3. Baby Gym and Play Mat
A baby gym will help your baby learn to reach, roll and grasp, as well as stimulating visual and aural development. You can use them from day one. A baby gym doesn't need to be complicated; make your own with a stick balanced between two chairs.
The main thing to remember is that like a mobile, the objects you hang from the gym need to be high-contrast (ideally black and white), and not too far away. Varying the positions you hang things in is also helpful in helping your child to cross the midline. Move a favourite toy to the side and you’ll encourage rolling.
The best baby gyms are separate from the play mat, so that they can be easily moved to a convenient position. Another useful feature is a bar that can be raised and lowered as your child grows.
As with a baby gym, play mats can be used from early on, providing stimulation and visual interest for your baby. Used in conjunction with baby gyms, they give you a safe and comfortable space in otherwise high-traffic spaces such as the living room or kitchen. They can also be folded easily and taken along with you.
As your baby grows, you’ll want to give her tummy time and a play mat makes a great companion to this vital developmental exercise. With tummy time, your baby builds arm, neck and back strength, all essential for eventually pushing up onto all fours and crawling. Many play mats have interesting features to encourage exploration, such as crinkly flaps, mirrors, squeakers and different textured fabrics.
How to use your play mat:
- On the path from lying on her back to crawling, the first step is for your baby to roll over. You can encourage this by arranging interesting objects in a semi-circle around her head. Place the first one at arm's length and in line with her eyes. The next a bit higher. Your baby will be curious to see the next object in the series and will crane her neck to find out. As she does this her opposite shoulder will automatically come away from the mat. Before long she'll have the strength to roll onto her tummy. A new world has opened up!
- Tummy time should be for short periods, at first. Holding her head up is hard work for your baby.
- Next comes the 'sphinx' phase - pushing up with the arms but not yet on all fours. Place some interesting objects within touching distance. You want to encourage her to lift one arm to reach for them. This builds strength.
- Finally, place the objects a little further away. Your baby will learn to throw herself forwards to reach them. This leads to coming up on all fours, and eventually to crawling.