Why Floor Play Is Important
How do you know if your baby is developing at normal rate? As a maternal and child health nurse some of my most frequent consultations are helping anxious mothers determine whether their baby’s behaviour is normal. But when your child is a newborn the buck stops with you. If a parent displays a behavior consistently when a child is in infancy, good or bad, the baby will learn from it. Baby stores sell plastic seats, rockers, swings and walkers, but teaching your child to use these will interrupt the natural process of child development, and here’s why.
Your baby needs to be on the floor for all of their playtime. This means flat on the floor, not in a seat, not in a walker, not in a swing, not in a bouncer, not in a jumper. All these “objects” contain the baby and not only keep them in one spot, but interrupt the natural flow of their development.
Sitting the baby up in one spot is the same as using a walker or seat. They can’t explore their surroundings, learn, move and progress. Babies that sit too long in one spot walk later, and their sleep is interrupted. For growing babies to sleep well they need enough food (calories) going in and active playtime (energy used) to equal sleep. Food + activity = sleep. Easy.
Keep play for your baby flat on the floor on a clean rug. Start their playtime routine from birth, giving the baby short periods of time after feeds on the floor, and as they get older gradually increase the time the baby has on the floor. They don’t need too many toys jangling over them. They love their hands, feet and toes. Lay them beside a window to look at a tree, a shadow. They will find joy and happiness in Mother Nature. We need to allow our babies to explore to learn rather than be stimulated by noisy, colourful objects. You will find your baby loves to look at trees, shadows and they are fascinated by their own hands – easy and cheap too!
Tummy time – short periods of time on the tummy – starts in the first week after birth, especially when the baby has been fed and is content. Place the baby on their tummy for a minute or two after a nappy change. After some time there, and once settled, put them on their back for a short period of time. Every baby is different and will tolerate floor play for a variety of times, so when your baby starts to protest and cry, that’s when floor time is over. Pick them up and feed them again. A reminder here: you cannot over-feed your baby. For all the energy they are using on the floor by kicking their legs and looking around, they need lots of calories in milk to keep growing and sleeping better.
The process of normal development
The more new parents understand what is normal the more they can encourage, identify and celebrate the achievements of their baby, rather than worrying so much about in fact what is normal behaviour.
A newborn can have a small amount of tummy time and time on their back in between feeding. The baby will enjoy being on the floor on their back looking around, hands to their mouth and kicking their legs. Your baby will start to do 360 turns on the floor to begin their development. Rolling from side to side is a developmental success!
Babies will crawl backwards before they crawl forwards, and don’t be surprised if you find your baby under the couch. A baby needs to crawl first, and then be capable of sitting themselves. Babies will commando crawl and then get up on their all fours and rock. Get ready, they will take off soon!
A baby needs to crawl before he walks. Crawling on their hands and knees are important for many levels of development. Crawling plays a major role in the development of an infant’s strength, balance, spinal alignment, visual-spatial skills, and socio-emotional development. A baby will pull themselves up and cruise around the furniture, holding on for dear life!
When a baby is ready they will stand alone – legs apart and hands held high. It’s a picture of balance. Mother Nature again in all her glory! When ready, a baby will take their first steps. A few at first, then plop onto the floor. With balance and courage off they go walking…then they run!