I had a parent ask me recently if my kiddo watched Baby Einstein videos. She had heard that they promoted brain development and since baby wellness and development is “my thing”, she figured these DVD’s were in my toolbox. Every day I’m reminded that the vast majority of parents are hungry for ways to promote their baby’s development and are willing to buy into the fact (literally, BUY) that it’s complicated. But here’s a little secret – the best ways to promote your baby’s healthy motor, cognitive and sensory development is through simple floortime play.
HOW TO HELP YOUR BABY GET STRONG AND SMART
One simple way that babies play in first 4 months is by kicking their legs. This movement unfolds best in belly-up play unrestricted by Baby Holding Devices like swings, bouncy seats and infant car seat carriers.
Kicking is important for whole body and brain development. Here are some of the benefits:
- strengthens the belly muscles
- strengthens the leg muscles
- encourages “chin tuck” by looking toward the feet; chin tuck is important for neck strength and is a precursor to rolling back to belly
- develops understanding of body position by sensing weight shifting on the floor
- in play activities, promotes learning of cause and effect
- promotes sensory development of the Proprioceptive (pressure & stretch) system
EASY WAYS TO PLAY WITH YOUR KICKING BABY
For a dollar or two at your local grocery’s floral department, you can buy yourself several days of helium balloon kicking fun for your little one! Loosely tie a balloon to each ankle and watch your baby marvel at them dance as he kicks his feet.
Here’s the disclaimer, though: this activity is intended for little ones BEFORE they grasp and mouth objects and before they’re rolling over. Once you see these skills emerging, discontinue this activity for your kiddo’s safety. And, like all CanDo Kiddo activities, this one assumes CLOSE supervision, which means eyes on baby within arm’s reach. While the photos here depict latex balloons, Mylar balloons may be a safer alternative for your baby (but STILL require close supervision) due to the unique choking risks of latex balloons.
Balloon kicking usually holds a baby’s attention for quite a few minutes and gives a visual response to movement. By taking a skill that your infant is working on – such as kicking – and combining it with different sensations you help him learn about his actions and his senses.
The first weeks and months of life are a critical window for developing lifelong sensory processing skills that help your child make sense of the world around him. The key to developing these skills is your baby’s active interaction with the world around him. So instead of plopping baby in a bouncy seat, try tying helium balloons to his ankles and watch him marvel at what his kicks can do!