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Get Your Baby Moving: Do’s and Don’ts for a Happy, Active Baby

We all know that it’s important for our babies to move around and explore. Do you really know how important it is, though? If your baby spends too much time in their crib, car seat, high chair, or the like, you could actually be delaying their development. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take long car trips or let them sleep in their cribs. These things are both fine, but you have to make sure baby is active and learning too.

Many people don’t really think of activity for a baby until they are at the age to roll over, crawl, or scoot. Your baby can be active from the beginning of life and should be. Simple things like picking up their heads or learning to move their arms and legs freely are important activities for a newborn. 

The older your baby gets, the more options you have for active play. These do’s and don’ts for activity will help you create a safe and active lifestyle that nurtures development and encourages curiosity in babies and toddlers.

7  First Things First: Safety!

Baby proofing is a well talked about topic. Advice and methods vary widely and what you determine to do in your home will be influenced by a number of factors such as your pediatrician, your family, and your living space. One thing that we all should agree on, though: baby proofing is a must in every home.

Do you know it’s never too soon in your baby’s life to start baby proofing your home? The thought of installing cabinet locks and clamping the toilet closed may sound funny as you look over at your week old baby, but the truth is the sooner you can prepare your home, the better. It’s easy to lose track of time and our babies grow up so fast. 

Before you know it, your baby will be crawling around the house and you will be scrambling to prepare. So do it now.

Get Down on Your Hands and Knees to See What Your Baby Sees

The best way to make sure you have everything safe for baby is to get down to floor level and look around each room. This is the perspective your baby will have and this will let you spot things you would never notice if you stood upright. Next, assume that your baby can break out of its crib and roam the house alone. Sound drastic? 

Maybe it is, a little, but the point of this is to make sure that everything is safe for baby when you are out of sight. You may think you are just going to take a moment to use the bathroom or step outside to check the mail, but babies on the go move quickly and can find themselves in a disaster faster than you can flush the toilet.

This checklist will help you with all things baby proofing so you aren’t overwhelmed trying to decide where to start. 

6  Don’t Allow Much Television

The less (television, iPad, computer) screen time, the better. In fact, you should really avoid it altogether until your child turns 2 at the least. Evidence has shown that television before age 2 can have damaging effects on short-term memory, language, and memory development. 

Babies under 3 have a hard time processing things in the 2-dimensional television world and relating it to how things work in our 3D world. Even more importantly, if your baby is zoned into the screen, they aren’t moving around and exploring their environment.

What’s more telling is that television before bed can reduce the quality of sleep and cause it to take longer for your baby to fall asleep. This study applies to babies, children, and even adults. The light that a television, computer screen, or similar device produces can suppress the production of melatonin that tells the body it is time to sleep. 

Television Should be Used in Moderation

You may be thinking that letting your child watch television before bed will help them calm down and wind down for the evening because it is a calm activity, but in reality, it has the opposite effect. 

Some parents have a television in their child’s bedroom to help them sleep, which is even worse on the child’s sleep quality. Instead of television before bed, try a warm bath and reading a book and choose soft music or white noise over television if your child needs something to fall asleep to.

Now before you get horrible images of taking away the television and never being able to cook dinner again, keep reading. Watching television is not the complete problem. The issue is that most babies are put in front of the television and aren’t interacting with anyone and aren’t playing either. 

Television Isn't Bad, But Don't Make it a Substitute for Your Company

So, if you feel like you have to let your baby have some screen time, choose a short show and watch it together, talking about what is happening. Even if your baby can’t talk yet, they will get much more out of this interaction.

As for cooking dinner, let them play in the kitchen with you. You can put them in a playpen if there is room in your kitchen and if there isn’t, just put them away from your working area. If they are mobile, you will have to slow down and watch out for them, but if you give them something to do, it won’t be as bad as you think. 

Playing with pots and pans, exploring different textures with safe cooking ingredients, or coloring at the table are all some good examples of activities that will limit screen time but still let you accomplish dinner.

