I know I talk about ‘the five senses’ a lot but it’s quite a bad habit because it’s actually wrong – we have far more than five. And I don’t mean some type of mystical sixth sense or seeing dead people. Two other senses that are important are the sense of balance and proprioception.
The sense of balance works with your vision to tell you how you are moving. There are three fluid filled semi-circles in each ear that can tell if your head is moving left/right, up/down and forwards/backwards. This not only lets you do things like walk, which is controlled falling, but lets you see things stay still when your head moves. People who lose this sense have a very high rate of suicide because it is so devastating to try to live without it.
Proprioception is your body sense that allows you to know where the various body parts are without touching them. This is the sense that allows you to touch type, drive a car without seeing the pedals and gear lever, even control your tone of voice.
The point of all this is that these are two senses babies need to learn and develop. This doesn’t mean you have to get stressed about teaching them, they will manage to find their feet all on their own, but there are certainly fun games you can play. And fun for older ones too – having a 3 year old give you a massage is an experience 🙂
- Bouncing on a fit ball, especially with a song to go along.
- Rolling on a ball on their tummy. I started this with a slightly squashed beach ball when they were tiny and needed tummy time, all the way up to rolling half the preschool class on a fit ball. Hold on to their feet or legs and roll them back and forth, older babies and toddlers can try to pick things up.
- Riding on their tummy, for example in a pram on on a wagon. They need to put much more effort into supporting and balancing rather than lying back against a seat.
- Tracking a moving object like a mobile, ribbons or even birds flying around.
- Obstacle courses involving mounds of pillows and blankets.
- Following a winding pathway.
- Ride on, pull along and pushing toys.
- Time in relatively deep water. It both supports them and lets them be upright, and floating practices lots of control.
- Reaching for toys, whether lying, sitting or standing.
- Standing using a relatively low support. I know it’s a pain when they want to walk everywhere, but your hands should be lower than their shoulders so they are leaning rather than hanging.
- Baby soccer, kicking a large beach ball or fit ball. I used to hold them and swing their legs at the ball while they giggled madly.
- Massage, which is just plain fun for everyone.
- Gentle touching and tickling.
- Baby aerobics – fun even for tinies who haven’t uncurled yet, very gently stretching out their limbs in different combinations.
- Reaching for things – you don’t need a special light up toy, I strung a cord across the room and had long shoelaces and ribbons dangling from it.
- Wrist and ankle rattles, something like a scrunchy with bells on so when they move their arms or legs they get a noise. It helps them connect the movement with themselves.
- Kicking at something. A balloon on a string above them is just as good as flashing lights and music.
- Picking up and manipulating things.
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