Infants are often left out as a demographic when people discuss fitness goals and establish physical exercise routines, writes Danae Dinkel, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha. We often assume that babies are active and energetic on their own, but research suggests that behaviours, choices, and everyday habits from adults actually have a big influence on how much infants move. And it’s really important for them to engage in physical activity to improve their motor development, bone health, and personal-social development.
As mentioned before in our post ‘Five Things I’ve Learned Raising a Toddler’, children do things in their own time — whether it’s speech or potty training. Parents tend to worry about everything, but babies and toddlers do eventually get there when they’re ready. Still, there is no harm in slowly guiding them and introducing them to new activities. Here is some of the equipment you can use for healthy baby development:
A Crawling Mat
Crawling mats are soft, washable, and durable mats designed for a baby’s playtime. These play mats give infants an opportunity to perfect “tummy time”, an essential workout routine where babies are placed on their front while awake to encourage the development of their core. Tummy time on a crawling mat lets babies learn to hold their heads up, strengthen their muscles, and work on their hand-eye coordination; tummy time also helps prevent skull deformations and tight neck muscles. Crawling mats come in a variety of colours, sizes, and materials — perfect as a safe play area for your baby to explore. UK brand Totter and Tumble makes their mats out of memory foam, so these are comfortable and easy to clean for any spills. Babies from three to six months of age will really enjoy rolling, crawling, and grasping around on these mats.
A Multi-functional Pram
Babies love to see new things, and going outdoors is essential to their growth. Travelling outside of home allows infants to experience different colours, movements, objects, smells, sounds, and textures, which is very formative for them. Of course, you can’t carry your child the whole time, so it’d be good to invest in a sturdy pram for them. Modern, ultra-compact strollers — as seen here on iCandy — are travel systems that are perfect for growing families. These are easy to manoeuvre, and very flexible for your family’s needs. Plus, staying in a pushchair lets children experience the world from a different perspective. They can’t immediately see you from behind, but they can sense your presence, so they can approach the world with some independence and self-awareness. The rhythm of movement will also help them coordinate movement between the eyes, head, and body, encouraging a sense of balance and visual-spatial perception.
A Set of Action Toys
Motor skills involve large muscle coordination and planning, and they’re required in the lead up to walking, running, skipping, jumping, or kicking. Adding a few action toys in your baby’s play area can encourage physical development and boost gross motor skills as they grow. For infants, this could include balls of different shapes and sizes, pull-toys, wagons, rocking horses, tunnels, swings, slides, and climbable surfaces. Action toys can start your baby on moving, and move them closer to key milestones.
A Set of manipulative toys
According to Katherine Isbister, professor of computational media at the University of California, children really need tactile engagement and stimulation. As primates, we have strong hand-eye coordination, sense of touch, and complicated proprioceptive systems (the sense that allows us to know where we are in a space). Children, in particular, have an unconscious need to exercise the smaller muscles on their hands and wrists. As babies learn to grab objects or build stacks of blocks, practising these simple activities allows them to master their fine motor skills. Manipulative toys like building bricks, stacking blocks, simple puzzles, nesting cups, lacing cards, and large threading beads allow them to learn this skill through play — laying the groundwork for future abilities like managing a fork and spoon or dressing themselves.