Holiday Gifts That Foster Motor Development
The latest 'Oh, Baby!' column
Play Mat photo courtesy of DinaPhoto/Shutterstock.com
With the holidays approaching, many families are thinking about gifts for babies. We created this holiday gift list to help parents (and grandparents) choose items that are not only fun, but that also help promote a baby’s development.
Baby Play Mat or Activity Gym
Play mats and activity gyms provide a great place for baby to play on her back, tummy or side, or while sitting up. The toys that hang down encourage her to reach up and may offer a rattle, chime, crinkle or light to reward her for reaching them, providing great sensory feedback. Some models come with a pillow that can be used under her chest to make tummy time easier. The surface of the mat may have fun textures, mirrors and flaps for baby to explore, too.
Play Table With Removable Legs
A play table is a toy that will grow with your baby. The legs can be removed to help your baby reach the toys before he can stand. When your little one is sitting up, you can add two legs to provide an angled surface for him to sit and play at. Once he is getting up on his feet, you can add the other legs, which encourage him to pull up to play.
They seem like simple toys at first, but links are incredibly versatile. Their small size makes it easy for baby to grip onto them from an early age. The various textures are great for exploring with her hands and mouth. They can be linked together to make a rattle or to hang other toys.
Stacking and Nesting Toys
Stacking cups and nesting toys are also seemingly simple yet versatile toys your baby will love. The pieces may be grabbed with one hand or two, and encourage her to learn about grasp, release and in-hand manipulation. Baby will love taking them apart, and she will eventually learn how to put them together, which helps her practice hand-eye coordination.
A pop-up toy is a great choice for helping baby learn about cause and effect. When he performs the function of pushing, pulling or twisting a lever, he is rewarded with a fun figure that pops up. Learning to master the different levers develops your baby’s fine motor and problem-solving skills.
Shape Sorter photo courtesy of Abimages/Shutterstock.com
Little ones will love having a container of easy-to-grip shapes to dump out, grab and mouth. As your baby progresses, she will learn how to put the shapes into the bucket. Container play is great for your baby’s fine motor and cognitive development. Plus, once she figures out how to put toys in, she has also learned how to help clean up! This toy will grow with baby, as she problem-solves, learns to recognize shapes and colors, and figures out how to match and categorize the blocks.
Babies love music. Playing with and learning how to use instruments will help him refine his motor skills and learn how to balance himself when sitting and standing — even more so when he starts to bounce or sway to the beat. Music is also great for baby’s language and cognitive development.
Providing balls in various sizes and textures for your baby to play with challenges her ability to grab them — using one or two hands — and to explore the various textures. Early on, balls are great for grasping, holding and releasing. As she progresses, she will enjoy rolling, throwing and kicking them.
Your older baby will love to go for a ride on a ride-on toy, which is great at challenging his balance and stimulating his vestibular system. As he gets bigger and stronger, he will be able to propel it himself, which will increase his leg and core strength.
A wonderful gift for your little one is an activity or experience such as a parent-baby class. Babies On The MOVE classes provide fun learning opportunities that will benefit your baby long after class has ended. Check out other local classes, such SproutSongs Music and Kindermusik, for more fun experiences with your baby.
Rebecca Quinones and Rachel Gandy, both of whom have doctorates in physical therapy, are founders of Babies On The MOVE, a Cary-based organization committed to helping children excel in motor development with in-home pediatric physical therapy and community-based infant movement classes for all abilities. Learn more about their services at babiesonthemoverdu.com.