Playing with your baby physio style

So your baby is starting to have some awake time, and looking up you with their wide eyes expecting you to entertain and play with them… What should you do??

Sometimes just place them on the floor nearby and watch them kick their legs, punch the air with their fists, discover sucking their hands and then even cooler sucking their own toes!

Yep leaving them on the floor in safe place, to learn about where there body ends and the world begins, is therapy approved parenting!

Read on for other fun activities you can do to help them in their quest to ‘colour in their body map in their brain’ – which is building the foundations for so many exciting things to come (including being able to self-regulate -which is just a fancy therapy way of saying calm themselves down!!!):

In the first few months it’s all about sleep, milk and getting those poops out! But even with all that going on babies have to find the time to start to make connections in the brain to register and organise things they are sensing – most importantly at the beginning sensations like pressure, pain, temperature, position, movement, vibration (somatosensory system – just to throw in a big word so you remember I’m a Physio), alongside hearing and vision.

So you can help them by being aware of what activities and environments provide what type of sensory input as the only way to learn to process different types of sensory input is to experience it.

Everyone, baby, child and adult will have a different threshold (tolerance) to different types of sensory input.  So helping them to experience a certain movement, or sound or touch in a safe way will enrich their sensory body map. You might be increasing their threshold so they can cope better in a certain environment (a busy noisy train); an activity (having a bath or nappy change). Or conversely you may be helping them reach a higher threshold – if they aren’t noticing, responding (registering) a certain sensory input yet, by repeating it or playing it louder, bringing it closer you send stronger input until the threshold is reached and the information is sent up the pathways and registered in the brain. Experience is the only way to establish and then reinforce the pathways.

So many sensory pathways are being made in the first few years of life, we don’t keep them all! So if your little one starts to explore independently they will keep strengthening the pathways and experiencing more and more, building on those foundations. However if they are not able to explore in a broad a varied way due to a motor relay or neurological impairment then they will reliant on you make it possible to keep exploring and reinforcing the foundation’s, even when they are also working on acquiring and mastering higher level skills.

These are some activities/ play ideas that all babies can enjoy and will benefit from experiencing:

Activities and positions to encourage:

Just being on the floor – babies do very important learning just being left in a safe place to move their arms and legs, to look at their hands and reach for their feet.

Maybe under a baby gym they will reach up or out for something.

Nesting:

Use a rolled up towel to tilt his pelvis and flex (bent) his hips and knees when he is on his back

This will encourage and help him to reach for his toes and build his tummy muscle strength.

Using nests  gives baby boundaries so they feel safer and have something this push against, this gives them more sensory feedback so they are learning more about their body.

You can play with baby bringing their feet together and clapping them, bringing hands to feet and rocking side to side.

Opposite hand to foot to help them clap like this or pull of a sock – all helps with them connecting the two sides of their brain and learning about their bodies.

Tummy Time: Really rolling time – babies are only ready for tummy time once they can roll onto their tummy!! Once they can do this, they can lift their head so will enjoy being on their tummy to play.

If your child has additional needs then you may wish to use tummy time as therapy and you can help your little one be happier for longer on his tummy by using a rolled up towel under his chest and by applying a little pressure to his bottom to help him shift his weight back.

Movement – with baby in your arms bounce them up and down, swing them forward and back, side to side. Spin them around. Stop and see their reaction. Give them chance to tell you what they think and make vocalisations to say go (ready steady…). They will start to anticipate and shout for go. Movement is the best way we have to communicate directly with the brain – when kids are moving they are learning.

Tactile play– offer pine cones, wrapping paper, space blankets, crisp packets to rustle, sponges to squeeze etc.

Vision and hearing- try a torch in the dark and see if your baby will track the light with their eyes. Encourage them to follow visual toys that are quiet so they are using vision and not relying on their hearing. Then you can bring on the noisy toys and start and stop, building anticipation and see if they can reach for the toy to turn it on. The beginnings of cause and effect.

If you are worried that your child has significant difficulties processing sensory information then you can ask your GP to refer you to children’s Occupational Therapist.

If you are worried your child has a developmental delay again contact your GP, or call local Physio team.

Some other posts in the pipeline:

– The low down on baby slings

– Some Physio tried and tested toys and equipment I would recommend.

To finish, an apology for the lack of posts this month – it has been a busy one. I will do better in July!