RUBBER DUCK BATH TOY
One of the classic baby toys is the rubber ducky. Babies love them. Why? Maybe babies like them so much because of their adorable face, or their small size is easy to manipulate with just one hand, and they float on top of the water. These 2 inch long toys are easy to hold in one hand and chew on. The wind-up bath toys have parts that may break off, are very heavy, and baby can not learn to manipulate them on her own. Developmental toys such as the rubber duck invite the participation of the child in creating the activity.
RUBBER DUCK AT BABY SWIM LESSONS
Bring the rubber ducky to infant swim lessons. It provides baby with a simple way to entertain herself when she is waiting for her lesson or resting during the lesson. This is one of the best pool toys for baby because it floats, is easy for her to hold, and can be put in her mouth. If you have two or three different colors or styles it is beneficial for the swim time. They float on the water near her as she learns to paddle with her arm. Then you pick her up to rest while handing her the duck.
BATH TOYS FOR BABY GIFTS
These adorable rubber ducks come in different colors and even different costumes which make for fun baby gifts. These simple and inexpensive bath toys make great stocking stuffers for babies and can be tied on to the top of a baby shower gift in place of a bow. Swimming pools offering infant swimming lessons often have quite a stock of these animals. The variety include the cowboy rubber duck, mermaid rubber duck, firefighter rubber duck, and the princess rubber duck. Visit Partypalooza.com for pages of variations on these two inch bath toys. A unique baby shower gift would be a collection of six different ducks. This is one gift where moms are happy to receive more than one!
A seven month old baby demonstrates the hands and knees crawling position. The knees must bend to place the knee joints under the hip joints.
MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT: TEACHING BABY TO CRAWL
Recently we received this question from one of our readers in Texas:
“My daughter is 8 months old. We are trying to help her learn how to crawl. It seems she has the arm strength but will not bend her knees. If we put her into the crawling position to show her, she will straighten out her legs and lay on her tummy. Also, she does the same thing while going from a standing postion when we sit her down the locks her knees. Is there anything we can do to help her? Thanks, I love reading your website!”
This is one of the most common questions asked by moms in classes and through my website. Baby seems to resist putting her knees on the floor when mom tries to put her in the hands and knees crawling position. This mom is not alone with her question! It is wonderful that this mother would like to learn some parenting tips for teaching baby to crawl. Simple activities at home on a daily basis are both a fun form of baby play and beneficial for baby motor skill development. Let’s take a look at three developmental activities for baby.
BABY CRAWLING tip #1: knee joint PROPRIOCEPTION
One of the ways that babies get into the hands and knees crawling positon is by lifting their pelvis up and bending their knees to bring them under their hip joints. The plank positon (or push-up position) is a straightening of the legs by stiffening the knees. This is the opposite action of what baby needs to do with her knees. Before baby can learn to bend her knees and ultimately put them on the floor beneath her hip joints, she must have a clear feeling of the knee joint itself. Gentle proprioceptive activities improve the awareness of body parts for baby. We recommend tapping the knee while saying “This is your knee,” and gently squeezing the knee and holding the squeeze for a moment while repeating “this is your knee.” Observe baby and see if she is paying attention to what you are doing. She will become quiet and feel what you are doing. This is how to improve baby’s awareness of the knee joint for the motor skill development of crawling.
BABY CRAWLING TIP #2: BEND AND STRETCH THE LEGS
Once baby has an improved awareness of her knee joint, you can improve her awareness of the knee joint action which is bending and extending. After the tapping and squeezing recommended in crawling tip #1, put her on her back. continue tapping and squeezing the entire leg while saying, “This is your leg.” Repeat with the other leg. Then hold one leg and gently bend it in toward her chest and slowly extend it toward the straight position. Do not force this movement. If her leg does not move easily, baby’s muscles are stiff. Focus on just the tapping and squeezing for a few days and that will help the muscles to relax. The bending and extending of the legs shows baby that she can both bend and extend the leg. Soon she will soon bend her leg more frequently on her own.
