Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 6 – Standing

It’s time for your baby to get up off the floor and see the world from a higher point-of-view.  Standing, cruising and walking are the next major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year that we’ll be exploring over the next two days.

Your baby has probably been bearing weight on her legs since she was just a few months old.  By the time your baby is 6 months old she will likely be able to bear most of her own weigh on her legs but will still need you to keep her balanced.  In the following months she will begin pulling up on furniture and anything else that can assist her on her mission to explore the world.   Standing independently may not happen until closer to 9 months and that will be for only a few seconds.  Typically babies can stand on their own without support for longer than three seconds sometime around their first birthday.

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year:  Part 6 – StandingOne of the best ways to promote standing is to take the focus (and pressure) off of your baby and activate them through motivation.  Stop talking about standing and instead encourage your baby to discover new things.  This means you’ll need exciting new things for your baby to want to do.

First, start moving your baby’s favorite toys to higher play spaces.  Put them on a cardboard box, plastic table or on top of stacked couch cushions.  In order to play with them, your baby will have to practice pulling up.  Also get out and explore new places.  There are many exciting things to see in nature and your baby can view them all the better by puling up on railings, fences and play equipment.  Seeing something for the first time may be just the encouragement your bay needs.

Also invest in toys that will interest your baby in standing.  An activity table with removable legs is perhaps the best place to start because it can progressively grow with your baby.  First take the legs off and let your baby play with the table during tummy time and with assisted sitting.  Add two legs and lay the table at a diagonal for side play and more sitting.  Then add all the legs back so your baby will have to stand to enjoy the toy.  Easels, train tables, water tables, play kitchens, baby basketball hoops and car ramps are excellent choices and ones that your infant will enjoy for many years to come.  Get creative and make your own elevated play toys using boxes, laundry baskets and toy bins.

Excitement, encouragement and confidence are all necessary for your baby to begin standing and eventually walking.  Let older children and peers be role models to your baby so she sees that she too could stand like them.  When she makes strides towards standing, be your baby’s biggest cheerleader.  The more she knows mommy believes in her the more confident she will be.

Tomorrow we’ll be rounding out our series on major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year with walking.  See you then!

Sources:  Mama OT and Dinosaur Physical Therapy

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 5 – Crawling

While rolling is an initial means of transportation for babies, crawling turns up the engine quite a bit.  But crawling is an exciting major developmental milestone that is so much more important than getting around.  Crawling has many overall physical, cognitive and sensory developmental benefits that will help your baby well beyond infancy into her school-aged years.  Today we’re looking at the benefits and mechanics of crawling as part of our series on major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year.

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year:  Part 5 - CrawlingThe Benefits of Crawling

Crawling yields many benefits that your baby will carry with her for years to come.  On a physical level she will develop her muscles and joints required for gross motor skills.  This will help her with postural control, which is when the body maintains alignment by activating muscles around the body part your baby is trying to control.  It’s all about stability and mobility.

In addition, crawling promotes transitional movements as the all-fours stance makes it easier to get into other positions.  Crawling also strengths muscles around the rib cage that are linked to talking and eating.  Furthermore, the bilateral coordination necessary for crawling supports brain development.  Specifically it improves nerve fibers that allow the right and left brain hemispheres to communicate with one another.

Here’s something you may be surprised to learn: crawling helps develop fine motor skills too.  Because crawling is dependent on bearing weight on the hands, many important muscles are activated and movements are strengthened.  These include lengthening fingers, developing hand arches, improving grasp and even improving the ability to hold a pencil for future writing.

On the sensory side, crawling requires a lot of visual coordination, depth perception, special awareness and interpreting sights.  Crawling also helps babies process many senses at one time as they are seeing, hearing and feeling many new sensations at once.  Plus, babies learn “motor planning” by being faced with new experiences and learning how to manipulate themselves and their surroundings to accomplish something.

Helping Your Baby Crawl

Pre-crawling skills incorporate all of the smaller and major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year, including strengthening the core, neck, arms and legs through tummy time, back and side playtime, rolling and sitting.  Let your baby spend as much time as possible practicing these skills.  Belly crawling and pivoting may emerge from time spent playing on the ground, which are super duper for learning to crawl.

Other helpful ways you can encourage crawling is by elevating your baby’s upper body to force her to bear weight on her knees.  You can also put a rolled towel or blanket beneath her belly to reminder her to lift her core when on all fours.  An exercise ball or other dynamic surfaces can help your baby learn balance, stability and coordination while also continuing to strengthen the essential muscles for crawling.

