Watching our babies grow and develop is such an enormously rewarding part of being a parent. It can also be a time though when, rightly or wrongly, we can have worries about their development and if we are doing the 'best things' to support and help them.
Throughout these early days, what is most important to remember is that all babies are individual and will grow at their own rate and reach the various milestones, particularly in their motor skills, at different times. Some guidelines, and the advice of your health visitor, can be helpful to ensure that any potential developmental delays or problems are identified early, but worrying or following those charts too rigidly can take away from the joys of the personal journey that you and your baby are taking together as they grow.
That is not to say that your role is not important, and there are lots of things you can do to support your baby’s motor skills that will encourage their progress through the natural developmental stages, making the transitions through them easier and smoother.
When you feel they are ready, try some of the following activities with your child:
Improve neck control by making tummy time fun; in the early days keep it short. Keep your baby interested, one idea is to lie opposite them so they can see your face.
Play with your baby using appropriate toys or objects, encouraging them to reach and grasp.
Another way to improve grasping as your baby gets older is to place toys within reach while they are on their tummy
Gently stretch and move your baby's arms and legs or try some simple yoga-inspired poses or movements.
When your baby is able to push their chest off the floor in tummy time, they will soon start to rock from side to side. You can help this by gently rocking them to guide this motion. You can sing songs at the same time to increase enjoyment.
When your baby is ready to sit up with help, sit on the floor behind them with your legs open. This is a great position to play games such as the mirror game and sing action songs together.
When your baby is ready, allow them to sit unaided with lots of pillows around, always stay close and keep hard objects or surfaces out of the way.
When your baby starts becoming mobile, play games with them and join in with them, modelling the movements. For example, if your baby is trying to crawl, get on your hands and knees and do it with them. Additionally, you can create obstacle courses and put your baby’s favourite toys just out of reach.
Remember to keep your play time fun and always give your baby positive praise and encouragement as you do these activities.
If your baby was premature, their motor skills may be a little delayed. Sometimes, this is because of the necessary treatment that they received as newborns. Being on a ventilator means that baby is positioned differently to when in the womb. Health professionals are increasingly more aware of this and special positioning techniques are often used. This doesn’t completely make up for the different environment though and slight delays are perfectly normal. It’s worth remembering though that premature babies might just need a little more time and practice to master these skills and to take into account your baby’s corrected age, rather than their actual age, when measuring and tracking your little one’s development.
Whether your baby was premature or full term, and whatever age or stage your baby is at, don’t put too much pressure on either of you through these early weeks and months; try not to compare your little one with what other babies may be doing (or not doing) and focus on enjoying this time with your precious baby. As much as you want them to advance, it won’t be long till you are wishing they were infants again!
For more fun, age-appropriate activities, and the opportunity to help your baby to develop their motor skills in a fun, relaxed and comforting environment, why not come and join us at Tots Play classes? Attending a class will also give you lots of ideas on how you can incorporate these activities into life with your baby in new and engaging ways. Our class leaders can help you to tailor activities (if necessary) to suit your baby’s needs, so it’s never too early to start.
Find your nearest Tots Play class HERE, and get in touch with your local class leader to book your place today.
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