BABY CRAWLING TIP #3: KNEELING AT A BOX
Baby play time can include a fun game of playing a box like a drum. Place a cardboard box upside down with baby on knees in front of it. Gently press her knees down so she feels the pressure of putting the knees on the floor, which you would like her to learn to do on her own. Play the box like a drum with your own hands, pause, then invite baby to drum. Create a call-and-response type of game where your hit the box “rat-a-tat-tat” and then wait until she hits it “bop-bat-dat.” Go back and forth taking turns. This gives baby an experience of being on her knees. She will feel comfortable in this position and choose it more easily, facilitating the development of the hands and knees crawling position.
BABY PLAY MAT AND MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
The purchase of a play mat may be one of the most important pieces of gear that parents can purchase or receive as a baby shower gift. Available in various colors and patterns, shapes and sizes, textures and styles, a play mat reserves a space in the home to devote to baby play and motor skill development. The minutes that baby spends playing on the floor, known as floor time, is essential for achieving motor milestones. Through pushing her hands and legs and against the floor she discovers that she can move. Skills of locomotion such as the motor skill of rolling or crawling emerge during this play time. Tummy time is another infant developmental activity that is perfect for floor time. Here are our tips for parents on how to choose a play mat:
5 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE BEST BABY PLAY MAT
- SIZE: Choose a play mat that is large in size so that as her motor skill of locomotion develop, such as rolling and crawling, she will have plenty of space to move and explore. Some mats, such as the one in the above photo, are created with interlocking pieces of foam. This allows you to expand the size of the mat as baby’s motor skills develop. For the first three months baby’s motor skills such as kicking occur without traveling in space. Soon, however, she learns to roll and needs more space.
- SOFTNESS: Remember Goldilocks? Keep in mind her careful choice of a bed: “This bed is too hard, this one is too soft, and this one is just right!” A play mat that is too soft and squishy will not give baby enough proprioception as she pushes her hands and knees down into the floor. The mat needs to be a bit firm. Although babies learn their motor skills on tile or hardwood floors in various cultures around the world, a play area too hard may make mom nervous that she will hit her head as she learns to sit or roll. A mat with just a bit of cushion will be “Just right!”
- PORTABILITY: Do you like to go to the park, beach, or overnight visit to grandma and grandpa’s house? Some play mats fold up easily for babies on the go. Travel styles include play mats made from interlocking foam pieces, quilts and blankets that are easily foldable and lightweight, and mats that roll up into a carry bag.
- EASY TO CLEAN: A play mat should be easily cleaned with a non-toxic cleaner or readily laundered in the washing machine. Part of maintaining a “green” home includes regular cleaning to remove dust that contains toxic particles.
- NON-TOXIC: Baby will spend hours on her play mat, so choose one made of non-toxic materials such as a cotton quilt. Remember that the skin is one of our largest organs and baby’s skin will be close to the mat for hours every day. Toxic baby products made of plastic may off-gas harmful chemicals for baby’s developing system and it is recommended to avoid them. Two cotton quilts placed one on top of the other works quite well as a natural option.
Remember to bring your body down onto the play mat as well so you can be at eye-level with baby. If she can see your face when she learns to lift her head it will be a wonderful reward!
ROCKING ON HANDS AND KNEES
Oscar, at age 6 months, is preparing to crawl on his hands and knees. Observe how he repeatedly rocks back and forth on his hands and knees in the above video from monkeytoesshoes’ youtube channel. Until now, his hands and knees have not supported much weight in the motor skills of rolling or belly crawling. This action of rocking strengthens babies’ bones in their arms, hands, legs, and knees. It also stretches the muscles in the hand which is an important development of the hand. It is very difficult to crawl with closed fists since the weight does not transfer as well onto the hands. Baby is very good at grasping toys with tightly closed fists which tightens up the muscles of the hands. This action of rocking is also discussed by developmental experts as an important development for holding pencils in school. After several days of this preparation, Oscar will have his mother chasing him around the house as he crawls to explore the world around him.
MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT AND WEIGHT SHIFT
One of the essential baby milestones that occurs prior to the major milestone of crawling is the ability to shift weight. In skilled athletes, such as professional dancers, this is an essential skill that separates beginners from the advanced. If you observe a beginning ballet student in class they have difficulty moving forward in space from one move to the next where the professional connects every move with ease and fluidity. This skill occurs in the muscles, bones, and nervous system in such a minute way it is difficult to see and understand what is happening. Often, parents do not understand why this skill of rocking on the hands and knees is such an important preparation for crawling. Moving forward in space, for both baby and a dancer, requires transferring the support and balance from one part of the body to another.
