Saturday, August 30, 2014

What Should We Play With? For Infants, Ages 4-6 Months

What Should We Play With? Part II Although it has been a while, I have received requests for the next post to be about the best toys for infants, ages 4-6 months. This is one of the hardest stages because your baby is beginning to be mobile but is not quite ready to be seated upright for extended periods of time in exersaucers and such (refer to this post for more information as to why). Babies at this stage are rapidly developing and becoming more like little people (and much less like little zombies, who primarily want to eat, sleep, be held, and be changed!). Therefore, toys at this stage should be more stimulating, to increase their level of awareness. In addition, toys that work on cause/effect (touch this and lights go on) are important. The following toys can all be found on Tummy Time Mat Tummy time is one of the most, if not THE MOST, important positions for this stage of development. See Part I for more information. The Tiny Love Activity Gym mat is also a favorite, as the lights, sounds, and items to grab while on the back and stomach are stimulating for the babies. In addition, they can practice rolling all over because their are fun things to see at every corner! Sit them up on the mat- have them grab and reach the items that are at shoulder-level... This mat can have many uses!
Activity Table This Fisher Price table is a great example of the type of toy to give your growing infant. The legs can be modified accordingly to allow the baby to access the various components of the table while in tummy time, on the side, seated, and standing. This activity table has room to grow with your baby - and you will notice that he/she will play differently with the table throughout various stages of development (rolling, sitting, crawling, walking).
Activity Bars Your child is working on grabbing, pulling, and pushing. Keep your child busy on walks or long car rides with this activity bar! This is also a great way to have your child practice sitting up...
Board Books Touch and feel board books are my favorite for babies this age! Aside from beginning to see words, large pictures and feel textures, they are easy to clean and begin to teach babies how to turn pages (left to right). The books also offer entertainment when seated in tummy time and ensure that you are focusing attention on your baby (after all, who doesn't like attention!?!?!). This book of baby animals was/is a favorite of my EtiKids! They love to hear and make the sounds of the animals!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How To: Know When Your Infant is Ready to Sit Up

A mother in one of my Mom-groups on Facebook recently posed a question- regarding the positioning of her daughter. While in daycare, her 3-month-old was seated upright in a Bumbo seat with toys placed on a tray in front of her. While many parents agreed that it was ok to do so in order to prepare the infant for sitting upright, the OT (Occupational Therapist) in me said otherwise. This now leads me to the age-old question: When is it ok to start sitting up a baby? My response was/is: An OT is primarily concerned with the positioning of the child to help him/her improve all domains of development and meet milestones. At the infant stage, appropriate positioning will foster increased socialization skills and awareness by simultaneously developing strength. This will also enable the baby to maintain positions for extended periods of time. Skipping the important steps/milestones may actually delay your child's development! At 3 months of age, most babies do not have consistent head/neck control, as bobbing is frequently seen. To foster this skill, caregivers should gradually reduce the amount of support provided while holding the baby. For example, instead of supporting the head/neck with the whole hand- try using only fingers. Additionally, until a baby has developed very strong spinal muscles, they should not be placed in Bumbo seats or upright on Boppy pillows for too long. If there is curvature of the spine (and you can seen the vertebrae sticking out)or leaning to the side, the baby is not ready to sit by him/herself.
In her blog, Janet Lansbury writes that sitting babies in restrictive seats (exersaucer, infant seats, and jumpers) for extended periods of time will potentially cause your child to skip important milestones such as rolling and crawling! The belief of MANY parents is that these items are helpful for parenting (providing opportunities to shower and such). As with much of the equipment for babies, they should be used in moderation. Tummy time with toys placed in front of the child would be more appropriate at this stage to increase head/neck development, strengthen the extensor (straightening) muscles of the spine, increase grip/fine motor skills and continue to increase awareness of the environment that surrounds him/her. Placing the toys in front and around the baby will foster rotation and mobility, which will help the child learn to roll over and eventually crawl. Additionally, your child will receive more proprioceptive sensory input, which teaches about his/her body in space. But that being said- it is not an age thing so much as developmental. If your child has great head/neck control, the spine is extended (straight) when sitting up (while you hold her), and the baby can maintain an upright posture- go for it!