Tag Archives: summertime



Are you planning a forth of July picnic at the park with baby?  Pack the Central Park Blanket by Skip Hop with you for an afternoon lounging on the grass or by the pool. One of our Stellar Caterpillar mothers spent a lot of time researching mats for her baby’s play time at the park.  She wanted something made of a green material since baby would spend a lot of time on it.  She wanted something that would pack up easily and be light weight to transport.  And, of course, she wanted something that would be easy to clean.  Skip Hop’s machine washable blanket met the mark on each of her requirements.  It also has an insulated compartment which can keep food/drinks cool and it converts so you can carry it on your shoulder or as a backpack.


Parks are wonderful developmental outings for babies.  There is a lot to observe and a lot of space to move around in.  There are many people to watch and lots of dogs, too.  Babies can watch balls or frisbees fly through the air or watch the squirrels and birds move around looking for food.  Sometimes there are other babies to meet and play with as well.  This is a wonderful setting for carrying baby around and narrate what you see.  For example, “Look at that squirrel!  He climbed all the up the tree.  Isn’t that tree very tall?  See how high the branches go up toward the sky?  You can introduce names of animals, colors, and concepts such as big and small or tall.  In addition to watching activity, you can put baby down on her mat to explore the space around her.  Motivated by her curiosity to touch the blades of grass, she may practice her motor skills of rolling or crawling to explore the space beyond the mat.



Babies love to explore small spaces.  They seem to be on a scale they can relate to.  Sometimes they crawl behind a big chair just to create a space of their own.  We love this video of the sunflower house because it is a family activity that spans a few months in time.  Together, the family plants the sunflower seeds in the path of a circle.  Next they watch the seeds sprout and break the surface of the ground.  The sunflowers grow to be tall strong flowers with their faces looking toward the sun.  As the flowers grow in the circular path a small house is created, just the perfect size for babies and toddlers.  A wonderful outdoor activity for baby is to allow her to crawl around inside the sunflower house.  This becomes a sensory activity for her as she sees the beautiful bright colors and feels the various textures around her.  Babies enjoy the texture of the grass and the flower stalks inside.  Read a few books to her inside this small space.  A blanket may also provide protection if the ground is not soft.


Soon, the flowers begin to look toward the earth as if they are sad or sleepy “like grandpa.”  Invite toddlers to draw or color the flowers on an easel placed inside this tiny house.  The sunflowers’ faces continue looking down as their seeds fall toward the earth.  It is now harvest time.  Toddlers can participate is picking the seeds up off the ground or out of the flowers.  This activity provides excellent fine motor skill development.  Toddlers may participate with a pail and shovel in the planting phase of the house and in the harvest.  They witness a birth and a death as the house is taken down and the ground awaits future seeds.  The entire family shares the life cycle of the sunflower house from planting the seeds to harvesting the flowers.  Plan to include this as an outdoor family activity for next summer!



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This summer, add a pail and shovel to your collection of baby toys.  As we see in the above video from tgnPeeps’ youtube channel, there is much to explore with the pail and shovel.  These two babies are different ages, one is walking and the other is still crawling, yet both enjoy exploring the use of these two objects.  Sometimes parents added a couple of sturdy, plastic coated paper plates in to the play which also generates some fun sounds when tapped with a shovel or rake.  Notice how the babies above need to hold the shovel or rake with a firm grasp in order to play with it.


Baby coordination improves as she holds the shovel and moves it down to touch the sand or learns to contain sand in it.  Another complex task is the motor skill of learning to hold tiny grains of sand in baby’s hand and not let them slip out of her fingers until the hand is over a bucket.  To reach the sand, a baby that is standing and walking needs to squat so she can reach the sand, developing baby strength.  She also learns orientation in space as she learns to put the sand in the shovel and out of the shovel, in the bucket and out of the bucket, and in her hand and out of her hand.


  1. Trying to put sand in the shovel/out of the shovel.
  2. Learning to put sand in the bucket/out of the bucket.
  3. Holding fine grains of sand without letting them slip through the fingers
  4. Keeping a tight grasp of the shovel or rake while moving it.
  5. Combining two physical activities such as squatting while shoveling.


