Babies need to move just like grown-ups do. The only problem is, they can’t. Sure, newborns can wiggle. And, yeah, pre-crawlers can roll. But it’s not the same as big time movement through space.
Did you know that a baby’s movement sense (called the vestibular system) lives in the inner ear and is developed by the end of the FIRST trimester of pregnancy? So before mama has even said good-bye to morning sickness, baby has said hello to the sense of movement. So cool!
That being said, babies are primed for movement the moment they are born! Ever noticed how happy and/or calm babies often become when they are carried, bounced, or swung? And the more comfortable they can become with being moved through various positions and directions in space at a young age, the more likely they will be to “integrate” those movement experiences in the brain so they can apply that information to later sensory and motor development.
So how do you help babies move before they are able to move and crawl on their own? Here are four ideas:
1) Wear your baby. Often touted for its ability to promote bonding with parents and free up a grown-up’s hands, wearing your baby in a sling or baby carrier also provides baby with lots of opportunity to experience the natural movement and rhythm of everyday life: walking, sitting, stopping, etc. Some baby carriers that are okay for baby’s body include over-the-shoulder slings, Moby Wrap, K’tan Baby Carrier, and Ergo Baby Carrier.
2) Play with your baby on an exercise ball. Pre-crawlers are fully capable of enjoying movement provided on an exercise ball! Not sure what I’m talking about? Exercise balls are a great way to introduce tummy time, especially for the baby who despises it (find out how by clicking here), and they are also a fun way to give baby the chance to bounce, rock, and roll back and forth. Not sure how to play with baby on an exercise ball? No worries, check out my post, “How to Play with Your Baby on an Exercise Ball“, and be sure to watch the video demonstration!
3) Dance with your baby. Turn on some music or simply hold your baby and waltz or spin around your house. Try holding baby in different positions such as airplane, cuddle out, or side lying (pictured below). Bounce, move, and spin while holding your baby and then FREEZE! every 30 seconds or so to give baby’s vestibular system and brain and chance to process all that movement and then “reset” in order to get ready for the next set of dance moves. Dancing with baby is actually one of my top 10 tips to help baby learn to roll! Check out all 10 tips for helping babies learn to roll by clicking here.
4. Let your baby bounce himself. As a pediatric OT, I tend to shy away from recommending baby equipment such as swings, saucers, and jumpers because they can impede babies’ development by restricting their movement opportunities or placing their joints in compromising positions. However, I tend to be okay making exceptions when it comes to baby bouncers such as the one pictured to the right. The reasons I’m okay with them are 1) baby is the one who initiates the movement (as opposed to a mechanical swing) and, thus, is able to control and “integrate” the movement experience, and 2) these bouncers don’t necessarily place baby in a compromising position. Try not to let baby spend more than about 10 minutes at time in these bouncers, and check baby’s head to make sure a flat spot isn’t forming on either side from spending too much time with the head turned one direction while bouncing. If you notice a flat spot, mention it to the pediatrician at the next visit and be sure to encourage baby to spend time with his head turned both directions when in the bouncer and when spending time on his back. When used appropriately, baby bouncers such as these can be a great way to give those active babies (and you know who they are!) a chance to move their little bodies as they kick, bounce, and coo in delight!
Any other suggestions for ways to get babies moving?