Of course motivating your baby into motion with exciting toys and your own encouragement is also a big help.  Just as you have down throughout the other major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year, place toys or yourself just out of reach so your baby has to work hard to reach her goals.  Using vibrant toys, mirrors, a tunnel or going outdoors are all terrific ways to promote crawling.  Always give her plenty of safe space to explore.  Discovering new delightful experiences will only support your baby’s desire to be active.

Now that your baby is on-the-move, it’s time to get ready for the big leagues: standing and walking.  We’ll discuss those major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year tomorrow.

Source:  MamaOT

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 4 – Sitting

We’re back with our second week of our series on major milestones in your baby’s first year.  Today we’re talking about sitting.  You probably won’t be surprised to learn that all those great strengthening activities and skills your baby has learned doing tummy time, back playtime, side lying and rolling are exactly how she will learn to sit independently.

Independent sitting usually occurs around seven or eight months of age.  This is when your baby will probably be able to get into a sitting position on her own, sit upright without support and shift her weight while sitting (such as leaning forward to reach a toy).  Your baby may be able to sit unassisted at around six months if placed in a sitting position, however your goals should be to allow your baby to learn how to sit by getting into her own sitting position and feel confident about it.

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 4 - SittingTo reach this stage of independent sitting, your baby will need to achieve several smaller milestones first.  The process includes neck control during tummy time, holding her head up when she’s being held upright, sitting with a caregiver’s support, sitting using a dynamic surface (like a boppy), sitting using her own hands for support, and sitting for short periods unassisted but with a caregiver close by for safety.  The final step is independent sitting.

Helping your baby progress through these stages is essential to her successful sitting.  Start with lots of tummy time and add in some variations, such as using a therapy ball, wedge or disc.  Then have your baby practice supported sitting on these surfaces as well as your lap.  Challenge your baby’s core strength by having to correct her positioning and balance herself when you move the support surface.  Also practice moving your baby from various lying positions into a sitting position.

Occupational therapists do not recommend sitting contraptions that support a baby in a sitting position if your baby would not otherwise be able to sit.  Instead, they encourage other methods for stabilizing your baby as a better route to independent sitting.  You can use a boppy, storage bin, baby bathtub, pack-n-play or the corner of a room (with a little added cushioning) to help your baby sit upright.

Sitting gives your baby new perspective on the world.  Playtime will take on new meaning when your baby can sit and manipulate toys in front of her.  This is also a great opportunity for older siblings to have some meaningful playtime with your baby at their own level.  Remember, fostering independent, functional sitting through strength-building and practice will produce a confident and proud sitter.

Tomorrow we’re getting back down on all fours to talk about crawling!

Sources:  MamaOT and Dinosaur Physical Therapy

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 3 – Rolling

When your baby is between three and six months old she’ll probably show signs of being ready to roll.  This is the first major physical developmental milestone so parents get very excited, and often worried, about it.  And it’s the first time your baby will be mobile – the beginning of a lifetime of movement.   Today we’re helping you get your baby ready to rock and roll as part 3 of our series on major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year.

The more time your baby spends on her tummy, back and sides, the better shot she has of rolling.  These positions all contribute to the strength she will need to first roll from tummy to back and then roll from her back to her tummy, which is the order in which most babies roll.  Spending too much idle time in baby chairs and swings won’t give babies the experiences they need to learn to roll.

major developmental milestonesTo prepare your baby for rolling, work on pre-rolling skills.  When you put your baby down on the changing table, in the crib or on a play area, twist her body in a rolling motion.  She’ll have to keep her head in line with her body and will become familiar with this rolling movement.  When you pick up your baby, reverse the motion.  Also encourage your baby to bend her knees towards her chest in a tucked “happy baby” pose.  You can carry or wear your baby tucked or in a side-laying position too.

When its time for execution of the move, allow your baby many opportunities a day to practice.  This means lots of tummy time, back play and side lying so she can start to use her strength and skills for the greater good of mobility.  You should aim for at least one session before and after naps.  Like anything else in life, you usually don’t succeed without a lot of practice!

Entice her movement with toys or other fun objects that she may want to get her hands on.  Move the object around to her side and the upward until she starts to reach and possibly get into a rolling ready position.  If she loses interest, start over by showing her the item and moving it again, just out of reach.  Often babies get stuck when they try to roll at first so help your baby get over the hump and then give her lots of praise for completing the roll.  Also, let her have the toy she wanted to show her that rolling yields rewards.

