BABY ROCHEL LEARNS TO IDENTIFY HER RIBS
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.
PLAY DOUGH AND FINE MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
One of the favorite games for babies is play dough. In honor of National Play Doh Day on September 16, this post will look at the benefits of play dough for fine motor skill development. Observe the baby in the above video from Jordan Lee’s you tube channel. One of the easiest activities for a baby to do with the dough is to press his fingers into it. This develops strength in the fingers and awareness of the changing depth of the dough. Eventually you can teach baby to pull small pieces off of a larger piece of dough, developing finger dexterity. Learning to press a cookie cutter or a stamp into the dough also teaches coordination and develops strength. Babies also learn colors from playing with play dough. Even the play dough containers can be instructional tools if you teach baby to put the dough in and take the dough out of the containers. Play Doh commercial brand is sold in small canisters. For homemade play dough see if you can purchase some interestingly shaped and/or colored small containers for each color of dough.
INTRODUCE PLAY DOUGH TO BABY
Babies play with play dough usually after the age of one year old. At this age they are rapidly developing their fine motor skills. They also use their fine motor skills for picking up food when they are eating. I recommend keeping the play dough off of the high chair tray. That is a place for food and therefore the things placed here and picked up or squished with fingers usually go into the mouth. Try playing with the play dough on a small table about the height of a coffee table. Baby can stand and play with it or it can be placed on one of the small tables that comes with chairs for toddlers. Show them with your fingers how to press into a small ball of dough and then let them explore the texture. Keep your eyes on baby so he does not put a piece in his mouth!
PLAY DOUGH RECIPES
There are an abundance of homemade play dough recipes available on the internet. It is worthwhile to find one and make it for your baby. The homemade version is made from simple edible ingredients such as flour and salt and should pose no problems if baby put the play dough in his mouth when you are not looking. Simply google “best homemade play dough recipe” or search youtube if you prefer to watch someone make the recipe. You can even find gluten free play dough recipes if you have a baby allergic to gluten.
WHAT IS INFANT MASSAGE ?
In our busy world today many adults have learned the benefit of a massage. It has become a treat to indulge in while on vacation, a part of healing an injury while in physical therapy, or a way to reduce the stress of daily life. There is also an increasing awareness of the benefits of massage for babies. Many new parents are now seeking instruction in the art of massage for their baby. However, massaging your baby is a custom that has a very long tradition in some cultures such as India and Sweeden. They knew the benefits of a daily massage for baby and passed down the technique from one generation to the next. In her book Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents, author Vimala McClure shares the technique she evolved after spending time volunteering in an orphanage in India and learning about the benefits of massage for babies. McClure’s book is considered a classic and her technique is taught internationally.
BENEFITS OF INFANT MASSAGE
In her book, Vimala introduces massage as a method of communication between mother and baby, facilitating the process of bonding. She also explains that babies benefit in numerous ways from massage. In fact, numerous research studies have been published that substantiate the benefits of a daily massage for baby. Some of the studies focus on the benefits for babies born premature and show that babies in the NICU unit receiving daily massage gain weight faster and are released from the hospital sooner that those who do not receive massage. Other benefits of massage for babies that McClure mentions in her book include:
- Bonding between mother/father and baby
- Decreases fussiness or colic
- Improves sleep
- Decreases digestive discomfort
- Releases muscular tension as the body develops
INFANT MASSAGE TECHNIQUE
McClure’s book is complete with step-by-step instructions of her massage technique for babies. Beautiful photos illustrate each of the strokes along with clear and detailed instruction. How to choose a good massage oil, how to massage a baby with special needs, and how to adapt the massage for the baby as she becomes more physically active and grows older are also topics of discussion. This book makes a wonderful gift for a new mother. You might include a gift certificate for a series of classes in infant massage with a local instructor. Contact Infant Massage USA for an instructor in the United States or the International Association of Infant Massage (founded by Vimala McClure) for an instructor in your country. Both organizations teach Vimala McClure’s method.
The gift of nurturing touch is a beautiful gift.
Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents: by Vimala McClure (New York: Bantam Books, 1979).
HOW DO YOU HELP A BABY WITH CONSTIPATION ?
One of the most common dilemas I see with new moms is how to solve the problem of baby constipation. Some people suggest that mothers who breastfeed should remove dairy from their diet or add papaya to their diet. Recently I spoke with an experienced doula on the topic and she advised moms to just be patient since sometimes constipation is a sign of developmental change in baby’s digestive system. She mentioned that it is common for babies to have constipation around the three month age. I recommend that mothers learn a few hands-on exercises to practice at home when baby has constipation. These hands-on skills help improve circulation and stretch the muscles surrounding the area of pelvis and hips. Since constipation my bring tightness in the muscles around the abdomen and hips, movements to improve circulation and stretch the muscles in these areas may provide some relief. And of course, always check with your pediatrician when you have concerns. Try the following three baby exercise moves, in the order presented, to relieve infant constipation discomfort and improve digestion and elimination.
