Toys and activities for infant motor development

By challenging your baby's mobility with a variety of skill-building activities, you will be doing your part in moving her along faster.

Play is a necessary component in your baby's physical development. Through play, your child will begin to explore the world around her""first by crawling, then by pulling herself up, and finally by walking. You can help encourage your baby's motor skills through a variety of toys and activities that will challenge her physically and help prepare her for those first few steps.

1. Activity Playmats. Activity playmats typically offer a variety of sensory experiences, including music, blinking lights, and hooks to hang toys. For babies between the ages of 3 and 6 months of age, the playmats offer a stimulating environment that will encourage them to reach, grab, or kick their favorite toys. As your baby gets older, the mats will encourage her to pull herself up onto her hands and, eventually, roll over.

2. Busy Boards. Busy boards usually attach to the inside of your baby's crib and come with various parts that move, spin, and make noise. This toy helps encourage your baby to refine her motor skills by offering a reward (music or lights) when she spins or moves the correct

piece. By increasing her dexterity, she will soon be able to pick up small objects, hold a spoon, and stack blocks.

3. Pat-a-cake. This classic clapping game will encourage your child's coordination as she learns to clap both hands together, which usually occurs between 7 and 9 months of age. Begin by clapping your baby's hands together as you sing the song to get her accustomed to the movement. Soon, she will be trying to clap on her own.

4. Belly time. After your baby learns to steady her head, she will begin to work on pushing herself up. To encourage your baby's arm strength, place her on her stomach during playtime and watch her as she tries to push herself up. She might get discouraged at first, but notice how quickly she gets the hang of using her arms to raise her upper body off the ground. Once she's successful, place a toy slightly out of her reach and watch her try to reach for it with one hand. This movement will eventually turn into your baby's first roll from stomach to back.

5. Exersaucer. Exersaucers are an excellent way for babies to gain leg strength during play. Most saucers have a swivel seat and a variety of buttons, dangling toys, and lights that will keep your baby's attention. Exersaucers can be used when your baby has gained head and neck control, and are a great way to encourage her gross and fine motor skills.

Your baby has a long way to go before she can easily walk across the room, but by helping her develop her coordination, balance, and strength, she will have an easier time reaching those important physical milestones. Remember, each physical milestone your child reaches is a building block for the next. By participating in some of the above activities, you will be doing your part in moving her along faster.

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