For those moments when you have to make a phone call or just need a moment to breathe, you can turn on the television if you are finding yourself with no other options. 2 hours (or less) of screen time a day is acceptable.

5  Don’t Rely on Baby Gear to Entertain Your Baby

All of those expensive items you got at your baby shower aren’t completely useless, so don’t panic. Walkers, play stations, swings, and high chairs all have great uses to make your life easier. The problem comes when your baby is put in one (or more) of these devices all day long. 

If you start the morning in the swing, transfer to the high chair for meals, and have your baby spending the rest of the time in their saucer, your baby never has time to explore or move freely. You probably aren’t spending much time interacting with them, either. Give your baby time in the swing if it calms them down or time in their jumper if they enjoy it, just don’t let it take up the entire day.

Another important note - make sure you aren’t putting your baby in baby gear that they aren’t ready for yet. Until they can support their own head and have a little control over their torso, they shouldn’t be sitting up in a bouncer or the like. If they are in a high chair for feeding, it should reclined. 

Babies Want Your Attention

Additionally, you shouldn’t put them in a walker or play station that lets them bear weight on their legs and feet before they are ready to. They don’t learn to use their own muscles because movement is too easy in walkers or they are suspended and not holding themselves up in saucers.

Additionally, don’t use baby gear to babysit your child. Having them in a high chair, walker, saucer, etc. is not a substitute for adult supervision. There are many accidents that occur when children are placed in baby gear. You never know what can happen and it happens in the blink of an eye. Be aware of potential dangers and don’t allow yourself to feel too safe with any baby gear, even when your baby is buckled in.

4  Encourage Development and Activity Through Play

Spread a blanket on the floor to give them a safe place to play and roll around. Even if they aren’t crawling around or rolling, they will practice picking their heads up when they are on their belly (tummy time) or kicking their legs and moving their arms when on their back. 

Get on the floor with your baby for some of the time and talk and play with them. They will love the attention and the quality time is a good way for you to relax.

If you have a newborn that doesn’t spend much time awake or moving, you may be tempted to leave them in a seat and talk to them for interaction. They rely on you to stimulate their activity, so pick your newborn up and cuddle with them. Lay them on the bed and move their arms and legs around while you are talking to them. This will encourage them to move around themselves.

Your Baby Will Learn From Watching You

Once your baby is crawling or scooting around, the best thing you can do for them is to give them a safe place to explore. This goes back to properly baby-proofing your home before they are ready to be on the move. You can make more of a game out of it for them by moving toys out of their reach and challenge them to go get them or moving across the room and getting them to crawl towards you.

When your baby is able to stand and support their own weight some, you can work with them on walking. They will love the attention and the independence they feel from being able to move around the room. Just hold onto their arms and let them take the steps. 

Being Active with Your Baby Will Make You Closer

They will become more confident in their abilities and their bond with you will grow even stronger. Eventually, they will be ready to stand alone and balance, so you will be able to let go and marvel at your baby’s independence.

Older toddlers that can walk should spend their time doing so when it is practical. Short errands or trips to the store are great opportunities for them to hold your hand and walk with you instead of being confined to shopping carts or strollers every time you leave the house. Now this doesn’t mean try to get a week’s worth of groceries with a toddler holding onto your pant leg. Just that they should be given the option to walk occasionally.

3  Do Attend Classes for Babies

There are many different options for classes that you can enjoy with your baby. You can choose a class that lets you and your baby interact with each other, such as a mommy and me class. Most of the time, these are just classes that bring together parents and babies to learn new songs, dance, and just have fun and be social. They may seem silly at first, but just enjoy the moment and watch your baby soak it up.

There are classes that are more important and useful in the sense that they teach your baby useful skills. Swimming lessons can be useful to babies even under 1 year old. They can be shown how to float on their backs so if they were to ever fall in water, they would be able to survive. 

Most can be taught to swim, even, so they can safely explore the water with you. If your baby isn’t learning to swim or float, they can learn to trust you in the water which will prove to be useful later on when you do want them to learn.

