Just yesterday, as most days, a colleague at Kids Unlimited posted an excerpt talking about the importance of tummy time. Some responses offered an alternative article written on the RIE/Janet Lansbury blog highlighting the case against tummy time. I would like to directly respond to this article. There is much of RIE, Resources for Infant Educarers, I love and respect and use on a daily basis with my patients, clients and children. However, I do not agree with their beliefs on tummy time.
Babies at 9 to 12 months are really moving and grooving! They are in to almost everything and will likely be pulling to stand, cruising along furniture, and preparing to take those first few wobbly steps! This is also a bittersweet time for many parents (myself included) as you see your little baby vertical – even if holding on to something! Typically, by 9 months, babies are sitting unsupported and reaching for toys, crawling (tummy up or down) and by the end of this stage, babies are creeping, pulling to stand, cruising, and some may even be walking. Their ability to move in new ways (crawl, stand, even walk) makes it easier to explore and helps them make new discoveries.
Babies 6 to 8 months continue to move, play, and grow at an amazing rate! At times, it seems as though they are learning something new every day! Many of the same principles that we discussed in the post about play with your 4 to 6 month old continue to apply. Here are 5 new tips to consider:
SAFETY: A moving baby who puts everything into his mouth needs to be watched all the time because he can quickly swallow small objects or creep into unsafe places. Babies are not able to understand about danger. Lock away unsafe objects or put them high out of reach. Many experts advise to use the TP Rule: if an object can fit through the hole in a toilet paper tube, then it is too small for a child 3 and under to play with. If there are older siblings in the home, please teach this to them as well so they can be an active participant in determining what toys can be out when baby is playing. PLEASE ENSURE THE SAFETY OF YOUR BABY by childproofing! Get down on the floor, crawl around, and see what your little explorer could find!
Social: Time for play dates! Start early – this is as much for you as it is for your baby! People are much more interesting than things and babies love to see other little people that look like they do! You and baby will also create lasting friendships.
Stranger/Separation Anxieties: Expanding baby’s social circle is important but be aware of his sensitivity when around strangers and when separating from mom (stranger anxiety and separation anxiety). If you do have to leave, make sure you still say good bye and explain that you will be back.
Simple: Babies don’t need fancy toys! They can be happy playing with a set of measuring cups, exploring plastic bowls or a spoon, etc. The main point to remember is offering varying sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Remember, baby is not impressed by labels or price tags!
Sun, Sand, Snow: It’s time to get outdoors! Baby is now old enough to be outside with baby safe sunscreen so spend time enjoying it. Watch the trees moving in the wind and try to find birds, flowers, doggies, and other people. Talk about you are finding as you explore the environment! Baby loves to hear the sound of your voice and the more you speak in a happy, sing-song voice, the more your baby will listen, engage, and learn. Try and make some of the sounds that you hear. This is also a great time for more walks in the stroller or in the carrier. Don’t forget other fun activities like crawling on the grass, putting feet in the sand, playing with bubbles, to name a few.
Take time to truly marvel this amazing stage of development . . . it will be gone before you know it!
As a pediatric physical therapist and a mom, I have played with many toys! When I became a school therapist, I no longer had the luxury of being able to choose from many toys in many shapes and sizes. Instead, my therapy “equipment” had to fit in the trunk of my Toyota Corolla. I needed to have toys that were multi-functional, portable, and loads of fun.
As the years have passed, it seems harder to find these toys. Toy manufacturers are making more toys that are either: one trick ponies, overstimulating, or oversized. Perhaps it is becoming a bit too much? With the ever expanding influence of electronic media, our children spend more of their time being passively entertained by or minimally interacting by way of an electronic device. Today’s toys use onboard computers that dictate the play experience. This robs children of both unstructured play with friends and individual creative play.
A child’s job is to play. That is how they learn about themselves and their environment. A child’s natural curiosity facilitates learning from play. It is what childhood is all about. Toys can be “tools” to help a child grow physically, mentally, and socially. But, with so many toy options out there between the big toy stores, deal sites, and Amazon, how do you know what toy would be the best choice? Sure, you could read the list of reviews but here is another option. The American Occupational Therapy Association has put together a Checklist for Toy Shopping, which lists questions to consider before purchasing a toy. The Top 5 Questions that I use as a mom and a PT are listed below:
1.) Can the toy be played with in more than one way?
Building toys (blocks, bristle blocks, tinker toys) encourage creativity, problem solving, and also focus on fine motor skills and hand strengthening. Stacking cups are another great option. This simple toy can be used to build, hide, scoop/pour, put in/take out. In fact, this link provides 20 different ways to use stacking cups.
Think about some things that you may have used as toys when you were little! Tupperware, pots/pans, and cardboard boxes all inspire imaginative play in your little one for a fraction of the cost of many fancy toys on the market today. Stacking cups, measuring cups, Tupperware, and pots/pans can move from a play kitchen to the bath tub! You can “bake” many yummy items in the bath tub with cups and bowls and it also reinforces activities such as pouring/mixing (ingredients), counting (cups of flour), etc.
