With so many parents concerned about their children getting enough exercise, it should ease your mind to know that you don’t really need to worry about your baby’s fitness level. As long as she has the oppportunity and space to move, she’ll get all the exercise she needs on her own. But engaging her in active play with you will encourage her motor development, critical thinking, and cognitive abilities.
Get Those Limbs Moving
Visually stimulating items, like a mobile, can entice infants to reach out their arms and legs. Another option is a crib toy that can be affixed to the rails. Look for those that light up, play music, have moving items, or include a baby-safe mirror.
Ready for a Workout
When your baby is about 2 months old, his activity will increase. He’ll kick more forcefully, move his hands more smoothly, and gain greater control over his head. As his motor skills develop, he will repeat movements that lead to new outcomes. Thus, offer toys that support awareness of cause and effect, such as ones that light up when your child kicks them, or a wrist toy that rattles when he waves his arms. After 4 months of age, introduce a jump-up toy or stationary activity center to strengthen muscles.
Let Her Toddle
As your baby begins walking, she’ll become a bundle of energy. Head to a baby-safe playground where she can practice climbing stairs, getting into position to slide, and walking on uneven bark chips. All these help with coordination while also encouraging problem solving. When you allow your toddler to safely control when, where, and how she moves, you foster her confidence, curiosity, and cognition.
Photos: Supri Suharjoto/Shutterstock; Olivier Renck/Getty Images; Meredith Heuer/Getty Images; Cultura Photography/Veer
Reyna Lindert, R.N., Ph.D., is a neonatal nurse at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. She holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology, has led family-focused play classes and workshops, and has co-authored parenting books.