Once your baby learns to roll, she will realize that things she wants to get her hands on are actually attainable for her.  This is a major discovery in her life and is the budding encouragement she’ll need to crawl and walk one day.

Next week we’ll start talking about sitting up, crawling, standing and walking as major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year.

Sources:  MamaOT and Starfish Therapy

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 2 – Back Playtime

In our second part of Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year we’re getting the low down on back playtime.  These essential steps are critical to more active milestones like crawling and walking.  Find out how you can stimulate your baby physically and cognitively through back playtime.

Yesterday we talked about tummy time.  On the flip side, lying in a supine position during playtime is also an important step towards major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year.  And your baby may like this one better!

Your baby can participate in back playtime just about anywhere, but using a play gym or play mat is recommended by most occupational therapists.  These multi-functional baby toys give your baby a soft place to lie and plenty of activities to enjoy.  They usually include brightly colored objects with a variety of textures and sometimes even sounds for your baby to discover.

major developmental milestonesAs toys hang above your baby or to her side, your baby will learn to focus on objects at a distance that is accurate for her eyesight.  This helps develop perception.  As the objects move, she will learn cause and effect relationships, first unintentionally and eventually she will initiate them on purpose.  While much of the early movement is caused by reflexes, by around six months your baby will learn the control and coordination necessary to grasp toys dangled over her head or that are by her side so she can explore them.

Holding on to objects is a key skill itself.  Babies can usually do this by around three months.  As your baby gets older she will begin putting objects in her mouth, which is how most babies initially learn about things and experience the world.  At first your baby’s hand movements will be centered but eventually she will learn to “cross the midline” which is an invisible vertical line that divides your baby’s body in half.  This skill helps develop vital components of your baby’s brain and is necessary for crawling, hand-eye coordination and other fine motor development in the future.

Kicking is also a great skill your baby can work on in a supine position.  You can encourage kicking by playing “footsie” with your baby and pushing your feet gently against hers.  You can also hold noisy objects in front of your baby for her to kick such as a rattle or tissue paper, let her knock down soft blocks or cups with her feet, or tie a balloon to her foot to let her see how her kicking affects its movement.

With plenty of tummy time and back playtime, your baby will be ready for her first major developmental milestone: rolling.  And that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about tomorrow!

Sources:  MamaOT, CanDo Kiddo and Starfish Therapy

 

Major Developmental Milestones in your Baby’s First Year: Part 1 – Tummy Time

This week and next week we’re examining the major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year and offering tips for helping your baby progress.  Many of these tips are straight from pediatric occupational therapists and pediatricians who know the tricks of the trade.

Your baby’s health and development is your top priority.  By breastfeeding your baby, you’re nourishing her insides with the very best nutrition on the planet.  Working with your baby on developing strength for major physical milestones and gross motor skills complements all of your hard work in breastfeeding your baby.  Combined, these gifts you’re giving your baby will help her thrive.

major developmental milestonesWhat are the major developmental milestones in your babies first year?  Your pediatrician may ask you about many developmental milestones, but the ones we’re focusing on this week are major physical skills, known as gross motor skills, that also have a sensory component.  These include: rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking.  But before any of that can be done, your baby must learn to use her body by spending time on her tummy, back and sides.  Today we’re focusing on the tummy.

After you have a baby, you hear a lot about tummy time.  And we mean A LOT!  That’s because tummy time is very important for your babe.  First of all, it allows her to spend time off of the back of her head to avoid flat head syndrome.  But that’s really just an added benefit.

The real reason tummy time is so important is that it is the foundation for all of the other major physical developmental milestones.  Tummy time helps strengthen your baby’s head, neck, back and core and she will slowly gain coordination and balance through the process.  Tummy time is also linked to many other crucial life skills such as hand-eye coordination, confidence and focus.  Since the “back to sleep” campaign in the 90’s when pediatricians realized it is safest for babies to sleep on their backs, strengthening the upper body and core muscles through tummy time is even more critical.

Tummy time should begin when your baby is a newborn.  It can be done in short sessions throughout the day.  Most occupational therapists recommend up to an hour of tummy time per day for young infants.  You’ll notice that your baby will get stronger as she practices tummy time more often and gets older.  At first she may on rest of her head on the ground but soon she’ll start to lift and turn her head, push up on her elbows, bear weight on her hands and even reach for toys.

