Bending your baby’s arms, bicycling her legs, putting her different body positions. Why did we include these in our BabySparks development program?
Exercising your baby’s large muscles, even when she’s brand new, is the first step in supporting all the gross motor milestones to come, from head control to rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing, cruising, and walking.
That’s because baby exercises help:
- Increase body awareness. All of our baby exercises involve stimulating your little one’s senses of touch and proprioception, which she relies on to learn about her body and how to move it in deliberate ways. Other ways to build body awareness include naked time and infant massage.
- Strengthen muscles. When you do our gross motor activities with your infant, she naturally flexes her muscles, which helps strengthen them.
- Build muscle tone. While muscle strength allows us to use our muscles, muscle tone allows us to stabilize them. Your child will rely on muscle tone for things like keeping her head up in infancy, remaining upright while running in an elementary-school game of tag, and maintaining postural control while sitting at a desk or (welp) driving a car when she’s in high school. Our baby exercises can be especially powerful for preemies, who are often born with low muscle tone.
- Increase range of motion. Exercises that involve moving and stretching your baby’s limbs help keep her muscles and joints loose and flexible.
- Promote balance. By moving your baby’s body into different positions, you activate her vestibular system, which builds balance skills. Another great way to stimulate her vestibular system is to wear her in a baby carrier.
Gross motor benefits aren’t the only thing your little one gains from baby exercises. They can also promote:
- Fine motor skills. When it’s time to use the small muscles of her hands and fingers for precise tasks like eating or drawing, your baby will rely on her big muscles to provide a strong, stable base. You can read more about how gross motor skills support fine motor skills here.
- Bonding. Our baby exercises encourage physical contact and eye contact, and create opportunities to interact with your baby.
- Sleep. Babies, especially when they’re brand-new, spend most of their time asleep. But as they grow, they spend more time awake, and keeping them stimulated (without over-doing it) may help them drift into dreamland smoothly when it’s time to snooze.
- Less constipation and/or gas. Although infrequent poops in babies aren’t always a sign of constipation, exercise (at any age!) helps keep the digestive system moving. When it comes to gas, exercises like our “bicycle movement” may help move it through and out.
Gross motor activities are one of the many ways to positively impact your little one’s development. You can read more about early stimulation, and how it can produce lifelong benefits, here.