“Fun Facts” About Early Development: Mothering with an Occupational Therapy Perspective

tummy timeThe Low-Down on Tummy Time

Background: While decreasing the number of SIDS cases, the introduction of the “Back-To-Sleep Campaign” also led to an increased number of babies with flat spots on the backs of their heads and delayed motor skills due to the fact that parents were fearful of ever placing babies on their bellies. Therefore, regular “tummy time” is now recommended for infants when they are awake and in the care of an adult.

  • Significance of Tummy Time to Early Development:
    • Improved trunk stability, limb coordination, and head control
    • Necessary for acquisition of motor skills – rolling, sitting, crawling, walking
  • Significance of Tummy Time to Later Development:
    • The weight-bearing positions (pushing up on arms and later crawling) facilitate through Tummy Time are critical to future hand skills

Implications and Implementation

1. Start Early: newborns can be placed on their tummies against your chest until you feel more comfortable lying them on a blanket or play mat. If you wait too long to introduce the belly-down position, they may resist because it feels strange to them.

2. Incorporate into Schedule: aim for several 5-10 minute sessions each day. You can enlist the help of your spouse or other caregivers as well. If you each remember to make time for “tummy time” once a day, your child will get at least two sessions each day.

3. Troubleshooting: if your child does not like the position, try propping them up with rolled towels or blankets under their chests. Slowly decrease this support as they get stronger. You can entertain/distract your child with toys, mirrors, and your own face at their eye level.

Fine Motor Skills – Busy Little Hands

The FUNdamentals: from toddlerhood through the preschool years, building strong shoulders, arms, and hands is the key to future success with fine motor skills, such as writing, drawing, and using tools like utensils and scissors. Make sure your children get to play on playgrounds, squeeze play dough, string beads/use lacing cards, and use tools like tongs, turkey basters, tweezers, and squirt bottles in their play.

Writing: Drawing Tools

  • early drawers ages 2-3: use markers, crayons, etc. that are wide to open up their hands and encourage wrist extension
  • later drawers ages 4-6: use short pieces of chalk/crayons to encourage the desired three-finger grasp (thumb, index finger, and middle finger)

Writing: Drawing Surfaces

  • Drawing, painting, or writing on a vertical surface (i.e. chalkboard or easel) is excellent for young children. This position strengthens the shoulder girdle, encourages better hand position when using tools, and is less taxing for their eyes.
  • Drawing on chalkboards offers additional feedback for young artists because of the resistance of the chalk against the surface of the board. This is also true of using chalk on the sidewalk outside.

Sensory Exposure – Let’s Get Messy!

WHY: It is important for young children to experience a wide variety of textures so that their systems learn to accurately identify and respond to these textures appropriately.

Our High Tech, Low Mess World: While as mothers our lives are made easier by certain products, such as glue dots/sticks, paintbrushes connected to tubes of paints, pumpkins made of foam that can be carved just like the real thing, etc., we need to make some time to allow our children to experience “messy” things.

Ideas:

  • shaving cream in the bathtub
  • play dough
  • cooking/baking together
  • pudding on the highchair tray
  • sandboxes
  • finger paints
  • a bin of rice or beans to hide things in

We’re all busy these days and always looking for a “quick fix” but it’s important to set an appropriate foundation from which to build and contribute to the successful development of our kids!

– Jennifer Laun, OTR/L

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