Parents with young children, whether they are developing typical motor skills or are facing some challenges in this regard, can find help from ordinary everday objects often found in the home.
Standing – Infants must have sufficient head and trunk control before parents should consider the following toys:
- Jolly Jumper – Accidents have been reported with infants falling out of the jumper, or the clamp that is attached to the door frame coming loose, and falling onto the child. Another problem involves the harness which can cause stress on the scrotum in boys. The Jolly Jumper is not recommended for babies who were born prematurely and are at risk for increased tone, or infants showing arching or stiffness in the leg muscles for any reason. Children with low muscle tone should not be placed in a Jumper if they lack sufficient control to take weight through their legs correctly. Many physiotherapists are now recommending against use of the Jolly Jumper for any of the babies that they see. Constant supervision, and limits of 15-20 minutes at a time are important.
- Exersaucer – This is a better choice for parents who wish to stand their infant. The motion involved is side stepping, which is a normal stage in the development of walking. It should be positioned away from hazards, and the legs of the saucer should be down, so that it does not tip from side to side. The height should be adjusted so that the baby’s heels are down. Again, the baby must be supervised at all times in the device, and the child should be taken out after 10-15 minutes, with a maximum of 3 sessions per day.
- The sofa – With cushions removed, children can more easily learn to pull to stand and to walk sideways along the sofa.
- Cushions on the floor – If they are firm, can be used by a walking child to practice stepping up and down. Close supervision is needed during this activity.
- Wheeled walkers – These have been found to be extremely dangerous, and have been banned for sale in Canada. Second-hand or borrowed walkers should not be used.
- Push toys – The height of the handle should be appropriate, and in some cases, the toy needs to be weighted down with a heavy object such as a phone book so that it is more stable and does not “run away” from the child. It does allow the child to walk without adult help, and to balancewhile changing directions. Supervision is necessary, and it should not be used anywhere near stairs.
- Ride-em toys – This is a nice way for a child to get weight through the heels, and to practice motor planning while climbing on and off. The steering that is learned will be useful later when the child tries to pedal a tricycle.
Portions of this blog post were taken from The Little Dipper, the Newsletter of the Vancouver Infant Development Program published by the Developmental Disabilities Association. This is a two part blog examining equipment for babies on the floor and seated. Tomorrow’s blog will include standing and walking toys.