11 fun ways to boost your baby’s motor development

We have tips on how to track your baby’s motor development, plus ways to fine-tune it through play.

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Do you know your baby is exercising her little muscles when they bat at an object or kicks their legs? You have many ways to encourage their motor development and mobility

Do keep in mind, however, that babies develop at their own pace — your little one will hit her milestones in their own good time. Here’s how to help her on her way…

1. Encourage tummy time Your baby spends a lot of time on her back. Turning her over onto her stomach helps her develop head control and build muscles in her neck, arms, shoulders and back. Research shows that babies who are placed on their tummy during the day roll, crawl, sit and eventually walk earlier. During tummy time, place baby on her tummy on a firm surface. Let her practise rising up on her elbows and lifting her head. Start with one to two minutes and build up to 10 to 15 minutes a day. Do this two to three times a day.

2. Rolling over At around 3 months old, your baby learns to flip over, usually from her tummy to the back. At about 5 months, she will master the harder back-to-tummy flip. She probably won’t be able to flip back to her original position until she’s 6 or 7 months old. Place her on a play mat to give her plenty of space to practise. Hold a rattle next to her to attract her attention. Praise her when she tries to roll, but don’t rush her into doing things before she’s ready.

Research shows that babies who are placed on their tummy during the day roll, crawl, sit and eventually walk earlier.

3. Sitting up Babies learn to sit up when they are between 4 and 7 months old. At first, your baby will need assistance. She won’t be able to sit up on her own until she can control her head and neck muscles.

Babies can progress from holding their head up (while on their tummy) to doing a small push-up, to sitting rather quickly, but they aren’t likely to sit up without any props (their arms, a cushion) until they are past 7 months.

Help baby practise sitting up by placing her on your lap, facing outward, as you sit cross-legged on the floor. Your stomach and legs will provide support for her back. Or prop baby on a standard or U-shaped pillow.

Another good way to strengthen her shoulder, core, arm and back muscles is to pull your baby up by her hands into a sitting position.

4. Crawling When babies are between 6 and 10 months old, they will start to wiggle about more. Your child may rock on her hands and knees or shimmy around before she crawls. Let her get down on the floor and explore daily. Place toys or objects of interests far apart in open areas to encourage her to crawl over and investigate. Do note that crawling is not an essential milestone as some babies may just move on to the next milestone, which is pulling to stand and cruising. Some 10 per cent of babies won’t crawl, but will go directly from sitting to walking!

5. Cruising Babies typically start to cruise by walking sideways as they hold on to furniture. This happens after your baby learns to stand up, at around 8 to 13 months. While standing, she may grip the coffee table or sofa as she takes a few steps at a time. She may drag her feet at first, but will eventually learn to lift her legs, signalling the start of her ability to walk.

6. Walking Somewhere between 9 and 14 months of age, your peewee will take her hands off the furniture, and try going it alone. Allow her to go barefoot, and expect falls.

Incidentally, research shows that babies who use baby walkers don’t walk sooner and may, in fact, walk later than infants who do not use it. Here are play ideas to get bubba moving:

#1 Reach and grab

Put a toy in baby’s hand for her to hold. Or dangle eye-catching objects above her while she’s lying on her back on the floor, so that she can swipe at them.

#2 Prop her up

Help baby learn to sit without any support by putting her on the floor with her back close to the sofa. Use pillows to prop her back and on either side. Next, place toys beside baby to encourage her to learn how to balance, as well as turn from the waist.

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#3 Hit the gym

Babies can reap the benefits of soft play and movement-based classes. The engaging activities will encourage crawling, standing and eventually, walking.

#4 Baby yoga

Yoga promotes your baby’s flexibility, develops supple muscles and joints, strengthens her spine, while stimulating her physically.

#5 Sing and dance

Action songs and games like Pat-A-Cake and Row, Row, Row Your Boat will help baby get familiar with different parts of her body and develop her ability to move them at will.

If baby is not moving or crawling by 12 months or not walking by 18 months, see your paediatrician.

#6 Play ball

Hold baby under the arms or by the hands and get her to kick a beach ball to exercise her legs and practise stepping movements.

#7 Boxes make great toys

Cut holes in the sides for windows and doors. Let baby crawl in and out of them.

#8 Give them tools

Prepare baby-friendly utensils like spoons, pots and pans for them to play with.

#9 Ride-on toy

A small ride-on vehicle that baby can propel with her feet will help her to develop balance, spatial awareness and strength in her legs.

#10 Water play

Swimming is a wonderful activity for building muscles — even newborns are able to control their arms and legs in water. However, do wait till your tot has completed the standard immunisations — at around 4 to 6 months of age. This is because babies may catch a cold and the pool water’s harsh chemicals may harm their delicate skin.

#11 Get physical

Don’t be afraid to play rough-and-tumble games — boys tend to hit their motor milestones earlier than girls. Hit the floor and play rolling and tickling games.

KEEP BABY SAFE

Now that baby is mobile, you’ll need to baby-proof your home to safeguard their well-being, so:

1. Cushion sharp edges and corners of furniture.

2. Cover all electrical outlets and tidy extension cords.

3. Remove small objects from the floor.

4. Place gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.

WHEN TO START WORRYING

If baby is not moving or crawling by 12 months or not walking by 18 months, see your paediatrician. This is particularly important if your child:

1. Is over 3 months of age and has trouble supporting her head.

2. Seems unusually floppy or stiff.

3. Arches her back frequently.

4. Doesn’t startle when there’s a loud noise nearby.

5. Is not exploring her environment by 10 months of age.

6. Uses only one side of the body or just the arms to crawl.

Photos: iStock

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