Parenthood is a tough balancing act between safeguarding your children and giving them enough space to grow. Before babies even learn to roll over, we are constantly reminded never to leave them unattended!
There is a fine line, however, that separates keeping babies safe and keeping them too safe. It may seem contradictory, but the best way to keep them from getting hurt is to actually allow them to be active, practice and learn through experience in a safe environment. By allowing them to move freely, they will learn how to balance better, and coordinate different body parts. What’s more, they will develop confidence in themselves and their abilities.
Mastering physical skills takes time and practice – in other words, baby steps! Each milestone also serves as the foundation for higher-level movements. For example, cruising allows a toddler to strengthen leg muscles without having to worry too much about balance. Without these strengthening exercises, learning to walk without holding on to anything will be impossible. This progression is called developmental continuity.
Developmental continuity is not just limited to physical skills, however. A study has shown that early mastery of motor movements is linked to the development of important adaptive skills — the ability to adjust to change — and cognitive skills such as memory. Plus, seeing your child beam with pride after accomplishing a feat independently is priceless!
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Setup for Success
Aside from teaching your child to walk, you may want to stretch his limits by seeing if he will do slightly more complex movements. Check out the toddlers in this video who wowed their parents. Although their moms were initially worried, notice how the children managed to happily move around and play when they were being gently encouraged. They weren’t prevented from trying, and they rose to the challenge.
To help your baby do amazing moves, ensure that conditions are just right. This may mean choosing the right time based on your baby’s energy level. Or it may be about finding a well-lit, clear area where there’s nothing that might cause accidents. For example, cover sharp corners and secure anything they might climb over or pull.
What baby’s wearing is important, too. Did you know that “lawlaw” diapers might hinder a child from balancing properly? It is not just uncomfortable; the added weight and too much bulk between the legs may adversely affect an infant’s gait — the way your adorable little one walks. Consequently, this may discourage movement altogether! If you can imagine walking around with a bulky bag between your thighs, you get the picture.
Success in doing new skills will also hinge on providing your child with a sense of security. When your little one feels that she can try – and fail – in a safe environment, this encourages exploration. You, or another grownup, can help extract your child from a distressful situation if needed (some children might not yet be ready to go down a slide, for example). To maximize learning and make it easier to ask your child to perform the skill in the future, describe what the child is doing as it happens so that the actions become associated with words.
Prepare to be Wowed
Here are five play exercises (“playcercises”) that your child might be ready to do right now!
Starting with a toddler-sized slide (about three feet long), place your child at the top and wait at the bottom with arms outstretched. Get ready for a workout if your child wants to do it again (and again and again). Check every so often to see if she’s ready to climb up by herself! Teaching her to use the slide makes her feel independent and more comfortable in a playground setting. This feeling of independence and confidence in her abilities is perfect not just for physical skills but also, eventually, for meeting and learning how to interact with other children.
Call your baby from the other side of a low, steady barrier and see if she will attempt to cross over. This playcercise is crucial for teaching your child how to safely go down from a bed or a step stool. Once she masters this technique, you might not be able to leave her in a crib anymore!
Simply put a ball in front of your child and ask her to kick it. If she picks it up instead, try to demonstrate kicking the ball first. Slowly progress the skill to kicking towards a certain direction, then towards a goal or target. Not only is this great practice for future involvement in sports, your child is also subconsciously observing how different forces interact to move objects (that’s Physics!). Who knows? You might have a champion footballer or award-winning scientist in the making.
Squatting is a great exercise — and not just for grownups. Try to place a toy on the floor and see if she squats to pick it up. You might be surprised by how well she can balance her body weight already. This is a great time to teach her how to pack away her toys after playing, too. Instead of bending over to get something from the ground, most young children squat down. Encourage them to squat even as they grow older because the position is better for the spine and even makes bowel movements easier.
Children love reaching for high fives and they can learn coordination and perseverance while they’re at it. Instead of always asking for a high five that’s easy for your child to reach, ask for one above her head — or even higher — so that she needs to tiptoe or jump in order to reach your hand. As she learns to balance while shifting her weight, she is well on her way to jumping higher or hopping on one leg.
Remember, if your child isn’t ready to do the moves, don’t force her or show disappointment. Just keep the opportunities to move around available. Shower her with praises even if she can’t quite do it perfectly yet.
Be on the lookout for barriers to free movement like a caregiver who insists on always carrying your baby, allowing your child to spend too much time using gadgets or watching TV — or a bulky diaper.
The folks behind the design of Pampers Dry Baby diapers understand how a “lawlaw” diaper makes it harder for babies to balance and practice their gross motor skills. The diaper’s magic gel channels absorb moisture faster and more evenly, preventing it from sagging and restricting the toddler’s movements.
Worrying is a part of parenthood that will never go away (just ask parents of teenagers!). But, as a mother bird knows, the best way to keep our chicks from falling is to teach them how to fly! Moms, with a less “lawlaw” diaper like Pampers, you can surely let your toddlers enjoy moving freely and set them up for future success.
Your baby can wow you too with less “lawlaw” diapers! Join the Wow, My Baby Can Do That Challenge and get a chance to win as much as three months’ worth of Pampers diapers and other prizes. Just capture the priceless moments of your baby trying the five playcercises above and share how proud you are of your galing baby!.