What can I buy my child to help their gross motor development?
Being the parent of a newly born baby is incredible, albeit tiring. Suddenly, we turn into seeing how the world functions between the hours of 12 and 4am, as well as the hours that follow on from that.
While your baby is working on burping, settling or feeding, a common past time is online shopping, and what better topic than the little bundle of joy currently nestled in your arms!
So, as a paediatric physiotherapist, I’ve come up with a small selection box of ideas you can take away for each gross motor developmental stage, all the way up to 2 years of age. Please note that these are just ideas for gross motor, and development for babies comes in a whole raft of forms (cognitive, speech, fine motor).
None, just you! A new-born baby is often either in need of sleep or feeding, and doesn’t spend a great deal of time awake. However, on the times they are awake and settled, a great thing to work on is tummy time. This can be on the floor or simply on you (in a leant back position), all will help a baby to begin to understand how gravity is working on their body, and help to build neck muscle strength.
A play mat. This could be anything from a soft rug to a full-blown floor gym. A baby just needs a safe place on the floor where they can practice turning their head on their tummy and on their backs.
sensory materials. Foil/crinkly paper that gives a nice noisy response and feels good on bare feet can be a brilliant source of motivation to kick legs against. This can be done both on the baby’s tummy or back.
Play mats that can make noises/interact on pressure. Play mats that have crackling noises, or small parts that may squeak when laid on can be great entertainment for rolling on. Anywhere from 5-7 months rolling is typically achieved.
Equally, wooden rattles and sensory balls (soft spikes, noises etc) are all lovely motivators to roll and reach for!
Surfaces of a different height: As your baby, may now be quite interested in sitting, rolling, and generally moving out of their current position, anything that helps them on their way towards being on their own two feet will be ideal. Often the surfaces within the living room (coffee table and sofa) are a perfect height, and readily available, however you can also consider some of the many styles of indoor soft play bits of equipment that are online. These have blocks with different heights which can be ideal to crawl up onto, and push onto to access standing, and most importantly, a soft landing.
Motivational toys! Your baby will start to show an interest into toys they like by this stage, and so it’s great to feed into this to encourage your baby to develop a confident ability to crawl. For example, if your baby likes cars, then wooden click clack cars, that then roll away, are perfect to chase after.
Trundle toys. Any type of trundle toy, which is an item with a wheeled base and a handle for the baby to hold onto when walking is perfect to give them a little stability, as they’re learning to take their first steps. There are many wooden versions with building blocks fitted into the base, but other ideas can be baby shopping trolleys/prams. If you feel as though your baby likes these, but the item is moving too fast for them, placing heavier toys inside the base can slow the trundle toy down, making it more steady.
You can also refer to the previous- motivational toys idea, to encourage crawling up the stairs. By allowing your baby to crawl up the stairs, and motivating them by placing a toy on the step above them each time, while you are right behind them, they will soon learn that safe transition up.
Chairs! By now your baby could be climbing up onto grown up chairs, or sitting themselves at their own mini table and chairs, showing understanding of their body in space, and being able to negotiate themselves to sit. A baby’s own table and chair could then turn into a lovely space to focus on fine motor development, such as mark making.
Another great idea for this age is a soft landing… As your baby is developing confidence on their feet, soft landings such as grass and soft play centres are a lovely place to practice falling without injury!
Trikes and footballs. Babies can learn to kick, and propel themselves on wheeled trikes and balance bikes at this age, as they further develop that understanding of how their own body works in relation to an inanimate object.
Enjoy! Every stage of a baby’s gross motor development is incredible, and mostly they will just go through these phases in their own time. Some will be early, and some will be later. ‘Normal development’ has a good 6-month window, so there is plenty of time to be developing these stages. Should you ever be concerned about your baby’s development, please discuss with your health visitor, GP or a children’s physiotherapist.