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Infant - Week #21

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Keep those Little Hands and Feet Moving!

By Mary Perrin, edHelperBaby

  Encouraging Your Baby's Development
           The new things your baby will begin doing and the excitement baby will have for new discoveries are sure to bring you pleasure as the week progresses.  The concept of whole-body awareness is emerging.  The awareness will begin with hand-to-mouth play, hand-to-hand play, and work its way down to hand-to-foot play.  Also, at this stage of development, it is important to keep in mind that muscle mass is outweighed by body fat. This means your baby must work on strengthening arm and leg muscles to be able to master the art of supporting himself/herself in a push-up position while lying on his/her belly and to be able to apply the necessary amount of pressure for standing on his/her legs with your assistance.  There are many fun ways to help your baby master these developmental milestones while experimenting with cause and effect relationships and working to develop baby's hand-eye coordination.

       Tips and Tricks
  • Your baby's thumb is the key to the hand.  If your baby tends to hold a fist, gently pry the thumb out to encourage your baby to release the rest of the hand.
  • Place an infant toy on your child's chest or hold the toy carefully above the chest to encourage the child to bring the hands together at the center of the body.  This exercise will assist in midline alignment which is important for balance.
  • Use brightly colored toys that have textures and patterns to stimulate excitement.
  • At different times throughout the day, place age appropriate toys within reach of your baby to encourage reaching for toys.  Doing so will provide the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how baby's own body parts move as baby interacts with movable objects.
  • Begin with hand-to-hand play at the chest.  Then move to foot-to-foot play.  Next, work on connecting those concepts, and introduce your baby's hands to his/her feet.

       Hand-to-hand Creative Play

       The following activities are designed to further assist your baby in developing an understanding of balance as he/she works on bringing his/her hands together to a midline position. The activities will involve the use of rattle socks to encourage baby to grasp and shake.
  • Use feet rattles/rattle socks for this activity by placing one rattle sock on your baby's hand and one stretched over your fingers.  Since mimicking is an important part of your child's development, show your baby how to bring the rattle to his/her chest to touch the opposing hand.  Do this a few times to model, and then assist your baby with the task.  Attempt to get your baby to grasp the sock with his/her empty hand.  Show your baby how the rattle makes a sound.
  • Place rattle socks on both of baby's hands and mimic how to shake the hands.  Sing a fun song with your baby as you provide the hand motions to the song for a better understanding of range of motion, sound, and how to bring baby's hands to the midline position.

       Foot-to-foot Creative Play

       The following foot-to-foot activities will help your child build strength, coordination, and awareness of his/her feet. Foot-to-foot play is done both barefoot and with rattle socks and will show baby how to kick and resist using the bicycle motion.
  • Clap bare feet together as you sing "Patty Cake."  When encouraging your baby to engage in foot-to-foot play, it will be helpful to have your baby play barefoot.  Not only will this help to stimulate nerves located on each foot, it will be good for your baby to see his/her toes and how they move.
  • Place rattle socks on your baby's feet.  Shake baby's feet to demonstrate how to get the rattles to make sounds.  Hopefully, after doing this a few times, your baby will pick up on the motion and begin kicking without your assistance.
  • Hold onto your baby's legs and push them up together toward his/her chest, then bring legs out into a straight position.  Encourage your child to push his/her legs back towards you to help strengthen the leg muscles.  Once baby is able to provide resistance with legs together, then try alternating each leg in a bicycle motion and applying resistance to the feet with your hands to encourage kicking you back.

       Hand-to-foot Creative Play

       This activity is designed to help your child become more aware of his/her body and how the hands and feet can work and move together.
  • Place your baby on your lap with his/her head positioned closest to your knees.  At this point your baby is possibly outgrowing your lap; however, this position will provide enough support and force your child to curl his/her legs up toward the chest.  Reintroduce your baby to his/her feet and toes, and gently demonstrate how those little feet are able to rotate and move.  Place your child's hand on his/her toes in an attempt for baby to grasp them.  If baby's toes still seem a little out of reach, place the rattle socks on your baby's feet which might gain him/her an extra inch or so.  Watch as your baby plays with intrigue and excitement and begins to explore how independent body parts are able to work together.  Remember to keep those little feet clean!  It is not uncommon for baby to begin putting those little feet into his/her mouth once the task of hand-to-foot coordination is mastered.


  From a Parent's Perspective
           The creative play activities took place over the course of a week's time.  I was afraid to introduce too many things at once since I wanted to be sure my child was able to master one before moving on to the next.

       My daughter is a thumb sucker and prefers her left hand over her right hand.  With this in mind, I put the rattle on her left hand and helped her bring that rattle to midline to meet the right hand.  Once she was able to recognize the process, I put the rattle on her right hand and then on both like the activity suggested.  In the end she was able to get both hand rattles to a midline position but was not able to make them rattle on her own.  She was more interested in trying to put them both into her mouth.  I predict that she will begin to develop the skill for shaking her hands to intentionally hear the sound after she gets comfortable enough with this new position and the novelty of eating the soft rattles wears off.

       My daughter loved the foot-to-foot play and the hand-to-foot play activities.  She giggled when I stimulated her bare feet with tickles, smiled when I sang "Patty Cake," and gave some very serious looks when we started bicycling.  I seemed to have activated a variety of new feelings which she found to be pleasing and yet full of wonder.  She is still working on applying enough pressure to hold herself in an upright position with my support, but as we continue to work on activities such as these, hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before it all clicks together.  Oh, and I would not suggest having your child lie on his/her back to engage in hand-to-foot play activities on a full stomach.  Try waiting at least an hour after a feeding.  Your child will be able to move easier and play with greater comfort.  Doing so will also help eliminate unwanted spit-up stains which otherwise may leave you spot treating many more baby outfits.


  How Your Life is Changing
           Even though at this stage of development your child may not be able to climb, swing, and run around in circles, "play dates" with other families can provide you with a system of support.   Although you may at times be confused about all the advice, comments, and/or suggestions others give you on issues, you will be provided with enough strategies and brainstorming sessions to begin developing a system that will work for you and your child.  If you have multiple children, you probably are well aware that what seemed to work extremely well for one might not work so well for the other.  Keeping ideas flowing and fresh by engaging in conversations with other parents is a sure way to assist you in developing new vehicles for tackling issues that may arise.

       Children give adults permission to revert back to those splendid moments of innocence and serenity. When else, besides in the presence of a child, will strangers understand your boisterous attitude?  Create quiet moments to sing with your child, talk softly with him/her, read your child a book, or venture out to take your baby for a gentle ride in the stroller for some fresh air.  When else can you find yourself able to sing out loud as you take a walk around the block, talk out loud as you grocery shop, and laugh just because you feel like it?  Take advantage of it!  Both you and your child will begin to feel a deeper sense of self and enriched spirit during these moments of uninterrupted bonding time.

       So whether you are participating in conversations with others or having quiet moments with your child, do so with the intent of minimizing outside factors of stress, pressures of time, and the strain of life's balancing act.  Relax and be grateful for life's smallest blessing...your baby.


     Baby Music
Shake, Shake, Shake!
Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming

     Is Crawling Important?

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