WHAT ARE VESTIBULAR EXERCISES ?
Considered to be one of baby’s most highly developed senses at birth, the vestibular system is responsible for balance and motion perception. It also plays an essential role in maintaining the head and body posture. Whenever baby is in constant and fluid motion, her vestibular system is being stimulated. Recently, a reader wrote in and asked for some references to vestibular activities in babies. These activities can be categorized into motor skill movements baby creates on her own and movements experienced while a parent is holding her. Research shows that babies may develop more advanced motor skills when they experience vestibular stimulation regularly. Look at the list of below and see if you can add some of these activities to your playtime with baby. Keep in mind that slow moving actions tend to be soothing to baby while faster ones are usually more stimulating. Please send me a comment if you would like to add one to the list!
NEWBORNS AND VESTIBULAR STIMULATION
For many years women around the world have carried young babies in wraps and packs on their backs while they go about their day’s work. Fortunately for babies, that trend has been returning. Research shows that the baby wearing trend helps to reduce crying and improve emotional bonding between the mother and baby. The best-selling parenting book “The Happiest Baby on The Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp emphasizes the benefit of vestibular stimulation on newborns. In fact Karp teaches that newborns need the stimulation to recreate the experience of being in the womb when their mother was in constant motion. This has a calming effect.
BABY ACTIVITIES FOR VESTIBULAR STIMULATION
The following activities are self-induced by the baby and often at around 6 months of age:
- Lifting the Head (several times in a row)
- Rolling (successively, such as log rolling)
- Body Rocking (in a sitting position or on the hands and knees)
- Head Shaking
- Changing Postions with the Head (i.e., going from lying on the back to sitting)
The following activities are initiated by a parent while holding baby in their arms or on their lap:
- Rocking in a rocking chair
- Jiggling while on your lap
- Bouncing your knees rhythmically
- Spinning on a chair (not too fast!)
- Walking with baby in a wrap or sling
- Swaying to music in a dance-like manner
- Pushing baby in a stroller
- Swimming Lessons
For further research on vestibular stimulation in babies, please read:
Eliot, Lise. (1999) What’s going on in there? How the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. New York City, New York: Bantam Books.
Hannaford, Carla. (2005) Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head. Salt Lake City, Utah: Great River Books.
Karp, Harvey, M.D. (2002) The Happiest Baby On The Block. New York City, New York: Bantam Dell.
Part of the motor skill development during baby’s first year includes learning concepts of orientation. These concepts include on, off, inside, outside, over, under, right, left, and more. These concepts help us to be very clear about where we are in relationship to our environment. A baby who crawls under a chair has a very different perspective and relationship to the environment than a baby who is sitting on a chair. Learning one’s orientation in space is part of a larger experience of proprioception, which tells us where our body parts are in space as well. Sometimes the spatial orientation describes an object and its relationship to us, such as “The shoe is on your foot.”
SPATIAL ORIENTATION & MOTOR SKILLS
Parents guide babies toward a highly-developed motor skill ability when they teach the concepts of spatial orientation during infancy. Their movement develops more clarity and directness with the learning of these concepts. Think about what you would do if someone asked you to go to the other side of the room. Now, think about what you would do if someone asked you to go to the other side of the room and sit in the red chair. This instruction regarding the red chair gives your movement a specific guideline that creates clarity and purpose in your movement. A child would be clear about where to go and what to do when they arrive. Without the instruction of the red chair there are so many options available. Do they sit or stand? On the blue chair or red chair or sofa? Carefully chosen words clarify the movement for a child if she understands clearly the spatial concepts. Learning these concepts begins at birth.
WORDS FOR SPATIAL ORIENTATION
- under/on top of
- beside/across from/next to
Add these sentences to your vocabulary with baby to guide her toward an understanding of spatial concepts:
- Hold the rattle in your hand.
- Let’s put you in the car seat./Let’s take you out of the car seat.
- Let’s put the shoe on your foot/Let’s take the shoe off your foot.
- Let’s put the shoe on your right foot/left foot.
- Sit in the high chair./Would you like to get out of the high chair ?
- Set the block on the table./Set the block under the table.
- Open your hand for some cheerios./Close your hand to hold the cheerio.
- Shall we read a story? Sit next to me. Now, open the book.