2.) Does the toy appeal to more than one sense?
We want the child to be drawn to a toy and to remain interested. Often, bright colors, lights, music, and textures will do just that. However, be cautious not to provide too much stimulation! A toy that provides too much can have the adverse effect of shut down or disinterest. Instead of your child pushing a button and hearing music, consider musical instruments. They are portable, encourage rhythm and imagination. Helpful hint: if you do have a toy that is too loud, try placing tape over the speaker to dampen the sound.
3.) Can the toy be used in more than one place?
Consider items such as crayons, write on boards, stickers, and small steno pads carried in a small bag for trips to restaurants, etc. Toys like wood puzzles and magnet toys (animals, letters, etc.) can also be moved from room to room. I have used magnet toys for many different activities as well. Remember, you can always use a cookie sheet to stick the magnets to if a metal surface isn’t always nearby.
4.) Can the toy be used in more than one position?
Play mats are great for tummy time but also for practicing side lying and for reaching up in supine. Books can often be read in more than one position. It is often a wonderful idea to encourage our children to read, write, and color on their tummies (strengthens neck and back muscles while providing shoulder and forearm stability) since most of their day is spent upright in sitting, standing, and playing!
5.) Does the toy encourage activity and movement?
As a pediatric physical therapist, I love toys that encourage movement. Yet, if you think about it, you can make many toys encourage movement. Think about using bean bags, puzzle pieces, blocks, or stickers as a means to encourage physical activity with your child. Set up puzzle pieces at one end of the room and the puzzle board on another. Have your child do a different animal walk to retrieve each puzzle piece! Side walk chalk can be used to draw hopscotch boards, obstacle courses instead of simply drawing! Bean Bags serve as wonderful items to search for in a scavenger hunt!
Consider the “old school” toys for encouraging movement as well: balls, jump ropes, riding toys. With movement, encourage use of the arms and legs to build strength in the large muscle groups but also to work on developing balance and coordination. Jump ropes can be used as snakes to jump over and lines to walk along!
In the end, make sure that the toy is developmentally appropriate for your child to prevent frustration and encourage independence. In therapy, we often work to find the “just right challenge” – making the activity challenging enough to foster growth but does not overwhelm them or cause frustration. Choosing the right tools for play is so important. Hopefully the checklist and ideas provided have helped you begin looking at toys in a new way and have allowed you to become more excited about the role of toys and play as your child moves, plays, and grows!
We are nearly in the swing of all things Holiday and that means a more overwhelming “to do” list, schedule changes, and added stress for the adults. It is also a time when many kiddos can become overstimulated, overscheduled, and overtired. Here are some strategies that may help us all have a more “over”joyed holiday season with our kids:
Routine: DO try and stick with your routine to decrease stress levels of the family! When possible, try keeping normal nap, bed, and eating times to avoid increased irritability. If our babies and kiddos know that their routine “travels” too, they are less likely to be anxious or stressed by not knowing what is coming next. Bringing a comfort item from home can also help with the differences.
Remind/Rehearse: For children preschool age and older, as the holidays approach, routines change at home but also significantly at school as well. It is important to compensate by providing greater predictability and structure at home. Some children may benefit from visual or verbal prompts to remind them of the different events throughout the day that stray from the “norm.” Consider making a holiday calendar. Create a list or insert pictures of planned activities that are outside the regular routine.
Respect: DO show respect for your child’s age and stage. At four months, I know that baby is more alert and becoming more attached to mama. I want to be respectful of just how overwhelming new faces, sounds, smells, etc. may be to this new little life. I also respect that my preschooler may still be a bit shy around family he has not seen in some time. Talk to your child about good times with each relative. Then, as you introduce them, you can remind them of the pleasant story and your child may feel like they know them. Pictures are also helpful! If a child is sensitive to touch, perhaps offer for him to give a “high five” instead of a hug!
Realize: Do realize each child’s limits and build in some down/quiet time for the babies and younger kiddos! Some quiet time with mom or dad, reading, talking or resting, often allows the child to reset. When possible, try to schedule only one or two outings per day as this is often plenty for young kids. Remember the malls and stores are now more crowded with people, “things,” decorations, etc. This bombardment can overwhelm even the strongest of sensory systems!
Reward Yourself: Mamas are often the glue that keep the family together and running smoothly. We can feel a tremendous emotional fatigue during the holidays -which means fewer emotional resources with which to manage our kids. If we are emotionally fatigued and anxious, we are not available to be there for our kids emotionally. Try not to overload yourself with obligations or extra stressors . . . the holidays in themselves bring plenty of extra! Sometimes with extra hands around you can get some extra “YOU” time. Reward yourself mama, you deserve it!
Our childrens’ behavior is highly meaningful and they are communicating something with their actions. It is our job to watch, listen and interpret the message. I am hoping to be more aware of that this holiday season.
Now, on your marks, get set . . . “Holiday”!! ~ Rachel