How you can help your baby’s physical development at home

Your little one learns about the world around them through play, it is the best way you can help your baby’s physical development.

We interviewed a paediatric physiotherapist for helpful advice and ideas on what you can do to help your baby’s development at home.

What activities do you recommend for newborns?

Newborns love when you tickle their face or count their fingers and toes! A nice activity to do is sit on the floor with your knees up, and your baby on your thighs facing you. In this position you can bring their hands together, practice clapping, encourage them to touch their feet and play with their toes. This is also great for communicating with your baby in general, singing, and mimicking their facial expression and noises.

What toys and equipment are best for play time?

Baby gyms are very good as they help hand eye coordination. Don't get too swept up in equipment though, your baby will be able to develop everything they need just by having time on the floor.

Baby walkers are not recommended because of safety issues and many studies have shown walkers do not encourage development and often actually delay the achievement of motor skills. I would instead recommend activities which safely encourage your child's development and teach them to explore their surroundings and progress to walking. But if you do choose to use a baby walker make sure you supervise your baby at all times and only use it for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time.

Why is tummy time important?

Tummy time is an excellent way to build up your baby's upper body strength and give them the skills they will need to be able to sit and crawl.

You can start tummy time with newborns by lying your baby on your chest, this makes for the perfect time for cuddles! By doing this regularly you can slowly build up to propping on their elbows, then as they develop, transition to tummy time on the floor. Remember, although it is important to have some time on their tummies during the day, it is recommended that they never sleep in this position.

What do I do if my baby doesn't enjoy tummy time?

It’s common for some babies to not enjoy tummy time at first but you can start by just doing it for a few minutes at a time (little and often is always best!), try propping them up a bit with a small rolled up towel under their arms and chest to help them see and play. To make tummy time more fun you can talk, sing and use toys to interact with (and distract!) babies who are not too keen to start with.

How can I encourage my baby to roll over?

Babies can roll onto their side at 4-5 months and often do this for the first time accidentally! Babies can fully roll over by themselves at round 6 months. To encourage your baby to roll on their side or fully roll over, use toys positioned to the side of them just out of reach.

What's a good activity to do to help my baby sit up?

Babies tend to sit up independently at around 6 months. You can encourage this by sitting on the floor with your baby between your legs and their hands resting on your knees. After doing this regularly and once they start to hold themselves up, you can start to just hold them around their hips, this gives as little support as they need. It’s also good to encourage them to reach forward by placing toys just out of reach, this helps with balancing.

When can I expect my baby to start crawling?

Your baby will probably start crawling around 7-10 months. Although, some children will bottom shuffle instead of crawling. Typically, children who bottom shuffle tend to be late walkers too because they are so efficient getting around that way they are not motivated to get up onto their feet!

When will my baby start to walk and how can I help to encourage this?

Before walking independently babies will first cruise along furniture. When your baby is able to stand at a surface start to encourage cruising and side stepping by moving toys along the sofa for your baby to reach.

Babies can start walking from 9 - 18 months. All babies develop at different rates so it's important to remember not to compare your baby to others too much.

What is your advice for parents in lockdown with a baby?

It’s a good idea to involve your child in the things you’re doing like talking them through your housework - children learn from everything they do and everything that’s going on around them so not all play time needs your 100% focus on your baby. They will enjoy watching and listening to what you are doing - you’re their favourite playmate! 

This is general advice about development, if you have any concerns about your baby’s development always speak to your health visitor or GP.  

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