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My Top 5 Tips for Optimal Play and Development

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

By: Yelena Bregman, PT, DPT

1. Tummy Time: Supervised tummy time is essential for the development of sensory and gross motor skill acquisition. A baby works on head control, upper body and core development during tummy time! Tummy Time can be modified with supports placed under the chest such as a small towel roll, make sure the baby's face is clear for proper breathing. If the baby is still having trouble tolerating the position, mom or dad can lie down flat on a surface and place their baby on their chest. The more tolerant the baby becomes of the position one can increase the time each play period. In this position babies will learn to do press up's (mini-push up's) and eventually will learn to position themselves on hands and knees (around 7-8 months old). Children should have a total of 90 Minutes of supervised tummy time broken down throughout the day. Enhance tummy time fun with use of different textured toys and a small mirror. Babies love to look at themselves in the mirror!

2. Limiting Containers: Optimally babies should be given as much time to move around and explore their environment as possible. Limiting the use of containers such as a car seat, high chair and small play pen while increasing free floor play time is integral to healthy development. Getting down on the floor with your baby and exploring with them is the best way for baby, mom, dad and siblings to bond, learn and play.

3. Enhancing Rolling: A typical 4 month old child will be working on symmetrical rolling and a 5 month old child will be working on asymmetrical rolling. If your child has trouble rolling to one particular side, try placing all of their favorite toys to that side. Use a rattle to get their attention on that side. Also try sitting on that side and calling to your child. Does your child feel more "tight" or "stiff" to you on one side than another? If so, reach out to a Pediatric Physical Therapist for an assessment.

4. Enhancing Sitting Balance: Working on sitting balance begins around 4 months old and a typical 6-7 month old should be able to maintain upright sitting independently for a couple of minutes. Typically, while reaching and then holding and interacting with a toy in midline. If your baby is having trouble sitting independently try sitting with them and placing your hands around their tummy and back.. Have their favorite toys near by placed forward and slightly to each side. Work on them reaching for each toy with your assist. The cue from your hands will help to promote the co-activation of their back and tummy muscles, the key to learning to sit up.

5. Tall-Kneeling and Half-Kneeling: Having your baby around 8-9 months play and transition in and out of these two positions is essential. These positions help the child to stabilize with their lower extremities while weightbearing or actively reaching with their upper extremities. In this position the child is working on strengthening the glutes and core muscles, essential steps building up to walking independently. Encourage your child to play in these positions with use of bubbles, songs and toys.

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