Five easy-to-do exercises that help your baby develop

We all want to do what we can to help our babies develop in the best possible way. Discover five baby activities that will set the foundation for future motor skills. 

A big part of your baby’s development is active play. While spending time on their favourite playmat is a great bonding time that creates core memories, it has another major benefit. Baby activities set the foundation for future motor skills.

There are plenty of easy-to-do exercises that can help your baby develop, no matter what stage they’re in. UK baby brand Nuby has selected the top five exercises that are sure to bring fun and growth to the playmat.

1) Tummy time

Tummy time is the ultimate exercise you can start engaging your baby in from the first week of their life.

According to Jane Clark, PhD, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Maryland, “The earlier infants, toddlers, and preschool children get exposure to daily movement and exercise, the better the likelihood of healthy development in later life.”

Tummy time is a great exercise for strengthening your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles and is ideal for newborns. Eventually, your baby develops the necessary muscles to hold their head up, sit, crawl, and walk.

As your infant spends the most time on their back, turning your baby onto their stomach so they are lying flat, or propping them to sit up with a range of toys will provide a nice change of scenery and support an even distribution of muscle development.

Tummy time can be performed in different ways, depending on the age and development of your baby. Begin with short periods of one to two minutes and gradually increase the duration to at least 20 minutes per day as your baby gets used to it.

It’s important to place your baby on a firm, flat surface, such as a blanket or playmat, and always supervise them to ensure they’re safe and comfortable.

You can make tummy time even more fun by engaging your baby with toys, rattles, or books. A tummy time roller, for example, will help strengthen your baby’s muscles while keeping them entertained and engaging them in sensory play.

A tummy time pillow can help with that and also stimulate the development of your little one’s coordination, prepping them for crawling and walking. Getting down on the floor with your baby and interacting with them is also beneficial.

2) Rolling over and rocking

Rolling over is an important milestone for babies because it helps develop their core muscles and coordination.

Use diaper change or playmat time to gently rock your baby from side to side from their shoulders and their legs. This will help them learn how to use the different parts of their body to move and start to roll, as well as develop their muscles.  

Once your baby becomes familiar with rolling on their back and tummy, you can assist them in doing it on their own by putting them on their side so they will initiate the movement. This usually happens around three to six months of age. Make sure to support their head and neck if needed. You can also put toys just out of reach to encourage them to reach and roll over to grab them.

3) Balancing

Balancing is a fundamental exercise that can help babies develop their coordination, body awareness, core muscles, and strength.

There are multiple ways you can perform balancing exercises with your baby for each stage of their development and expand as they grow, leading up to walking.

While your baby is still an infant, you can start by having it sit on the floor. Place a soft toy or ball in front of them and encourage them to reach for it. As they reach for the toy, gently rock them side to side. This will help them learn how to balance while sitting.

Once your baby can sit and balance, it’s time to move on to standing. Hold your baby’s hands and help them stand up. Gently rock them back and forth to help them learn how to balance on two feet.

When your baby is comfortable standing on two feet, encourage them to stand on one foot. Hold their hand for support and help them lift one foot off the ground. Encourage them to balance on one foot for a few seconds before switching to the other foot.

Once your baby has mastered balancing on one foot, it’s time to move on to walking. Help your baby take a few steps while holding onto their hand. Encourage them to balance on each foot as they take steps.

Feel free to use props such as a yoga ball or other unstable surface to challenge their balance.

4) Bicycle legs

Bicycle legs is a great exercise for increasing baby’s flexibility through a range of motions and strengthening their leg muscles. By moving their legs in a cycling motion, babies engage their quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which can help improve their ability to crawl, walk, and eventually run.

Additionally, bicycle legs can help promote good posture and balance, as it requires babies to maintain balance while moving their legs.

Another major benefit of bicycle legs for babies is that it can help promote good digestion. Bicycle legs can help stimulate the intestines, which can aid in digestion and relieve gas and constipation. This is especially beneficial for babies who may struggle with digestive issues.

You can start engaging your baby from about three months of age, as long as they can hold their heads up and have good neck control. Place your baby on a playmat or a blanket, gently hold your baby’s legs, and move them in a cycling motion as if they’re riding a bicycle.

You can also talk or sing to your baby to keep them engaged and make the exercise more enjoyable. Repeat for a few minutes each day, take a break, and then repeat. You can end the exercise when your baby stops showing interest by smiling, kicking or making eye contact.

Gradually increase the duration of the exercise as your baby gets stronger, and make sure your baby is safe and comfortable at all times.

5) Assisted crawling

Crawling is an essential developmental milestone for babies, as it helps them build strength and coordination in their arms, legs, and core muscles. It also promotes the development of hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and sensory integration, which are essential skills for cognitive development.

While babies usually learn to crawl naturally, assisted crawling can be a beneficial exercise to support and enhance their growth.

To perform this exercise, take a towel or a blanket and fold it over a few times lengthwise. Place it on the floor and lay your baby on top of it. Lift either side of the towel or the blanket with both hands so that your baby’s chest is resting on top of it but is off the ground.

As you lift your baby’s chest and belly upward and slowly move side to side, their arms and legs will dangle toward the ground. This will help your baby get used to the crawling motion, and you can eventually loosen your grip until they can crawl on their own.

Daily exercises can help your baby’s development

Incorporating simple exercises into your baby’s daily routine can significantly improve their overall development, from strengthening their muscles to enhancing their cognitive function.

By encouraging your little ones to engage in physical activity from a young age, you are setting them up for a lifetime of healthy habits and strong physical and mental development.

Lori Rosello, MD, a paediatrician, notes, “If kids enjoy exercise as babies, they will be more active as adults. That’s not just because it is a learned behaviour, though it can be, but also because their brains have incorporated the physical skills that make exercise more enjoyable.”

Photo by Åsmund Gimre