At this age your baby and toddler are learning to control their body and wiring all the systems together. They are laying the foundations for their later movement. There are some really important things happening right from the very start. You will all know that tummy time is important. Why? – Because your baby needs to build strength and control in their neck, shoulders, back and core. The health guidelines say at least 30 minutes per day, but really keep putting your baby on their tummy for short spells. Use toys, rattles and patterned objects, black and white to start with to keep them on their tummy for longer and beginning to lift and control their head and shoulders. You will notice that when you lie your baby on their back to change their nappy, they kick out their legs and straighten them and move their arms. Give them time to do this as it is using their muscles and helping them to feel their limbs. As your baby gets stronger they will roll over and encourage them to do this as rolling over and moving is helping them learn about balance. Always make sure they are in a safe place on the floor. Help them to sit up and support them until their back gets stronger and they can support themselves. All the time you will notice that your baby is reaching and grabbing objects, this is helping them to make sense of their movement and nervous systems. They are learning about how their arms and hands move, and how they can start to control them. We call this sensory integration and it is the integrating of their sensory systems with their nervous system and brain. Their brain is building connections the whole time from the stimulation of you playing with them and these connections are the foundations for later learning. The more that you give them good movement experiences the more they are building connections in their brains.
Once your baby can roll over and sit up, they will begin to reach more and want to get places. It is very important to encourage your baby to crawl. Don’t be tempted to get them up to standing too soon. Crawling is very important for wiring the brain and helps to link both sides of the brain together to process information. Crawling is also very important for developing strong core muscles, strong arms, shoulders and legs. All of this is very important for the skills they will be learning later, like walking running jumping, catching and throwing. Crawling uses both sides of the body at the same time doing different things, but having to work together so it also really good for co-ordination. Encourage your baby to crawl by putting their toys just out of reach, you may need to help them into position and don’t be surprised if they go backwards to start with as they are trying to work out how to make their body do what they want. Once they get the hang of it, give them lots of practice, use tunnels for them to crawl through, chairs for them to go under, use blankets or towels over chairs to make tunnels. Go on your hands and knees to make a bridge for them or get older sister or brother to make a bridge for them to go under.
You will notice that as your toddler learns to walk and move around more they will want to hang upside down and look through their legs. They will like spinning around and swinging from things. This is them working out all about balance. This is very important for them because they need to have a good sense of balance to sit up, stand up, walk, run etc. The system that tells our brain about balance is in our ear and babies and young children are learning about this every time they move. The system in their ear sends messages to their brain about where they are, and how they are moving and the brain will send messages to the muscles and stop them falling over and help them to move it the right way. Balance is very complicated and just for your baby to stand up they need to have their balance system telling their legs and feet how to move and be able to control all this with strong leg muscles and core muscles. This why the rolling, crawling and playing are so important early on so that they have the foundations to be able to stand and walk. Once they are able to walk they need to continue to play games that let them try out lots of ways of moving. Games where they are walking, running, jumping, moving on their hands and feet and going in different directions. We call this building a movement vocabulary and it is just the same as them learning to talk but with movement. If they don’t have many words they can’t tell us good stories, or express themselves very well. If we don’t give them lots of ways to move they won’t be able to move well and so will not be able to play games, or sports as they grow older. Building a movement vocabulary has already begun as they began to crawl and walk, but you can help them with this by setting up lots of small obstacle course and games for them to play. See the parent cards and activity ideas that we have developed to get you started.