Child development is a PROCESS that needs to be spread out over time. Nothing happens without a reason — and babies acquire new skills from their everyday experiences.
In the first six months of life, babies learn how to cope with gravity and how to control their heads. At the same time, babies practice forearm support and work on symmetry, torso stability, and control of their shoulders and hips. Babies also experiment with shifting their body weight from side-to-side. The goal is to get up one beautiful day and explore the world on their own two little feet. 🙂
Of course, every child is different and develops at his or her own pace — so there is no need to compare your baby to, let’s say, your friend’s child. However, a healthy, developing baby should (oh, how I hate that word!) head in a certain overall direction.
It’s a very long and involved process during which we, as parents, should give support to our little ones.
How can parents support their baby’s development?
Of course, with baby-friendly care: How you lift, put down, and carry your baby is very important. But you can also achieve a lot while playing with your baby.
WHAT SHOULD YOU PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO?
- Firstly, babies should be able to fix their gaze on the face of a person leaning over them. Next, they will be able to follow an object with their eyes…
- Focus on building the baby’s torso stability by making sure your baby is aware of the midline of his or her body. In this, babies can join their hands in front of their chests and put them into their mouths, and lift both bent legs above the ground.
- The symmetry that the child achieves at the end of the third or fourth month is something that they will later abandon. It will be replaced with shifting their body weight from side-to-side. This skill, in turn, will become necessary when learning how to roll over, creep, crawl, and walk.
- The baby should have good head control.
- Symmetrical, propping up on the forearms indicates that your child has acquired good control of his or her posture.
- Finally comes the time for your baby to push up on straightened arms. Not only does this improve those previously gained skills, but it is also an excellent way to get ready for getting up on all fours. In addition, your baby starts to play with his or her feet — and puts little toes into the mouth.
How can you use playtime to support your baby in all of these objectives?
Of course, the one irreplaceable “prop” during playtime is Mom or Dad. 😉 Without a doubt, contact with another person is crucial. In other words, a child develops “in relationships and for relationships”. 🙂 That is why during the first three months of life nobody can replace Mom or Dad — not even the best toy in the world.
However, at some point, every healthy, developing child starts to become more interested in the surrounding world. It is natural for children to want to explore new things. 😉
When this moment comes, it is good to know what activities can satisfy the baby’s curiosity and support the key skills which were acquired during each previous stage of development.
#1. PLAYING TO ACHIEVE FOCUS
For every child, the first three months of life is a very special time when they adapt to life in this world.
That is why there is no need to provide your baby with additional stimuli. At this age, simply being exposed to gravity in a world full of colors and sounds is a stimulating enough experience already.
During this particular time, being close to your baby with cuddles and eye contact is the best idea for fun. 😉
For babies, focusing their eyes on a face or a toy may not be as easy as it seems. What seems like something quite natural to us requires a lot of effort from the young child.
During the first three months of life, nothing attracts the eye better than… the face of a parent. 🙂 The child focuses mainly on the EYES because it’s from the eyes that one can read another’s emotions. 😉 This is why it’s so important to make eye contact with your little one. 😉
However, if you do decide to show your child a toy during the first 3 months of life, it would be good to choose a toy with contrasting colors (like black and white, yellow and red). In addition, the toy should… NOT MOVE TOO FAST! 😉
If you want your child to FOCUS HIS OR HER EYES, keep the toy still. 🙂
However, if your want your baby to follow a toy with his or her eyes, then move the toy in slowly from one side or the other towards the midline of the child’s body.
Observe your baby’s eye movements and to what extent your baby can follow a moving toy. At around three months of age, you will discover that your baby no longer has to move his or her head while following a toy with the eyes! This is a very good sign, indicating that the head and eye movements are now independent from each other. 🙂
#2. JOINING HANDS AT THE MIDLINE OF THE BODY
Around the third month of life, children start to become “aware” of their body’s midline. It might sound like something trivial, but this is a very important part of development.
Being aware of the midline promotes building body awareness and achieving symmetry.
Babies will begin to insert their little fists into their mouths, join hands at the midline of their bodies, lift bent legs above the ground, and rest their feet on their bellies.
Clapping your baby’s hands and feet — and showing a toy in front of your baby’s chest — reinforces midline awareness and helps to achieve bodily symmetry. 😉
#3. PROPPING UP ON THE FOREARMS
By the end of the third month, babies achieve good quality active propping on the forearms during tummy time. This is usually the time when children who previously did not enjoy this position slowly begin to accept it. 🙂
This is because the baby’s physical condition is different now. The baby is able to get into this position with less effort than before. I wrote about this in the post “Tummy time is fun“.
And, while lying on the tummy is not easy for everyone, it is worth trying to encourage your child to maintain this position. You can do this by simply lying down in front of your little one, or by placing a mirror in front of the child where he or she can look into it. 🙂
What can be more motivating than seeing another person in front of you! 😉
The following months are spent getting taller and taller. 😉 By the end of six months, babies can support themselves on straightened arms. You can encourage your baby to get into this position by putting a toy or flat mirror under his or her chest. 😉
#4. SHIFTING BODY WEIGHT FROM SIDE-TO-SIDE
Once your child has mastered lying on the tummy — and lying on the back gets boring — you have to come up with something else, because… THERE CAN BE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING! 😉
As a result, your baby starts to shift his or her weight from side-to-side. This skill comes in handy when your child begins to roll over, change positions, pivot, crawl, and eventually walk… 😉
So, how do we play with this skill in mind?
- Of course, baby-friendly care fits in perfectly here. 😉
- While your child is lying on his or her back, you can gently roll the baby from one side to the other.
- Instead of placing a toy in front of your baby while he or she is lying on the tummy, you can place it off to one side. 😉 By doing this on an alternating basis, each side of the body has a chance to BEAR MORE WEIGHT (causing each side to strengthen) — while the opposite arm gets a chance to reach for the toy. 😉
#5. STABILIZING THE TORSO AND PLAYING WITH THE FEET
“There is no mobility without stability.”
A stable torso guarantees that the physical activities performed by your baby will be of GOOD QUALITY. Of note here is the fact that a stable torso is a consequence of strong tummy muscles. 😉
What does this have to do with lifting the legs up?
When babies lift their legs in a dynamic and active manner, their knees will be close to their chests with their bottoms up off the floor. The abdominal muscles work very hard. These muscles are key elements in establishing torso and pelvic stability. Therefore, I recommend making sure your baby does these movements often. You can rest assured that this will have a positive impact on the child’s future development. 😉
However, some children have trouble with these movements. They either don’t lift their legs at all, or they raise them too high and in such a manner that the knees are spread wide and the pelvis does not rise up.
If this happens, there are no constructive results! This often occurs when babies have a slightly weaker torso than average. Moving forward, this situation may either affect the quality of subsequently acquired skills or cause a delay in their development.
How do we play with this objective in mind?
- You can encourage your child to catch objects with his or her feet. To do so, place a soft, light ball on the child’s torso. You can also try drawing your child’s interest towards his or her feet by dressing your baby in funny socks or… by giving the child a baby chain to play with. 😉
I am still amazed at just how creative parents get while playing with their babies! 🙂 If you know the exact skills your little one is currently working on at each natural stage of development, you can support your baby every step of the way. 😉
Have fun! 😉
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