As a pediatric physical therapist, I learn a lot about trending baby devices. There are so many to keep up with! Jumpers, swings, bumbo chairs, mamaroo, and the list never ends. At Christmas, Grandparents, Parents, and Friends all want to buy the latest hip baby item for your little one. No matter the device, the question is always the same: which device is best for my baby? And no matter the device, I have the same answer: The floor is best for your baby!
In the pediatric therapy world, we often call spending all day in a device container baby syndrome. Children learn to move and play by exploring their environment. If your child is placed in a rotation of devices, they never receive an opportunity to explore on their own, and we take away critical opportunities to work on age-appropriate milestones. Increased time in rock and plays/swings/mamaroos can contribute to the development of plagiocephaly/torticollis and actually delay gross motor development.
Crawling is a great example of how “containers” can delay a skill. Parents are easily frustrated when their children don’t crawl on time (though be careful what you wish for once they go; they really go fast!) Crawling takes the ability to lift the head against gravity, use the arms/legs reciprocally, and engage the core to support the body; it is actually hard work! Everything a baby is doing up until that point: tummy time, weight shifts to reach for toys in tummy time, kicking, grabbing their toes, is preparing them for that big moment: CRAWLING. If a baby spends the majority of their time in a jumper, mamaroo, you name it, then they are missing opportunities to work on all the building blocks that lead up to crawling.
Now let’s be realistic. Who is able to supervise floor time all day, every day (momma has to pee!)? Every parent needs a safe place to put their child when they need some sanity. Maybe your child only stops crying when in the swing, the jumper gives them infectious baby giggles, or you need a place to put them while you throw dinner in the oven. While floor time is best, choose a device that makes your child happy and let them enjoy it but limit to 5-10 minutes at a time, and don’t use it as your primary play spot. A pack-and-play is a great option as it keeps them safe, and they still get to work on age-appropriate skills.
With Christmas Coming Up, I wanted to share some top picks for your little one that encourages gross motor development! Instead of buying the newest swing or standing toy, I suggest these toys. I polled my favorite physical therapy mommas to ensure all suggestions, not just PT-approved but also mom approved! They all agreed on skipping the mamaroo and going for the following. What are some of your suggestions?
**If you avoid floor time due to reflux or other medical conditions, I recommend you work closely with both your pediatrician and a physical therapist to find ways to continue to promote critical skills and positions while managing reflux/other condition.**
0-6 Month Gifts
1. Floor Mats and Activity Gyms- We love the Fisher Price Kick & Play Piano Gym-
The mat and hanging toys are excellent for tummy time, lying on the back and reaching, kicking, and musical play.
2. Boppy Noggin Nest Head Support- If you know me, you know I am passionate about preventing torticollis! This is an excellent tool to use to help maintain that beautiful round head. Remember not to use in a car seat while driving (not crash tested) or while sleeping unsupervised.
3. Developmental Play Mirror- One of the most entertaining and magical moments to watch is when babies first discover mirrors. These are a great way to make tummy time fun and work on reaching with their arms while on their stomachs!
4. Baby Paper-Sick of your baby eating your napkins? Baby Paper is so fun! It is colorful, crinkles like paper, machine washable, and doesn’t tear! Check it out here
5. Look for toys that provide different sensory inputs- This means toys with different textures (crinkle books are great), different shapes, and different sounds. Lamaze toys are a great brand to look at. Our babies are experiencing everything for the first time! It is important to provide a variety of input as they start to form their movement patterns and schema of the world around them.
6 months-1 year Gifts
1. Activity Cubes such as the Vtech Learning Cube-These are a great option for toys that will grow with your child as they develop. There are so many options for these cubes. The incorporation of music, tactile cues, shapes, and learning cause/effect is excellent!
2. Oball wobble bobble ball (really, all toys from the ball are fantastic!)-Oball wobble bobble provides vibration and rolling. Chasing the unstable surface challenges balance in sitting. Other ball toys are excellent for grasping, and the bright colors are so exciting for a baby!
3. Rocking Toys/sit-on toys- What a great way to encourage stomach strength and stimulate that vestibular system (important for balance!). We love Rody and the Rocking Pig!
4. Gumball Lever Toy with Balls- A great toy to teach cause and effect. The endless surprise of the balls rolling out will always get a smile on your baby
5. Don’t underestimate old-fashioned toys- We love Bannor Wooden Toys. They have excellent blocks and stacking toys. They even have adorable state rattles for your little babies. On a budget? Stack up some pots and pans, and get out that wooden spoon drumstick!
To view & purchase products, we recommend: Shopping the List
Kelsey Baas, PT, DPT, received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at UT Southwestern. She loves working with babies and children of all ages. After spending 4.5 years working at Texas Children’s Hospital, she opened Compleo Physical Therapy & Wellness. Diagnoses she treats include Torticollis/plagiocephaly, developmental delay, scoliosis, and pediatric chronic pain. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and dog.