Many parents dread tummy time because it can be a miserable experience for babies.  It is hard work, after all.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:  Tummy time can be done in a variety of ways.  Lying face down on a mat is only one example.  You can also do tummy time on an exercise ball, in your baby’s crib, on the changing table, laying across your knees or lying on your chest.  In fact, any time your baby is not lying on her back and is holding up her own head is strengthening the essential muscles required for gross motor skills.

Make tummy time fun for your baby by being vibrant and enthusiastic.  Talk, sing, smile and encourage your baby during tummy time sessions.  Use sensory toys to engage your baby including rattles, mirrors, books, toys that talk, toys that crinkle and just about anything that is interesting to look at.  Your very own face may be your baby’s favorite object so use that to your advantage during tummy time.

Tummy time is your baby’s first workout and the basis for strength and coordination of other major developmental milestones in your baby’s first year.  Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the importance of back playing as it relates to gross motor development.

Sources:  MamaOT, Pink Oatmeal, Golden Reflections Blog and Starfish Therapy

How to Avoid Flat Head Syndrome

Your precious newborn baby’s head is delicate for several reasons.  First, she needs help holding up her head because her neck muscles cannot yet do the job. Additionally a newborn baby’s skull is very soft and not yet closed.  Since babies spend most of their time on their backs due to weak neck muscles and their skulls are still malleable, they are at risk of developing flat head syndrome.  Today we’re taking a look at how to avoid flat head syndrome.

How to Avoid Flat Head Syndrome

When you look at your baby’s head you probably find it super adorable and kissable.  Well, it is that, but it also has two soft spots known as fontanels.  One fontanel is towards the front of her head and the other towards the back.  These allow the baby’s head some flexibility during birth since space is rather narrow in the birth canal, as you can imagine. Also, these openings between bones allow plenty of space for your baby’s most important brain to grow.  The back fontanel closes by around 4 months of age and the front one should be fully closed by 19 months.

Many parents are worried about touching the soft spots but the truth is it’s ok to touch them gently.  Sometimes touching them is unavoidable, like when you’re getting your baby dressed or when you are washing her hair.  You are unlikely to damage anything during normal daily activities.

The bigger concern about a baby’s head is flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly.  With that back fontanel and the fact that your baby is placed on her back often for neck support and sleep, some babies develop a flat spot on the back of their heads. This has been even more common since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that babies sleep on their backs to avoid risk of SIDS.  Between sleeping on her back, enjoying her bouncy chair and infant swing, and riding in a car seat, there’s a lot of pressure on the back of your baby’s head that may cause it to be misshapen.

Fortunately, there are some ways to avoid flat head syndrome.  First, be conscious of how much time your baby spends on her back.  For sleep it is a necessity but for waking hours, try not to leave her in chairs and swings too long.  A better alternative is holding her or wearing her in a baby sling or carrier.  As her neck strength improves and she can hold her head up for longer periods of time, you can hold her in a sitting position for play time.

Tummy time is also recommended for infants until they learn to crawl.  Tummy time has several advantages.  First, it builds neck muscles for eventual autonomous head holding.  It also strengthens your baby’s core muscles that she’ll need for crawling and a variety of other activities very soon.  And tummy time gives you baby a time-out from lying on her head and potentially creating a flat spot.  Aim for multiple tummy time sessions a day for as long as your baby will tolerate it.

Also, try to position your baby’s head differently when she does need to put pressure on it.  Chances are she’s going to have a favorite head position.  Counter-balance her position by laying her on the opposite side sometimes.  When breastfeeding you’ll naturally alternate sides.  Do the same for bottle feeding.

If your baby’s head continues to develop a flat spot that is not improving by 6 months, your pediatrician may recommend cranial orthotic therapy where your baby will wear a custom-fit helmet for a certain period of time until the issue is resolved.

Addressing the problem early is the key to avoid flat head syndrome.  Watch for signs and use these tips to help keep some pressure off of your baby’s head.

6 Ways to do Tummy Time

Tummy time is an important strength building activity for babies.  Placing your baby on her stomach several times a day will help build neck, shoulder, back and core muscles that are vital to your baby’s physicality.  Babies that get plenty of time on their tummies daily tend to roll over and crawl earlier.  As a newborn, tummy time can be done briefly a few times a day.  By three months, tummy time should be done at least four or five times daily for a total of 20 to 30 minutes.

