Encouraging Healthy Motor Development© Copyright BabyClassroom
Giving your baby ample opportunities to move and manipulate objects safely is the key to encouraging healthy motor development. "If you forget about the milestones and think about what is the baby's developmental task in that first year of life," says Kristie P. Koenig, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy at Temple University, "it's to get upright against gravity. Anything that helps that drive to get up against gravity is really important."
Koenig stresses the importance of providing a safe environment for your baby to explore. After all, she says, "Your baby is going to move more if you're not constantly saying, 'No! Don't go there!'"
Keeping safety in mind, make sure your baby gets a variety of opportunities - such as the following - to develop his motor skills every day.
- Tummy Time: "When babies spend time on their stomachs," says Koenig, "they do a lot of pushing off with their arms and lifting their heads. That's a good recommendation for gross motor development." Because most parents follow the recommended practice of placing babies on their backs to sleep, it's important to give them frequent, supervised tummy time while they're awake.
- Something To Reach For: Koenig suggests placing brightly colored objects around to encourage your baby to move toward them. Toys that dangle above your baby as he lies on his back will encourage healthy motor skills as well.
- Play Ball: Roll, toss and bounce balls with your baby.
- On The Move: Give your little one the opportunity to explore a variety of safe environments, from different rooms in your house to baby-friendly destinations in your community. Make sure she has a chance to walk, run, climb, roll, and even swim in safe, supervised environments.
- Finger Play: When your baby begins to eat solid foods, give him finger foods like Cheerios to encourage his skill with grasping. Provide him with a variety of small toys like rattles, balls, board books and blocks to manipulate as well. Give older children crayons and chalk to write with, but be sure to supervise closely or they may end up in your little one's mouth!
- Stacking and Nesting: Children learn to take objects out of containers before they learn to put them in. Let your baby explore his motor skills with stacking and nesting toys, or let him empty a cupboard or a shelf as long as the contents are safe.
- Make a Connection: Social skills and visual acuity are intricately related to healthy motor development, so remember to include meaningful social interaction in your activities. Make eye contact with your little one and watch how she responds. Play pat-a-cake and other interactive games that encourage creative movement.
For information on your baby's healthy motor development, read Developmental Milestones: Fine and Gross Motor Skills at Baby Classroom.
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