Kathy Stirrup, our resident Mental Health and Parenting Expert, shares some great ideas of things to do with your baby in the first 6 months, in this 2 part blog series. READ PART 1 HERE
8. Things to do with your baby: Roly Poly
Babies often enjoy the sensation of rolling even before they can do so by themselves. Help your baby to develop this skill by gently rolling them over on to their tummies and then back again to their backs. Make sure that the surface that you have placed your little one on is a soft surface such as a rug or blanket. Keep going as long as your baby seems to be enjoying the activity. When your baby starts to make attempts at rolling themselves then you can encourage them to do so by putting toys just out of their reach so that they have to move to reach it.
Babies can begin to roll at all different ages but an average age of beginning to roll is around three to four months. Apart from the obvious skill of rolling, this activity can also help with whole body strength and coordination, and with developing a good attachment relationship with your little one.
9. Things to do with your baby: Book time
Babies are never too young to begin looking at books. Choose simple books to start with, often ones with good contrasting colours such as blacks and white or bright bold patterns. Read and turn the pages slowly talking about each page. Go at your baby’s pace so that they have time to take in the sounds, colours, pictures and patterns. Soon your baby might like to try more interactive books that they can pat and feel, board or cloth books are good for this. When your little one loses interest, put the book away.
9. Things to do with your baby: Touchy Feely
Gather different textured objects or materials such as a furry toy or a silky scarf. Gently rub them on your baby’s tummy or hands or face. Talk about the different textures using words such as “smooth”, “silky”, or “fuzzy” As they get older you might introduce slightly rougher objects for them to explore with their hands and expand their vocabulary with words such as “rough’ or “bumpy” There are quite a number of children’s touchy feely books available that you could use as well as items in everyday life.
Toys or books that allow your child to explore different sounds such as “crinkly” or “squeaky” or “rustly” are also fun in helping them investigate and learn about their world. These activities help your child learn about different textures and sounds. It helps them with their language development and with their eye-hand coordination. It helps them with their listening skills and their tracking and eye development.
10. Things to do with your baby: Mobiles and baby gyms
Mobiles are great for giving babies something interesting to look at while they are lying on their backs. They help them with their visual development. You can use store bought ones or you can make your own using paper, feathers, leaves or shiny objects such as tinsel or old CD’s or foil. Tie the objects to some string and fix them so that they can turn and move, but make sure that they can’t be reached by your little one and check regularly to make sure they are still firmly fixed in place.
Baby gyms are great for entertaining babies who can’t yet sit up. You can use a store bought one or make them yourself using different baby toys or rattles. Hang them so that your little one can see them. As time goes on they might start to try and bat at them with their hands or their feet.
Baby gyms help little ones with their visual development, they help with the development of eye-hand and eye-foot coordination.
11. Things to do with your baby: Baby exercises
Many young babies enjoy being able to move their limbs. At first they have very little control over their body in their movements but gradually with time and practice they learn to master intentional body movement. When your baby is awake and alert you can help them practice these skills. Let your baby stand on your knees while you hold her chest or waist to support them. Only do this if your little one has control to hold their head without it flopping about. You can bounce them up and down gently for a few minutes or just let them stand before letting them sit back down again.
Many little ones really enjoy being in a supported standing position. Another activity that you could do is to place your baby on a mat on the floor or on a changing mat and move their legs in a gentle cycling motion, or gently move their legs from a knees up position to a legs stretched position and repeat. You can also move your baby’s arms out and in from their body or in a gentle rowing position.
As said earlier, these activities help your baby to learn to have control over their body. They strengthen your little one’s body and help them with coordination.
12. Things to do with your baby: Dancing with baby
Music and dancing can be a great way to calm both baby and yourself if your baby is fretful, or just for the fun of it. Put on some music or just sing. Hold your baby against your body with their head on your shoulder. Sway gently from side to side or step or jiggle rhythmically around the room in time to the music. You might like to pat your little one gently on their back or bottom in time with the music. You could also sit on the ground with your baby on your raised legs and bounce them or play with their arms and legs in time with the music.
This activity can help with developing positive attachment with your little one. It can help them with listening, it can also help them with gaining a sense of rhythm and in learning to appreciate different types of music.
13. Things to do with your baby: Sit ups
From about four months you can help your baby with their upper body strength and core strength, and in learning to sit up with practicing baby sit ups. Whilst they are laying on a rug on the floor or on a change mat, put your fingers in the palms of their hands and when they grab hold gently pull them up into a sitting position then gently lower them back down to lying again. You can give them warning of what you are about to do by saying something like “uppies” or “up we go” before you pull them upright. Always make sure that your little one has the control to bring their head up with their body whilst doing this movement. If their head lags back too much stop and try again at another time of day or later stage in development.
This activity helps your baby to develop their upper body strength and their arm strength. Your little one needs to be able to lift their head and have control over their back and shoulders before they can learn to sit up.
14. Things to do with your baby: Sitting up
Once your baby starts to show signs of wanting to sit up, usually somewhere around the six month stage, build them a support wall of cushions as this will help them stay upright. The boomerang cushions can be excellent for this. Baby gyms and toys that your baby can hold onto such as rattles or stacking rings, or textured or crinkly toys can all help keep your baby occupied while they are practicing their sitting skills. Older siblings’ antics can also provide great entertainment.
Supported and later non supported sitting up can help your little one with their upper body and their core strength. It can also help with their eye-hand and eye-foot coordination. Sitting up can also help them with their social interaction skills.
There are lots of different things that you can do with your little one in filling both your days and in helping with their development. I have listed just a few of them to get you started. This time with your new bub can at times feel daunting and overwhelming. It is often a steep learning curve and time can easily be filled with feeding, sleeping and surviving. I have heard many people say, “I can’t wait till they are older and can do more” but the fact is they are learning and developing in leaps and bounds at this stage of development, there is a vast difference between a newborn and a six month old. It’s a really important time in establishing positive attachment relationships of trust with this new little family member. Time flies by so very quickly, enjoy!
By Kathy Stirrup
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Kathy Stirrup, alongside her daughter Alexandra Newmarch, runs Phoenix Place, a counselling, play therapy and mothercraft agency in the south of Sydney (www.phoenixplace.com.au). Kathy has trained as a Mothercraft Nurse, Child Care Worker, Counsellor and Play Therapist, and has had over 30 years of experience working with children and their families. Kathy also has a family of her own with two now grown-up children and a teenager, and has recently welcomed her first grandchild.
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