Tummy time also helps prevent babies from having flat heads, or positional plagiocephaly.  Experts urge parents to put babies to sleep on their backs because it reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).  However, too much time lying on the back in the same position can misshape the head, making tummy time even more valuable to your baby’s development.

tummy time__1457980829_162.206.228.38Tummy time should always be supervised.  Many babies get fussy during tummy time so be present and encouraging in order to engage your baby during this experience.  You can use toys to distract your baby and entice her to turn or lift her head.

Doing tummy time in different positions will further strengthen your baby’s muscles and provide a change of scenery for you and your baby.  To keep things fresh and interesting for everyone, try these 6 ways to do tummy time:

On a Blanket:  The traditional way to do tummy time is on the floor with your baby on a blanket.  If you have hard floors, put a soft mat underneath the blanket to ensure your baby doesn’t hit her head too hard on the ground.  Your baby should be positioned on her belly with hands to the side and slightly forward.  Legs can be stretched long or curled under your baby.  Get on the floor with your baby – she loves to see your face and hear your voice.  It can be your first of many times you’ll cheer on your child from the sidelines.

On a Table:  Getting on the floor for tummy time may be hard for some adults.  You can set your baby on a table, even her changing table, for tummy time.  This allows you to stand or sit next to her, which may be more comfortable.  Again, make sure the surface is not too hard underneath and always keep one hand on your baby to ensure she doesn’t fall off.

In a Crib:  Your baby’s crib is a terrific place to do tummy time.  While she’s sleeping she will always be placed on her back, but for supervised tummy time she can be on her stomach.  Add a few toys for her to look at during tummy time, but be sure to remove them before she sleeps as nothing should be in the crib with your infant while she is sleeping.

On a Boppy or Pillow:  Using a boppy or other type of firm pillow, lay your baby horizontally with her chest against the surface and her legs on the floor.  This positions your baby differently and therefore helps work her muscles differently too.  You may notice that she uses her feet to push herself up, almost as if she’s climbing stairs.  This is great for the legs.  Many infants prefer tummy time on a pillow, especially in the early months.

On your Chest:  Before or after breastfeeding is a wonderful time for tummy time.  You’re already holding your baby so place her on your chest on her tummy and let her use your body as a surface.  She will probably want to move her head to look at you.  This skin-to-skin contact has many other developmental advantages as well, and the warmth of your body will be comforting to your baby, even if she isn’t a fan of tummy time.

On your Lap:  Lap tummy time is excellent for newborns who need extra support, but can also be done easily any time you or someone else is holding your baby.  Simply lay your baby across your lap with her arms to the side.  She may like this form of tummy time best since she still gets human contact during the experience.

Make tummy time a priority for your baby.  It’s hard work for both of you, but like any other exercise, “no pain, no gain.”

What’s the Big Deal about Crawling?

What’s the Big Deal about Crawling?Although it once was, crawling is no longer considered a critical baby milestone.  Some babies never crawl but rather find other means of mobility until they begin to walk.  However, there are certainly some benefits to crawling that will make life easier and more interesting for your baby.  Today we’re exploring the mechanics and advantages of crawling.

How does a baby learn to crawl?

Babies usually learn to crawl between seven and 10 months of age, although some may be outliers on either end of this spectrum.  Since the return of “back to sleep” where babies are put to sleep on their backs, the average age for babies to begin crawling has trended on the later side.

After lots of tummy time, your baby will have mastered holding his own head up and looking in both directions, as well as rolling.  He’ll be happily kicking and batting at things starting around three or four months.  And by six to eight months, he will be able to sit up without support.  This is around the time your baby will also discover that he can push up on his hands and knees for a taller view of the world.  From there, he’ll probably start rocking back and forth and then eventually propel his arms and legs forwards or backwards.

Some babies may start “crawling” in a different fashion, however.  Some babies stay seated and use their legs and arm muscles to scoot on their bottoms.  Other babies slide on their stomachs as their preferred mode of transportation.  And still others use one foot for a boost, making them look half crab-half baby.  All babies are different and any of these methods will work just fine.  Also, your baby may evolve from one type of crawl to another over time.

You can encourage your baby to crawl by offering lots of tummy time and muscle-building opportunities.  Crawling takes core strength in addition to arm and leg muscles.  Tummy time builds each of these areas.  Also, allowing your baby to reach for objects with his arms and legs will encourage movement and muscle growth.  When your baby shows readiness to crawl, create incentives like putting a toy just out of reach so he will want to move towards it.  The brighter, more colorful and more exciting the toy is, the more enticing it will be.  But do make sure you have baby-proofed by the time your baby is crawling!

