Developing Motor Skills: Baby Playtime Activities

developing motor skillsThere are many milestones and things to watch for and anticipate as a new parent. One of these areas involves motor skills. Motor skills are defined as an intentional muscle movement—these movements are typically placed into 2 categories, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve larger movements of the arms, legs, feet, or entire body, such as crawling, walking, and jumping. Fine motor skills involve smaller movements of body parts such as fingers and hands. Believe it or not, there are many easy and fun activities parents and caregivers can do with babies to encourage the development of both gross and fine motor skills. Here are just a few:

Get out the Play-dough

Most kids love play-dough, and it turns out that this activity is more than just crafty fun. It encourages imagination, provides a sensory experience, and builds motor skills. The pinching, stretching, and kneading of play-dough is wonderful for building muscle strength and coordination in little fingers. Once you teach your little ones that play-dough is for playing and not for eating, they can unleash their creative spirit while developing essential motor skills.

Go Swimming

One of the major components of well-developed gross motor skills is a strong core. According to professionals who offer baby swimming lessons in Houston, swimming is an effective way to build core, leg, and arm muscles even in young children and babies. Swimming with your little one will get them used to the water—a huge benefit when they are old enough for swimming lessons on their own. This is a great mommy-and-me class to try with your baby to help them build important muscle groups and learn essential swimming skills.

Coloring

Holding a pencil or crayon the correct way may seem to be a skill not needed for years to come, but it is never too early to begin to develop strong muscles and good skills. By using short nubs of pencils and crayons it encourages little ones to hold them correctly, rather than in a fist. Using thicker markers in the beginning will help them get an idea of how to grasp, and showing them how to color on a page will help with coordination and strength. Then, try cutting down pencils and crayons to help increase these grasping muscles as they grow.

Play Hopscotch

Drawing a basic hopscotch grid with sidewalk chalk can provide hours of entertainment, exercise, and development of gross motor skills. Hopping and jumping are both skills that build strong leg muscles and coordination. Little ones may not be able to actually play hopscotch. Simply drawing a line on the ground and encouraging them to walk along it and jump over it is a great alternative. Not only will this help them burn off extra energy, but they will eventually develop the muscles needed to hop, skip, and jump.

Tummy Time

For very young babies, tummy time is like doing a set of sit ups. Laying a baby on their tummy for supervised play time is extremely important and beneficial to the development of strong core, neck, arm, and leg muscles. These muscles are all needed as the baby learns to sit, scoot, crawl, and walk. Your little one may scream and cry during tummy time, but it is necessary to proper growth. You may dread this exercise, but allowing the baby to get used to this position will help them develop the necessary muscles to support their own body.

Strings and Things

Allowing kids to string materials is a wonderful way to build fine motor skills and build hand-eye coordination. Kids can string things such as macaroni, cheerios, and beads into necklaces and bracelets. If they aren’t quite coordinated enough for this, invest in a few books or games that require strings to be looped through holes repeatedly (you can even make your own.) This action will help with creativity and hand-eye coordination, but can be disguised as a fun game or jewelry making for your little one.

There is nearly a never ending number of ways to work on building gross and fine motor skills with babies. The keys are to be creative, stay active, and have fun! Your baby will develop the necessary skills as you help him or her along in the process, and you can always ask your pediatrician if you are concerned about their development or motor skills.

Dixie Somers, Freelance WriterGuest Blog by Dixie Somers, Freelance Writer/Blogger

Dixie is a freelance writer who loves to write about business, women’s interests, or home and family. Dixie lives in Arizona with her husband and three beautiful daughters who are the inspiration for her writing.

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The 6 Benefits of Sensory Play

benefits of sensory playSensory play are activities that give your child a chance to explore and discover the world using their senses. You can facilitate this learning by providing your children with sensory play opportunities. I’ve written before (here and here) about how you can create some.

When most people think about sensory play, they think about touch: sand and water tables, play dough and beads. Other senses can be incorporated as well, like sight (by using bright colors) and smell (by using strong odors) and taste (edible toys!).

Here are the benefits of sensory play.

1. Sensory builds nerve connections in the brain.

The first years of development are critical for the brain. Many of the brains pathways are created during this time period. That means stimulation during the baby and toddler ages is important. With more neural pathways, your child will be able to complete more complex tasks and work through difficult problems. In fact, as your child learns through his sense, he becomes better at learning with those same sense, compounding the benefit.

2. Sensory play enhances memory.

Like most abilities, memory can be improved by working at it. Sensory play gives children a chance to practice their memories by remembering how their play set behaves to their manipulations.

3. Sensory provides a pre-language learning environment.

Your child might be able to talk just yet, but he has been seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling since his first breath. He has an idea of how to use those senses well enough to use them to learn the world. That’s why babies and toddlers are so eager to put their hands (and mouths) on something new. Someday you’ll be able to explain concepts with words, but for now you need to appeal to his senses.

4. Sensory play develops fine motor skills.

Your child needs to develop two types of motor skills: fine and gross. Gross motor skills are things like walking, running, jumping. Fine motor skills are a bit harder to build, so you’ll have to give your child specific opportunities to learn. Sensory play items often have small pieces that need to be manipulated with precision, like buttoning, zipping, pinching, pulling and turning.

5. Sensory play is calming.

You have probably noticed that after bath time (a form of sensory play), your toddler is a lot calmer than an hour spent running around and roughhousing. Stationary play that requires lots of mental energy is a great way to get your kid to calm down for the evening. It regulates discomfort, anxiety, restless and agitation. Offer a little sensory play and a calm book, and your child will fall right to sleep.

6. Sensory play is an abbreviated form of the scientific method.

The scientific method, if you remember from school, is just the way we evaluate the world to get the best results. When you cross the street, you suppose cars are coming (that’s the hypothesis), check both ways (the experiment), and determine that the way is clear (your results). Similarly, children learn through sensory play by experimenting. When they touch something sticky, they learn that it won’t separate from their hands. When they touch water, their hand comes away wet. With each endeavor, they learn something.

footed pajamas for fast diaper changesWritten by Lisa Youngelson, Owner of Zippyz

Like most new moms, Lisa had been up night after night changing her newborn son’s diaper. She was so exhausted she could barely function, let alone match up the tiny snaps on her baby’s pajamas.

Frustrated by endless mis-snapping and re-snapping, Lisa found zippered pajamas, and thought her problems had been solved. That night when she unzipped her son’s pajamas, he started to cry from the shock of cold air. Although less time consuming, Lisa hated that she had to expose her baby’s entire body with the zipper. She felt her baby’s comfort should come first and yearned for the perfect footed pajama, which was both soft and cozy for her baby and hassle-free for mommy.

One night while feeding her son she thought of “Zippyz.” Zippyz are patented footed baby pajamas for easy and fast diaper changes with 3 snaps on the chest and a zipper from foot to belly. Finally, a solution suitable for baby AND mommy! Plus Zippyz are a unique baby shower gift! Along with her best friend and business partner Erica, Lisa decided make the diaper changing world a better place for all new parents!

For more information, visit www.shopzippyz.com.

Interested in writing a guest blog for Zippyz? Send your topic idea to: media@shopzippyz.com.

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Zippyz makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, current-ness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information, or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.