Author Archives: donna


My baby is now six months old and has really got the hang of rolling from back to belly.  She does it a lot.  Once she is on her belly she has a tendency to go into airplane mode (legs in the air, arms out to the sides slightly behind her) and can get very frustrated.  She knows how to roll back, she just doesn’t want to, and resists my attempts to help her.  If she whinges (cries) a lot I pick her up, but she often reaches to go straight back down again, so he’s obviously trying to do something with it.  I think she’s trying to move forwards, but doesn’t know how to get going.  -From a mother in Scotland


In the airplane movement baby lifts both arms and legs off of the ground at the same time, with the arms straight out to the side.  This happens when baby is in tummy time.  To teach baby to keep her hands on the floor, and even learn to push up with them, you can try a few exercise with her.  Start with her on her back and try bending and extending one arm several times. Move her hand toward the ceiling to extend (straighten) it and bend the arm by bringing the elbow down toward the floor.  As you extend her hand toward the ceiling, gradually move her hand so it is more over the middle of her body (her breast bone).  She is familiar with the pattern of reaching her arms straight out to the sides as she does in the airplane action on her stomach.  This exercise is giving her the experience of moving her arms more toward her center, a less familiar place.  As she gets familiar with this place in space it will be easier for her to find it when she is on her stomach.


Try put her in tummy time and give her a toy that she will want to explore with both hands.  This will bring both hands more toward the midline as keep them there for awhile as she plays with the toy.  When she does have her hands on the floor you can lightly brush the tops of her hands with your fingers and gently press the palm of her hand down to cue her to push that part of her hand into the floor.  This is “grounding the airplane,” helping baby connect to the floor.  Baby will learn that the floor is helpful for her, for example, the more she leans on it the higher she can lift her head.


How do we ground the legs?  When she is on her back try brushing the legs with your fingers from the top of the hip to the tips of her toes.  Make long brushing strokes with your fingers so she develops clear proprioception of the legs.  When she is on her tummy repeat this brushing of the legs so she becomes aware that she is lifting them off of the ground.  Then gently press her pelvis down into the floor so she feels the contact there.  Then try gently moving one leg further away from the floor a few times to go with the pattern she is activating.   Then bring her thigh a little closer to the floor and gently press it into the floor so she has the sensation of it leaning on the floor.  Repeat this a few times.  You are giving her the experience of feeling what it feels like to move the leg further away from the floor and to lean on the floor.  Her system will soon choose the more efficient pattern, which is leaning on the floor.


Take a moment and ask yourself if you occasionally hold baby up toward the sky like and airplane.  If so, observe how her arms go straight out to the sides and her legs go up.  This activity can trigger the startle reflex.  She may be learning this airplane pattern in this activity.  Take a break from this activity for awhile and try some other developmental games suggested in this post.



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Motor boating, also known as blowing raspberries, is a very playful and developmental activity for babies.  The funny sound intrigues their curiosity and they are inclined to try and imitate you.  Motor boating gives a strong sensation to their lips, enhancing  awareness and facilitating speech development.  For speech development, babies benefit from activities which increase their ability to move their lips and tongue.  You can help baby learn to create this sound by repeating it a few times with your face close enough to baby’s so she can clearly see how you are moving your lips to make the sound.  Do not be surprised if she wants to reach out and touch your lips as you make that sound.  Let her feel what you are doing.  You can also make the sound on the back of her hand to give her yet another sensation of the sound and movement.

Watch the baby in the above video from Jen McBrayer’s youtube channel.  She makes a very clear motor boating sound and confidently can repeat it over and over again  This shows that she has developed the skill very well.  In our Stellar Caterpillar classes we guide babies through motor skill development so they develop their skills in such a way that they can repeat them confidently and whenever they desire.  This is different from a skill that happens occasionally or is just half-way developed.  As your baby begins to make the motor boating sound, repeat it back to her.  This is called mirroring.  As you mirror what she does it helps her to be clearer herself about what she is doing.  Babies learn this skill at various ages.  Some babies learn to motor boat quite young and others learn it a bit older.  What is common is that they really enjoy it once they learn it!

The mother in the above video is also demonstrating a method of feeding baby so she does not throw food on the floor.  She puts just enough in front of her for one bite.  After she eats that bite her mother puts another bite in front of her.  They continue this pattern of eating until baby is finished eating.  Baby continues entertaining herself by motor boating in between bites.


a baby sits up with good posture


Baby Rochel began Stellar Caterpillar lessons when she was just a few months old.  Her favorite part of the lessons were the proprioception exercises.  These are the exercises where we squeeze various parts of the body as we say the name of that body part.  For example, while squeezing her leg I would say, “Rochel, this is your leg.”  Her mother practiced these exercises with her everyday.  They are a fun game for babies.  For babies, these exercises are similar to the feeling they get when being swaddled with fabric.  The firm yet gentle pressure of your hands on their body feels secure just like the feeling of the swaddling cloth when it is pressing against their body.  Rochel’s favorite body parts to identify through touch were her ribs and her toes.

Today Rochel is three years old and attends preschool.  I had the chance to talk with her mother recently and she proudly told me a story about Rochel.  “Last week at preschool, Rochel fell down.  The teacher asked her is she was OK and Rochel told her that her “ribs hurt.”  The teacher asked me, “How does 3-year-old Rochel even know she has ribs?”  I explained to her that we learned exercises to do with her when she was a baby that taught her the names of her body parts.”  Most 3-year -olds would refer to the area of the ribs as their “side” or just say “it hurts here” as they touch it.  To identify the ribs by name shows quite a bit of learning.  This is why Rochel is one of our superstars!!!

