Exercise for Babies 0-12 Months

"Good" play each month will move a baby along the road of milestones:

- Develop head, neck, and body control against gravity
- Develop stability when on belly to begin mobility
- Develop play skills with fine motor dexterity at 6 months
- Give the child the "I Can Do It" attitude necessary for all independent activities

One Month Play

From 2 weeks on, play in all four positions: on back, tummy, and each side. Turn TV and technology off. Place the baby on his side and move a toy so he needs to tuck his chin to watch the toy. This should be done for both the Right and Left sides.

Use noisy toys held over the nose until baby focuses. Then move the toy so eyes follow.

Month Two

At 2.5 months, if the baby can turn both directions and has a chin tuck, the parent can begin to help the baby try to pull forward into a sit position by holding the baby's arms.

It is easier to do a Pull-to-Sit when the baby is inclined on his upper back on a pillow

One more great exercise is hanging a soft toy just above the baby's nose. He should try to reach up for the toy. We therapists want babies to be able to reach up for a toy within 5 seconds after focusing on the toy.

  • Babies need to have good head control by 2 months of age.
  • Babies need to be comfortable on the belly by 2 months of age

Benefits

It is great when a baby is gaining appropriate milestones on time but other wonderful benefits happen as well.

  • A baby that plays during the day in all 4 positions, sleeps through the night more quickly.
  • A baby who spends time on the belly several times a day, will often avoid being constipated or having reflux.
  • A baby who becomes comfortable on the belly and learns to find his own hands, learns to comfort themselves. Finding the hands can make a baby smile. IT IS ALL GOOD

Exercise for Babies 3-12 Months

I like to give parents the big picture so they know what they are trying to accomplish in 12 months. These are key goals from most important to least important.

  1. This is how they were designed by God in the beginning. He hasn't changed the plan, people have.
  2. Babies that are comfortable on the belly at 2 months will probably belly crawl by 7 months.
  3. Belly crawl is good for lots of things but one of the best is developing near sighted vision that is needed for reading.
  4. Babies that belly crawl for awhile will usually move to creeping on all fours by 9 months. Creeping is good for lots of things but one of the best is developing the focal length acuity for reading and writing, about 12 inches.
  5. Walking at nine months is not necessarily a good thing. There are lots of great things that happen on the tummy and on all fours. Walking really takes less head control and core strength than creeping. Some babies walk early to avoid doing the important "work" that takes place on the hands and knees. If a baby has strong belly and back muscles, head control, balance reactions, and open hands when weight bearing, by all means, encourage walking. Otherwise, get down on the floor once a day and play Kitty Kat with your 9 month old baby or make a sofa cushion cubby house with a blanket roof and encourage crawling in, under, through, over, around, and on top of the cushions.
  6. This is as important as #5. Encourage your baby to learn to transition to sit by herself. That should happen around 7 months if your baby has done #s 1-3. Important coordination and balance reactions develop with the effort to push into a sit position. It is work but good baby work to figure out how to get to a sitting position. Babies who are always plopped or held miss that opportunity. Boppees should be placed to protect for a hard fall, NOT to prevent a baby from being off balance. Falling like a roly-poly is a good lesson.

Certainly all babies will vary in their milestone acquisition times. The important thing is that they go through the order of the milestones so they don't get to 12 months missing balance reactions, eye tracking, fine motor skills, and self assurance. Lack of those things will impact preschool readiness.

If you have questions about how your baby is doing anytime during the first year, seek out a pediatric physical therapist or pediatric occupational therapist for suggestions. Certainly get expert OT or PT advice if your baby has a flat spot on the back of the skull or always has the head turned to one side. That may appear as early as 4 weeks and is most easily corrected then.

"To know and not to do is not yet to know." Chinese Proverb

Ms Jennings has been a school-based physical therapist since 1980, working with children of many disabilities. Her extensive continuing education in sensory integration and sensory dysfunction has provided her opportunities to speak and teach parents, teachers, and therapists.

Ms. Jennings received her certificate in physical therapy from the University of Iowa. She has developed her knowledge of academic helps with many continuing education courses utilizing neuro-kinesiology, sensori-integration, edu-kineseology, and reflex integration. Her unique motor-neuro-kinesiology techniques have worked very well with students with the Clumsy Child Syndrome who have educational challenges but do not usually qualify for physical or occupational therapy services. She has found that giving a child activities that orient him or her to the mid-line of the body will often improve memory, reading, math and handwriting skills. Ms. Jennings has lectured to several audiences on successful motor strategies to enhance academic success.

From 2001 to 2003, Ms. Jennings researched the effects of infant positioning on 100 six month and 18 month old babies. She and her research team presented the results June 2003, at the national Occupational Therapy 83rd Conference in Washington D.C. , and June 2005 to the National American Physical Therapy Association Conference in Boston, MA.

She is committed to the goal of prevention of developmental delays in children due to less than optimal positioning choices by new parents.

Judy Jennings

Judy Towne Jennings, PT, MA has expertise in child development for children of all ages.

 

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