In this age of wellness, our research is relentless to further understand that the mind and body have powerful synergy. As adults we pursue treatments, books and classes to deepen our awareness of the brain-body connection. We are programmed with this interchangeable chain of command at birth. Is it possible to foster the growth of the connection in infancy?
The answer is absolutely yes. Here are some great ways to nourish your baby’s social, physical and mental development through exercise.
Try to imagine for a moment you are sitting at your computer in your most comfortable position in autopilot surfing the Internet. You slide that mouse with precision and control. It’s as if it were surgically implanted to your fingertips. Your fine-motor ability is a well-oiled machine. Now switch hands. It’s a total attack on your biodynamics. You instantly lose control. That little arrow is nowhere near where you intend it to be on the screen. You just can’t seem to get it on the right track. It’s a totally foreign movement for your non-dominant hand. This parallels what’s it’s like for a baby. Every waking second, babies are faced with the challenge of connecting the signals from their brains to the little growing muscles in their bodies. These experiences are crucial for a baby’s physical, emotional and social growth.
The following are pre-program concepts to bear in mind for fostering baby’s development.
- Cries of frustration are a good thing. Reconsider that mouse in your non-dominant hand. You might cry too if you were a baby trying to maneuver something that you could not control. However, the most amazing thing about the human condition is our ability to adapt. Continuous effort forges a positive response. Your baby’s opportunity for growth lies in these moments of frustration. Try to step back and let your child figure things out. Our instinct as parents might be to reposition a baby or the object of one’s focus so that the child stops fussing over it. But, be patient and watch the magic of learning. Not only does baby’s brain-body connection improve physically when the youngster learns to maneuver something, there’s likely a turning point emotionally that may include confidence and curiosity.
- Capitalize on stimuli. The toys, colors, noises and people you surround your baby with all play a part in your little one’s physical and mental development. These opportunities and interactions forge the framework to nourish an adult brain. Whereas adults exercise to lose weight, build muscle and enhance well-being, babies benefit from exercise because of the way it correlates to social and cognitive development. Babies learn to move their bodies in certain ways as a response to stimuli. Thus, your baby can begin to formulate relationships, wondering, “If I swing my arm around and tap myself on the head, what does mommy do?” Your baby then programs your response and looks for it the next time. It is this early interaction through physical activity that facilitates our later ability to understand others. Understanding others is crucial for communicating effectively through adulthood.
According to a large body of research, infants who exercise have been shown to sleep better, speak earlier and eat more abundantly. They also show accelerated development of coordination and muscle tone in relation to infants who were not involved in a regular movement program.
Exercises to Try with Your Baby
Consult with your child’s pediatrician first to make sure your little one is ready for these movements.
- Bicycle: Grab your baby’s feet and lead soft circular motions.
- Toes to Nose: Take baby’s right foot and slowly bring it toward the nose, then repeat the same motion with the left foot.
- Torso Twist: Clasp both your baby’s feet and create a gentle diagonal movement from side to side to lower baby’s legs toward the floor.
- Baby Push Up: Place your infant on his tummy with his palms down on the surface below him. Scoop your arm below your baby’s chest and guide him to push his torso off the surface. This is great for 5-7 month olds.
- Quadruped: If your child can support his weight or crawl, place your infant in crawling position and gently lift his right knee, then alternate to his left knee.
- Sumo Sit Up: Starting on the back, grasp both of your baby’s hands and guide them along to a seated position and then to a standing position. This exercise is ideal for older babies getting ready to stand and walk.
Encourage your baby with positive words. Sing and listen to your youngster’s favorite songs. Perhaps while the encouraging music is playing, repeat the above exercises five to ten times. Create a special moment during the day that is dedicated to exercise. Much like adults, babies respond well to consistency with regard to physical activity. Continue this and enjoy a lifetime of family fitness together.