I commonly speak to parents who use “toys” with their babies, sometimes prematurely. Toys like bumbo baby seat, walkers, exercise saucer, bouncy seat, etc..are very popular with parents and can be wonderful when used properly and at the right time. I feel it’s important to create awareness on the topic of baby toys and that they may not be as good for babies as we thought, especially if used prematurely.
This topic has two schools of thought:
1- These toys help baby enhance motor skills by strengthening muscles in the core and spine and encourage babies to sit, stand or jump.
2- These toys place babies in positions (like sitting, standing, jumping) before they have the muscular development and spinal maturity to do so. Which can damage the joints of the spine and encourage poor posture. They can even result in injury of the baby is left unattended.
If your baby IS ready for or a toy like one of the above mentioned, I think of them as quick “baby sitters” so that the parent can get a few things done, like cooking, eating, showering. This is really their best use. They are not meant to help baby enhance the child’s motor skills. A gross motor skill, like sitting for example, is achieved through specific movement patterns and lots of practice done in the babies daily play and explore time.
Parents looking for developmental benefits for their babies would be best to play with their baby on the floor and encourage the child to have lots of movement rather than using a one of these toys before baby is ready.
As an unfortunate example, I’ve personally had parents in my practice tell me about their babies falling out of bumbo seats. The reason for this is they do not yet have the strength, balance and coordination needed for sitting upright. One reason the chairs tip over is that babies need and want to move. This chair holds them from getting the movement they need and want. All the benefits your baby gets from moving are inhibited in a chair (toy) that confines their little bodies.
Parents looking for a better option to keep baby on the road to proper development of fine/gross fine motor skills, good core development, spinal strength and proper spinal curve development can find the answer in…. TUMMY TIME! Lots of it. Here’s a list of just a few the benefits that tummy time has to offer:
- Development of eyesight and visual fields
- Development of vestibular motion they need to give them control of their eyes and other sensory issues
- Works the fine muscles on their hands to help develop fine motor skills.
- Research also shows respirations and reflux are better when the infant is prone rather than upright, as long as the baby is in the proper prone position which is contrary to what most think when the baby has a condition like reflux.
Wait?! What if your baby does NOT like tummy time? This is an entirely different topic all together but If your baby isn’t fan of tummy time it may be time for an assessment by a pediatric chiropractor. Chiropractors (specifically those who specialize in children) will assess for and correct spinal or cranial dysfunction which can lead to a baby being uncomfortable while laying on their tummies.
If you have more questions on time-line for when babies might be ready for these toys or on the topic of tummy time or any other questions regarding this topic be sure to AskDrk! We look forward to hearing from you.