BABY EXERCISE #1: MASSAGE THE ABDOMEN
Begin with baby on her back. Gently rub your hands along her abdomen in long strokes moving from her pelvis toward her head. Take your time and brush slowly! This can be done with baby clothed or with her bare skin. Brush with a bit of pressure, it your touch is too light you will effect only her skin. With just a bit more pressure this massage stimulates both her lymphatic system and nervous system. The nervous system will feel which muscles are being tightly contracted and then relax them. Your constipated baby may be sensitive to the touch if she is experiencing internal discomfort, so gage your pressure by her response. Lighten your pressure if she looks uncomfortable with your touch.
BABY EXERCISE #2: BEND AND STRETCH THE LEGS
While baby is on her back, take one leg and bend it in toward the chest and then extend it toward the straight leg position. Repeat this several times with one leg and then repeat several times with the other leg. The hand that is holding her leg should gently squeeze the leg so she feels the movements more clearly. This baby exercise will gently stimulate circulation and stretch muscles in the lower abdominal and hip area. A baby with constipation will benefit from this exercise which may help release gas.
BABY EXERCISE #3: TUMMY-TIME WITH THIGH LIFTS
Put baby in tummy-time with a favorite toy as in the above photo. The position of tummy-time gently stretches the abdominal area. Place one hand under her thigh and close to her knee. Place the other hand on her ankle. Gently lift her thigh off of the floor just a little bit. Make sure the hand near the knee is doing the lifting and move very slowly, pausing for a moment before returning to the starting position. This elongates the muscles in the front of baby’s hip joint and abdominal area.
Babies are motivated by curiosity and exploration. Learn some DIY Mommy Crafts to make at home for baby play to encourage motor skill development and the learning that occurs through the five senses. Below are some screen shots from Stellar Caterpillar’s Pinterest Board “Mommy Crafts.” For the young babies create a mobile or 3D nursery art to stimulate baby sight. Her eyes are still developing and she sees movement of objects probably more clearly than their color or shape. Read “What a Newborn Sees” and “Babies’ Eyes and Movement Skill Development” to learn what will stimulate baby’s sight for her age. Create hand puppets and read our post “Baby Cruising Fast” for an example of how to use a puppet or stuffed animal to stimulate the motor skill of cruising. When baby learns to walk make some DIY bubbles for her to chase. Learn some simple home-made crafts for activities that motivate movement and inspire learning which is beneficial for the development of your baby.
3D Nursery Art to stimulate baby eyesight
DIY Board Book stimulates speech development in baby
Hand Puppets to encourage motor skill development such as cruising
Sensory Bags for Baby Play to stimulate the sense of touch
DIY Bubbles for baby play after reaching the motor milestone of walking
FIVE SENSORY STOCKING STUFFERS FOR BABIES
The development of a baby includes the stimulation of the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Choose baby toys that bring a variety of sensory experiences for baby play time and daily rituals. These items are from one of our favorite online sites, Bella Luna Toys.
1. BABY HAIR BRUSH
The daily ritual of hair brushing becomes a sensory experience for baby when using a high quality brush with natural bristles. Take your time and she will focus on the sensation of the brush against her scalp and through her hair.
2. SILK PEEK-A-BOO CLOTHS
Small cloths made of silk stimulate baby’s sense of touch. These are great for the favorite baby game of peek-a-boo.
3. KNIT BABY RATTLES
Ad a few knit baby rattles to your collection of baby toys. The variation in texture from the hard wood or pewter of classic baby rattles provides a different sensory experience for baby. Plus, the rattling sound stimulates baby’s hearing. These yummy ice cream cone shapes are adorable!
4. BABY LULLABIES
Connect with baby through your voice. Learn some favorite lullabies that will calm her and facilitate speech development. Exaggerate the words and she will enjoy watching you sing as your mouth and eyes make different shapes. The senses of sight and hearing are stimulated by singing to baby.
5. BABY BLOCKS
Wooden baby blocks in the shape of tiny boats stimulates baby play. The wood is a firm material for the sense of touch and the rocking action stimulates baby curiosity. The fun bright colors are also easy for baby to see.
Enjoy Baby’s First Christmas!
Photos courtesy of Bella Luna Toys.