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Swimming, sandcastles, and sun are a definite recipe for fun!  Watch the above video from socciandpency’s youtube channel to see Shelby prove our point.  In the summer, the beach is the largest playroom baby could imagine.  Observe Shelby crawling on a very large blanket and then continuing to crawl on the soft sand.  She has the uncluttered expanse of the beach around her.  Imagine the different sensations she experiences through her skin.  She feels the texture, temperature, and dry or wetness of the sand under her hands and knees.  She also feels the waves of the sea washing up and receding away as she sits at the edge of the shore with her mother.  She anticipates these waves with delight and curiosity.  She loves to play in the sand with her fingers and explores the different sensations  between the dry and wet sand.

She also enjoys watching the other children splashing and surfing in the water!  Her eyes receive a lot of stimulation as she follows the moving water on the sand, the child on the boogie board, or the grains of sand falling out of her fingers.  For babies not yet crawling, they will love to watch what is happening around them.  As Shelly demonstrates above, the beach is a wonderful playground providing much baby play.  Bring her pail and shovel if he has one!  Please read our articles  “Summer Tips for Babies” to keep baby healthy and safe during her summer fun.


Summertime play also includes baby swimming lessons!  Children and babies of all ages benefit from the time in the water.  Not only is swimming fun, it is also beneficial to motor skill development.  The pressure of the water on the skin is wonderful for developing proprioception, which is the ability to clearly feel one’s body move in space.   Improving proprioception will improve any motor skill a child or baby is learning.  Often babies meet their motor milestones sooner when they participate in infant swim lessons because they improve both muscle strength and coordination.  To learn more about babies and swimming, please read our articles “Can Babies Swim” and “Baby Diving Reflex.”

Stellar Caterpillar also loves the environment of the swimming pool.  It is fun, dynamic, and confidence building.  Swimming is a very productive outlet of energy, develops muscle strength, improves coordination and challenges young children to try new and intimidating activities such as going down a water slide.  When conquered,  these challenging activities build self-esteem.   With both babies and children, learning to swim makes them water-safe as well.  Please find a qualified infant swim instructor and learn pool water safety.  And, don’t forget to bring snacks and dry clothes along so they can get comfortable after they get out of the water.

Happy Summertime!




One of the reasons babies can learn to swim and become water safe, as we mentioned in our article on baby swim lessons, is because of their reflexes.  The most significant reflex that allows a baby to go underwater yet not swallow the water is the diving reflex.  When the baby goes underwater the epiglottis closes over, blocking water from going down the throat.  The baby’s eyes also stay open underwater.  Photos and video of babies underwater clearly display this reflex as they swim with eyes wide open and their mouth open at times as well.  Just click this link and watch this 9 month old swimmer on youtube!

There may be a very small percentage of the population that do not have this reflex.  My sources varied as to when babies lose this reflex, which is involuntary and is triggered by submersion in water.  Some sources indicate this reflex disappears at around two months, others at six months, and yet others at eighteen months.  What this indicates is that it is very individual.  This is why it is important to attend lessons with a professional.  Always consult your local infant swimming resource for guided instruction.



“Babies are perfect to learn to swim before the age of 2,” recommends Pauline Sugine, a retired master teacher of movement in the fields of dance, athletics, swimming, and physical therapy.  “After the age of 2 they start objecting to putting water in their face.  Before the age of 2 they just take to the water beautifully.  Babies are beautiful swimmers.  They glide like crazy!”  Sugine taught infants to swim for ten summers between 1957 and 1967 alongside the famous Los Angeles swim instructor for babies, Jen Loven.  Loven developed a specialized technique for teaching babies to swim, after overcoming her own fear of the water and a near-drowning experience.  Loven taught many babies of celebrities, received referrals from doctors, and was sought after by the movie industry who filmed newsreels of her amazing young students.  This week, I sat down with Sugine in her Los Angeles home to understand the benefits of swimming for babies.

