings, she’ll love a bit of uninterrupted play time. And you can enjoy it, too – safe in the knowledge that she’s going to be learning from it.
“Help your baby develop the confidence to explore by giving her your full attention,” advises Dr Lowri Kew. “You’re teaching her how to interact socially and learn new things about her world.”
“Harry adores it when I play peek-a-boo with him from behind the sofa. I pop up on one side a few times and then when I stick my head up on the opposite side he thinks it’s hilarious and crawls around to try and find me.”
Deboragh, 27, mum to Harry, 8 months
“A session of baby yoga that includes lifts, gentle stretching, eye contact and singing provides the same amount of activity that a baby would normally experience in 24 hours,” says health visitor and baby yoga instructor Angela Davy.
Baby yoga is also an invaluable way to help you and your baby tune into each other.
“Gabriel suffered from reflux when he was a young baby and cried a lot and I found it hard to engage with him. But baby yoga seemed to help calm his tummy and gave me a chance to relax and tune into his feelings. Now we both look forward to doing it every day.”
Angela, 38, mum to Gabriel, 11 months
HOW IT HELPS
“Baby gyms are great for your baby’s cognitive and physical development,” says health visitor and baby yoga instructor Angela Davy.
“They allow your baby to test things out for herself and see herself as an individual – a process of individuation that begins at around six months - while allowing mum some much deserved ‘me’ time.”
“Haydan loves the mirror on his playmat, especially when I get behind him and pull faces. But he also loves to just lie there and kick and pull at the toys – and it gives me a chance to make a quick cup of tea!”
Georgina, 30, mum to Haydan, 5 months
Your baby will probably use a rolling technique to move about. She will roll over from her tummy onto her back around three months, before she manages the reverse move from her back to front around five months or six months.
“Your baby needs floor time,” says anthropologist and founder of Birthlight Baby Yoga Françoise Freedman. “If she’s used to being in a bouncer she won’t get the chance to develop this skill, which helps her learn to sit up unaided.”
Rolling over often accompanies or precedes sitting up. For both skills, your baby needs to develop strength and control of her head, neck, shoulder and arm muscles. Your baby will usually learn to flip over, crawl and propel herself around when given plenty of opportunity to play at floor level, including time on her tummy.
"Some babies will miss out the rolling stage altogether and move straight to sitting up. Babies learn at their own pace. If your baby is doing everything else and beginning to get herself around, she’s probably on her way to developing this new skil," says Annette Maloney, health visitor.
If your baby is regularly held and bounced, allowed to kick her legs out on the floor and roll around on her tummy, she’ll develop much more quickly than a baby left in a baby bouncer or car seat all day.
Françoise Freedman, anthropologist and founder of Birthlight Baby Yoga
Joanna, 39, mum to Rose, 6 months
You might find bath-time stressful, particularly at the end of a long day, but by turning it into a final chance to play, it can be a great way to encourage your baby to enjoy the water.
“It’s the perfect place to prepare your baby for swimming later on,” says health visitor and baby yoga instructor Angela Davy. “Hold her on her tummy with her chin above the water and swish her backwards and forwards to encourage her to kick her arms and legs. It’s best to combine this kind of activity with splishy splashy games that make her laugh and enjoy getting wet.”
“Tom loves it when I get out old bits of plastic kitchen equipment. He’s fascinated by the way the water drips through the colander and Eoin thinks it’s hilarious when Tom tips the jug over his head.”
Sarah, mum to Tom, 10 months, and Eoin, 4
“If your baby’s older than 4 months, the perfect time to give your baby a relaxing rub is after a bath,” says baby massage instructor, Alison Shelley.
“If your baby’s younger, it can be quite stimulating so it might be better as a morning activity.”
Massage brings huge benefits for you and your baby. “Warmth and touch release hormones that have a calming effect,” says Dr Lowri Kew. “This helps your baby maintain temperature and blood sugar and decreases crying. It also helps bonding.”
“We go through our little routine at home every day. She especially loves having her thighs rubbed. Her whole body relaxes and she smiles at me as if to say, ‘Thanks mum, you’re wonderful!’”
Dipexa, 32, mum to Priyesi, 6 months
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