How to Keep Your Baby Moving While on the Go
Tips for traveling both by plane and by car
Traveling provides exciting opportunities to visit friends and family, explore new places or just get away from daily life for a while. However, throw an infant or a toddler into the mix, and suddenly the quick weekend trip to visit relatives can turn into a daunting task filled with lots of gear and limited opportunity for your baby to move freely. When planning a trip, we don’t always realize how travel itself, as well as being in a new place, can limit your baby’s opportunity to move around and feel uncontained. This is especially true of very young babies who aren’t mobile yet.
Whether you are planning a quick trip into town or an excursion across the world, here are some tips to keep your baby moving while you are away from home.
By Plane or By Car
If your trip involves driving, a car seat is a confining must for your little one. Take breaks at rest areas with ample outdoor space. Even if you only have a few minutes, your baby will appreciate having some time to stretch out on a blanket, roll around or just enjoy a change in his surroundings.
If you’re traveling by plane, consider skipping the snap-and-go car seat in the airport in favor of a baby carrier. This option allows your baby to use her muscles and experience changes in direction while you walk around. By wearing your baby, you will not only free up your hands as you rush through the airport, but you will also allow your baby to experience changes in her head and body position as you lean over, squat down or shift the weight of your body.
These small and large changes stimulate your child’s vestibular system, which is a sensory system responsible for telling us about movement, balance and where we are in space. This kind of stimulation can be helpful in encouraging your child to be comfortable with movement, and the closeness the carrier provides is comforting for many babies.
Carriers come in many varieties. Wraps, slings, soft-structured carriers and frame backpacks can all be comfortably worn for short or long periods, and offer different benefits for your baby.
Also, when you’re packing, throw a small blanket into your diaper bag. During layovers or long waits at the airport, you can lay a blanket down on the floor and let your baby watch the hustle and bustle while lying, sitting or rolling around on her own.
Finding Time to Play
When we are away from home, it’s easy to get out of our routines and forget about the importance of free play for very young babies. Between snuggles with family and friends, or exploring the new country you’ve never been to, it’s easy to see why your baby may not have a lot of time for regular daily play. Sneak in some opportunities for tummy time, an important developmental position for your baby. Tummy time helps develop the neck, shoulder, back and hip muscles. Developing these muscles will enable your child to roll, sit, crawl and walk. Tummy time also offers your baby a new position from which to work on visual skills, coordination and balance reactions.
While you are on the go, also try carrying your baby belly down, like a football under one arm. When you sit down, lay your baby on his belly on your lap. You can even cross your legs to create an incline, which can make it easier for your baby to play on his tummy while on your lap.
Although traveling with a baby typically adds gear and stress, it can also provide a wonderful opportunity for sharing new places and people with your baby. With a little thoughtful planning, you and your baby can enjoy traveling and exploring together.
Rebecca Quinones and Rachel Gandy 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 children of all abilities. Learn more at babiesonthemoverdu.com.