Even though babies may not be able to speak yet, they can learn far more than we can understand.  Through the use of the sense of touch, the spoken name of the body part, and with repetition, Rochel and many other babies develop a very clear awareness of their body and the names of their body parts.  The development of body awareness is an important part of motor skill development.  Through these exercises, many babies can develop a strong sense of body awareness just like Rochel.


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One of our favorite songs for babies is “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  This is a fun song to introduce to babies around the age of 10 months or older.  Toddlers enjoy this song as well.  Babies learn the names of these body parts as you sing the song and gently place your hands on baby as you sing.  Watch the above video from Muffin Song’s youtube channel.  It is an easy song to learn because the lyrics are very simple, just the names of the body parts:

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Knees and Toes

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Knees and Toes

Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose,

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Knees and Toes !


Sing this song for a fun developmental activity for baby.  Touch their hair with both palms of your hands as you sing “Head,” touch both of their shoulders as you sing “Shoulders,” squeeze both of their knees as you sing ‘Knees,” and tickle their toes as you sing “Toes.”  Take the tips of your fingers and touch near their eyebrows as you sing “Eyes,” touch their ears on the word “Ears,” take one finger and touch the lips on “Mouth,” and then touch the nose on “Nose.”  When you touch a part of their body at the same time that you sing the name of it, they pay attention to the place and learn the word associated with the body part.


Once baby is familiar with the song, introduce some variations to continue to engage baby’s curiosity and provide learning opportunities.  One way to change the song a bit is to vary the tempo, or speed.  At first, sing the song fairly slowly so they can follow what you are doing.  Eventually play with the tempo because they will enjoy the song at a fast tempo as well.  Next, after more practice, take a doll and place it in front of baby and place baby’s hands on the doll’s “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” as you sing.  This reinforces the learning of the body parts.  Each small change you make in how you play with the song will engage baby’s attention more deeply and facilitate the learning.  Songs also help cheer up baby when she is not feeling well.  Recently one of our stellar caterpillars was not feeling well due to a virus.  Her mother told me that the only thing that seemed to help during that week was “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”


Park, Alice.  “Exercise During Pregnancy May Boost Babies’ Brain Activity,” Time, November 11, 2013.

Time magazine’s Health & Family section featured an article on the positive effects of exercise during pregnancy.  According to Alice Park, this is the first study to connect mom’s exercise with baby’s brain function.  This study is significant because many people think that while pregnant it is best to “take it easy.” Although some medical issues require extra rest, research is starting show the benefits of maternal exercise during the pregnancy period.  Always consult your doctor for guidelines for keeping your exercise from being too strenuous during pregnancy.


Scientists at the University of Montreal tested the brain function of days old infants by sticking 124 electrodes on the babies’ heads.  While the infants slept the researchers monitored how their brains processed sounds.  Researchers concluded that the babies’ brains showed a maturity of function only 8-12 days after birth in the research group of babies born to mothers who exercised regularly.  The research was presented for the first time at the 2013 Neuroscience conference in San Diego.


Although exercise for pregnant women has been previously recommended, the goals were to prevent obesity by keeping maternal weight down and to prevent gestational diabetes.  Research shows that obesity may contribute to autism and developmental delays in baby.  Keeping maternal weight at a healthy level is extremely important.  Gestational diabetes may result in complications for the mother and/or the baby.  According to the Mayo Clinic gestational diabetes complications for baby include excessive birth weight, respiratory distress, low blood sugar, type 2 diabetes (occurs later in life), and jaundice.   For the mother the complications include  high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, and future diabetes.

With this new research there is yet another benefit for baby to some regular exercise during pregnancy.


A baby looks at her reflection in a glass door


A favorite game for babies of all ages is playtime with a mirror.  The baby in the above photo sees her image in the glass door and decides to kiss the reflection.  Babies see another very little person when they look into the mirror, and we know babies love to see other babies.  Sometimes they look behind the mirror to try and find the person they see in the reflection since they do not understand that they are seeing their own reflection.  Mirrors are a novel toy for baby which holds an element of mystery and surprise.  “Where is this person and what will happen next?”


This sense of independence begins to evolve after the 7th month and is an important cognitive milestone and is often referred to as “self-recognition.”  It takes time for baby to learn that the mysterious person they see in the mirror is “me.”  Studies were conducted where researchers put rouge on the noses of babies to see if they would learn that the rouge on the nose of the baby in the mirror was also rouge on their nose. The researchers discovered that much of the self-recognition develops between the age of 1 and 2 years.


First, remember to practice baby safety.  Purchase a mirror that is unbreakable or hold baby in front of a secure wall-mounted mirror such as one in a bathroom above the sink.  For young babies you can find small mirror to put near her on the floor so that during tummy-time baby will lift he head and see the sparkle of her moving reflection.  Try sitting on the floor with baby on your lap or holding her in your arms in front of a large mirror so she can see her reflection and watch it move as she moves.  Much of the fun of mirror play occurs through movement, watching the person move as baby moves.  Or, watching mommy move in the mirror.  For older babies, use the mirror as a tool for teaching baby a few parts of the body such as “eyes,” “nose,” “ears,” “hair,” and “mouth.”  This developmental play is a game that can be played almost anywhere since a mirror can be found in most homes, airport bathrooms, and stores.