These Classes Are Great for You Too

Gymnastic classes are wonderful ways to help your toddler work off some of that extra energy. This doesn’t have to mean a formal class with an instructor, but can instead be a place that has tumbling mats and the like to let your toddler learn more about how their body can move in a safe environment.

Of course, you can create your own “classes” at home. Let your toddler help you in the kitchen and do age-appropriate cooking tasks. For example, they can stir and mix foods, wash fruits and vegetables, or even spread their own peanut butter on a sandwich. Older toddlers can pour their own drink or pour liquid ingredients into a measuring cup for a recipe. 

The best part is, your picky eater will be more eager to eat their meal if they had a hand in preparing it.

Art classes are another popular choice for children of all ages. Even younger babies can participate as long as you give them materials that don’t pose a choking hazard and are non-toxic because they will go in their mouth. 

Making Your Own Art Supplies is Easy and Safe

Make your own paints or play doughs to make sure the materials are safe, spread out a tablecloth on your kitchen table, and let them explore different textures and colors. You may be surprised by how much they learn!

These tips can really make a difference in your baby’s development and even in your relationship with your child. Choose the active, interactive choice over the sedentary one for most of the day and you will get to see the results of your hard work as your baby grows and learns. 

A bonus for keeping your baby active is that they will be good and tired at the end of the day and may be easier to put to bed and get to sleep. Just remember, there is no wrong way to play with your baby as long as you are safe, so just get out there and play! Your baby will thank you for it over and over again with their smiles, giggles, hugs, and kisses. 

2  Do Have Fun

With all of the focus on trying to make sure you are the best parent you can be in addition to all of your other responsibilities, it can be easy to lose sight of enjoying the day and your child. Just have fun! 

One of the best ways to relax, let your hair down, and have fun while keeping your baby moving at the same time is an impromptu dance party! Turn on some music and start dancing. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but make sure the language is kid-friendly even if your baby is not yet talking.

A fun way to do this is to create a little ritual with your baby. For example, stare the day by playing music and dancing after breakfast or dance and sing while you are cleaning up the house. Your baby will really enjoy the music and will begin imitating you and doing their own little dance. You will both be having lots of fun and you will feel the stress melt away before you know it.

Your Baby Loves to See You Smile

If you have older kids, you can make this a family affair in the evenings. Just start a family karaoke night! Turn up the music and get singing. You can hold your baby and dance along with the music or make them feel like they are the center of your world by singing just to them. It sounds silly, but everyone will have a blast and it’s a great way to have a family activity that baby can participate in. 

1  Do Get Outside

By taking your active play outside, you can make sure you and baby both get the needed Vitamin D from the sun and expand baby’s environment a little. If your baby is old enough for the park, this is an excellent way to help the day pass and tire your little one out. Even if you just put your baby in the swing at the park, they will actively be looking around and moving their arms and legs.

Babies that can walk will enjoy slides, sandboxes, and jungle gyms that are age appropriate for their skill level. The best thing about the park is that it’s free and it basically grows with your child because there are many different types of equipment designed for various ages.

If you don’t have a park close by, play in your backyard or go for a nature walk. You can let younger babies explore the outdoors by crawling or walking around and younger babies will enjoy a blanket spread on the grass. Walking and talking toddlers will thrive on a nature walk as you teach them about trees, flowers, animals, and insects. Hold their hand and let them explore different terrains by walking beside you.

Getting Out is Mutually Beneficial

These tips can really make a difference in your baby’s development and even in your relationship with your child. Choose the active, interactive choice over the sedentary one for most of the day and you will get to see the results of your hard work as your baby grows and learns. 

A bonus for keeping your baby active is that they will be good and tired at the end of the day and may be easier to put to bed and get to sleep. Just remember, there is no wrong way to play with your baby as long as you are safe, so just get out there and play! Your baby will thank you for it over and over again with their smiles, giggles, hugs, and kisses. 

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