Physical Activities for babies (non walkers)
Movement and free play is very important for all children – including babies. Lack of opportunities to move freely due to spending long periods in baby walkers, baby chairs or bouncers or being left in the cot (or chair) may delay developmental progress. By helping babies learn to control their body and move well, you are helping their brain and body to develop and helping them learn to feel safe. Babies learn by:
- being held and moving around with you
- reaching, touching and holding things
- looking and listening to you
- hearing movement words
- spending plenty of waking time on their tummy
From very early on, being on the tummy is an especially important position for a baby's development. It is from this position that a baby can do the work of learning about their own body and how it feels and moves.
Developing the core stability and head control is crucial in the first year of life: rolling, then commando crawling, creeping on all fours, sitting, kneeling, and then standing. All of which work towards building stronger core strength so that by the time a child stands, they have a good foundation and can move on to walking, running, squatting and other complex movements.
Did you know…
The first thing a new baby needs to learn is where they are and how they can move. To do this they have to develop their 'movement senses':
- Balance – (in their inner ear) which deals with gravity and movement
- Information from their muscles and joints which tells them about the position of their body. (This is called proprioception.)
- Touch – which deals with sensations coming from their skin.
Their other senses – hearing, vision, taste and smell – all rely on the healthy working of these other 3 body senses. Babies, Brains and Balance
Giving babies opportunities to practise the following is crucial to their development:
- Reaching & grasping for toys
- Turning their head
- Pulling, pushing and playing with other people, objects and toys
- Eye movement activities to help develop control of the eye muscle
- Rolling, creeping (moving around on tummy) and crawling before they are able to pull up, cruise around furniture and walk unaided
- Unrestrained movement opportunities allow them to explore their bodies, for example, discover their hands, feet and the space around them, (e.g. the differently textured mats and blankets they may be lying on). The sensory feedback from these early experiences is how they first learn about the world around them.
It is important to note that some babies crawl backwards first, some are bottom shufflers. Any ways of moving are fine and should be encouraged by providing lots of open, safe and soft spaces, with enticing toys in appropriate places to encourage movement. Babies may start to support their weight during standing and their grasping ability will be strong and refined enough to pick up some objects.
Good balance and body awareness is crucial to help babies sit and stand. Movements such as:
- gently swinging, spinning and rocking a baby helps to develop their balance
- The close contact involved also helps them feel safe and secure, which is important for their emotional health and wellbeing.