Your Guide to Baby Play Time

The number of opportunities and exposure is the goal, not the duration. That will come! At Teaching Tinies we don’t believe in timers or pushing through the crying during play. Sure we do play and learn, but at the end of the day play is about fun!

Let’s think about a baby’s day. Baby wakes up and sits in a Bumbo seat, gets into car seat and goes into the car for school drop off, then car seat goes into the shopping cart at Target, back to the car, then home to the bouncer seat, back in the car seat to go to the park, then to the stroller for a walk, back to the car, and home to their excersaucer. Sound familiar? One thing all these activities have in common is they all involve a baby strapped into a container.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for using a container. Sometimes you have to run to the next room and toddler brother might Hulk Smash baby if left on the floor or you just have to take a shower and don't really want baby to lay next to the toilet. My own baby sat in his high chair after breakfast this morning and played with a spoon and apple slices while I prepped food for his lunches for this week. He worked on fine motor use while playing with a spoon and had amazing sensory exposure to food through taste, touch and smell. He also got to laugh at mom dancing to the Trolls soundtrack. We’ll also go for a walk this afternoon and he’ll sit in a carrier. He’ll get some fresh air and we'll get some well needed bonding time.

But we as parents do need to be aware of the amount of time babies spend contained. One of the biggest reasons parents need to mindful about the amount of time their baby is spent contained is baby is not given the opportunity to experiment with how their body functions in space. It is important that your baby is able to practice developmentally appropriate skills like crawling and rolling and the muscles for these skills are strengthened. It’s also important that babies are given the opportunity to start practicing their righting reflexes early. The righting reflex is your baby’s ability to shift the orientation of their body when they become off balance so they can catch themselves or prevent falling. For optimal safety it is key that baby’s practice this early while they’re closer to the floor so their righting reflexes are more mature as they become more upright and further from the ground!

Containers also rarely meet a baby where they are developmentally. For example, a Bumbo seat is often used before a child can hold their head up during tummy time. A standing play center is used before a child can sit. A walker is used before a child can crawl. Not only is it important for a child to go through these developmental milestones, it is important that they go through them in order.

So what is a parent to do instead? I’m happy to share that it doesn’t involve purchasing another expensive baby item! Put down a blanket and lay your baby on the floor! There are so many skills that can be strengthened through playing on the floor. Side lying, rolling, pushing up, reaching, grabbing, bringing hands together, targeting an object with your hands, tracking objects around the room, the opportunities are endless!

“But my baby hates tummy time!” I hear that all the time. Your baby can learn to love it! But learning to love engaging those unused muscles and being in a new position will take some time. If your baby isn’t happy after being in a position after a few seconds, try to make it more positive by singing or introducing a new toy. If baby is still not comfortable, simply roll them off their tummy and into a new position. The number of opportunities and exposure is the goal, not the duration. That will come! At Teaching Tinies we don’t believe in timers or pushing through the crying during play. Sure we do play and learn, but at the end of the day play is about fun! So what can you do to encourage your child to be comfortable playing on the floor?

  • Make it FUN! Give baby things to grab, look at, put in their mouths. Set up a little play station that is bright, contrasting, and with toys that fit your baby’s unique preferences.

  • When your child is on the floor stay with them from time to time. Often when a child is put on the floor it is also associated with mom walking away. Sit and hang out for a bit so your child doesn’t associate that floor time with mom leaving them.

  • Allow them to be in different positions other than their tummies. Baby can lay on their back under a play gym. But also consider rolling up a swaddle blanket and putting it under their side to let them learn to side play. Or you can be on the floor with them rolling them in and out of positions while they play.

  • Utilize modified tummy time. If your baby is not quite ready to support their weight on their elbows for long periods of time you can have baby do tummy time over a Boppy pillow or a rolled up towel. The lower the support is to the floor, the less support it offers your baby. Better yet, let baby lay over you while you lay on the floor with them!

If you’re baby is in a container and loves it, that’s ok! This is a guilt free zone! But what I want you to do is make it a goal to increase the opportunities your baby is given out of that container. Between every nap during the day try to give your baby an opportunity to be on the floor. If it’s for 1 minute twice a day at first, that’s a victory! Good for you momma! These small lifestyle changes and teaching your child this new skill will take time and effort, but everyone here at Team Tiny is here to support you and let you know that you’re already the best momma!

#tummytime #playandlearn #babydevelopment