Benefits of crawling

Crawling is a great stepping-stone for strengthening muscles even further, which will help with skills like walking, running and jumping.  But the psychological advantages go far beyond that.  Once your baby learns to crawl he can explore his world in an entirely different way.  He will be able to discover new things on his own, not just what you place in front of him.  He will have to navigate his surroundings and he will become much more aware of his environment, including that some things go well beyond what he originally thought.  Crawling is one of the first opportunities your baby can truly be goal-oriented, and he has to stay pretty focused to achieve his goals.  Plus, crawling allows your baby to experience a new range of emotions and intensifies your relationship too.

If you are concerned about your baby’s physical development because he is not crawling, you should talk to your pediatrician.  Your doctor probably won’t be concerned if lack of crawling is the only physical symptom your baby displays.  Like we already said, crawling is not really a milestone anyways.  If other physical delays present themselves, your pediatrician may want to explore further testing or therapies.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 2: How to Help Your Baby Develop Muscles

Earlier this week we discussed the development of your baby’s gross motor skills and the importance of strong muscles to achieve these milestones.  Now that you have an understanding of how your baby’s muscles emerge, we’re moving on to some practical skills training for how to help your baby develop muscles.

First, we like to call it “baby bodybuilding” because it reminds us that we’re strengthening our babies and getting them ready to physically explore the world around them.  Lifting the head, moving the eyes, scooting around, bringing things to the mouth and all of the other amazing things your baby is learning to do helps her discover her surroundings and make deeper brain connections.  Much like adult bodybuilding, it’s actually pretty hard work for your little buddle of joy.  She may let you know that with a grunt or cry once in awhile.  Be sure to give lots of encouragement and love along the way.  Extra praise and cuddles are most definitely in order during strength building activities.  And certainly that fantastic breast milk of yours will give her the nutrients needed for her “workouts.”

Here are some of the best activities for how to help your baby develop muscles:

Freedom:  Beware of trapping and strapping your baby down too often.  Babies need the opportunity to explore and move about as they choose.  This freedom from strollers, cribs, swings and bouncy chairs will be your baby’s first gym floor.  Even if she cannot move very much or very far yet, she’ll feel the freedom and encouragement to do so when she’s ready.

Baby Bodybuilding Part 2:  How to Help Your Baby Develop MusclesTummy Time:  Babies now sleep on their backs (the safest way for babies to sleep) and spend less time on their stomachs where they have to learn to lift their head to view their environment.  Therefore, it’s your job as a parent to carve out tummy time where your little one can build neck, abdominal and back strength.  This is how she will learn to hold up her head on her own and eventually roll over.  Tummy time can be done in a variety of ways including on a play mat, yoga mat, your bed, a pillow or on your chest.  You can stimulate your baby by getting on the floor with her and enticing her with exciting toys of vibrant colors, textures and sounds.  Tummy time also helps your baby avoid having a flat head.

Baby Workout:  Take time each day, or several times a day, to move your baby’s body around for her.  Help her kick her legs up, open and in a bicycle motion.  Stretch her arms above her head and to the side.  Crunch her little body up for some mini sit-ups.  Clap her hands and feet together.  Make up a dance with multiple movements.  Bounce her on your legs.  This fun routine will help strengthen her muscles and you’ll probably get a few giggles too.  Try getting in a “workout” on the changing table each time you change a diaper.

Help Her Try New Things:  Some babies dive in to new adventures head first – literally!  Others are a little more cautious.  Hold your baby’s hand or give her a push when she’s trying a new activity to show her that she can indeed do it.  Sometimes this boost is all the confidence she needs to try it on her own.

Baby Massage:  Just like every good athlete, a soothing massage is in order after a workout.  Babies love massages and it can trigger some strong muscle development too.  Additionally, massages are comforting and relaxing to babies and make them feel warm and loved, which of course they are.  Try a baby massage before bedtime to get your baby in a calm state for sleep.

Tasting the World:  It may make germaphobic parents across the globe cringe but babies explore with their mouths.  And the act of bringing something to the mouth is great for their gross motor skills.  Scooting, crawling or walking to find something to put in their mouths is even better yet.  Ensure your baby has plenty of safe and sanitary items to put in her mouth and that she doesn’t miss the opportunity by always sucking on a pacifier.

Be Physically Active:  Kids need to be active.  Encouraging physical activity from a young age is one of the best ways to keep kids healthy and to avoid the epidemic of obesity.  Health professionals recommend at least one hour of physical activity per day for children.  Start the habit now for your baby’s strong and healthy future.