Why are babies “perfect” to learn to swim?

Because their reflexes at this age keep their eyes open under water and prevent them from swallowing water (usually).  They have also been in a water environment in the womb, so it is familiar to them.  They also are quite buoyant in the water because they have so much air between the cells, so generally they float easily.

Why is it important babies learn to swim?

To be water safe.  A baby can drown in only a few inches of water, and it can happen fast. No kid ever left our school with out being water safe.  Far too many accidents happen related to water.  People do not understand how easy it is for a baby to drown.  In some states such as California, there are a lot of swimming pools and a lot of open water.

What does “water safe” mean?

When in the water, the baby can get to a place where they can be safe, such as a step or the side of a pool.

What was unique and effective about Jen Loven’s technique?

She kept the pool heated to 90 degrees.  There were great big steps in the pool which allowed for a very gradual immersion into the water.  The babies would start by playing and crawling on the steps to just get comfortable in the water.  We had lots and lots of toys.  Each day began by carrying out these giant laundry baskets full of toys, and at the end of the day they had to all be retrieved from the bottom of the pool.  Her technique was primarily about making the babies comfortable, just like the Feldenkrais Method.  We spent a lot of time just holding the babies in the water.  Eventually we would teach them to blow bubbles.  Jen never flattened the babies out in the water where they were parallel to the floor, but taught the babies in a vertical position or just slightly inclined.  Jen developed a rhythmic way of breathing:  “1, 2, 3, 4, 5″ counts in the water and “6, 7, 8″ out of the water.  Exhale slowly and inhale quickly.  She did not teach the babies to hold their breath.  The rhythmic breathing was the most important part of her technique.  And she would use these tiny fins on the baby.  They were only about six inches long, and were custom made for her students by a man in Florida.  She would put the fins on the baby and it would help propel them through the water.  Eventually she would take one fin off, and later the second fin came off.  For graduation, a baby would swim the length of the pool down the middle.

How long were the infant swimming lessons?

Thirty minutes long, and the babies needed to rest a lot during that time.

What is your answer to “When can I take my baby swimming?”

It is best before the age of two, and seek professional instruction. Jen would start with them as young as 5 weeks.  From Getty Images you can see an underwater photo of Jen with her granddaughter Julie Sheldon, 9 weeks old, swimming next to her.  “The youngest swimmer in the world ” appeared in Life Magazine.

Do babies enjoy these lessons?

Babies love the water!  They also receive a lot of praise, “Good girl!  She swam the length of the pool twice today!”  Babies move beautifully and rhythmically in the water way before they can on land.  They just don’t meet milestones that fast on land as they do in the water.

Why did the movie industry film her young students?

The swimming pool had these underwater viewing windows, which were great for filming.  When they were barely toddlers, they would dress them in clothes and shoes and they would jump into the pool, take off their clothes and swim away.  That is how skilled they were.

Do you recommend teaching your baby to swim at home or by seeking private swimming lessons?

Private instruction is preferred, unless you live in a remote location where it is not available.  Many people teach their babies the wrong things at home, such as holding your breath.  That never gives a good result.  What happens if there is an accident in open water?  You can’t hold your breath that long.  Rhythmic breathing works much better.  Another tremendous advantage to private instruction is that you get your kid used to being handled by someone else.  You don’t want to be the only one that can teach your child to do something.  Also, you get a more objective view from a professional.  A parent may think their child is doing something great, and the professional may see  otherwise, or a parent may think they are not doing well at all, and the professional may point out what they are doing extremely well.

What would you look for in a swim school for babies?

Look for individual instruction.  Pay the school a visit and see how happy the babies are.  Are there a lot of toys?  Are they playing a lot? Is the water warm?  Does she look really happy?

The day after I finished interviewing Sugine about babies and swimming, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal regarding a new anti-obesity campaign in Britain aimed at children under 5 and babies.  The article began, “Babies should spend less time watching TV and swim more, according to new health guidelines issued by the British government.”  Yet another reason why babies benefit from swimming!