As parents it’s so easy to rush and push towards the next milestone, and walking is the big one, with mums and dads using it as a benchmark for so-called progress. However, every stage that our children go through is precious and critical, helping them develop in specific ways, and only when your baby’s nervous system is ready and operating at its full potential will they move on to the next activity.
By the time your baby is 12 months old, their brain will be 50% of its adult size, and it will continue to expand, with experiences and movements creating connections between nerve cells. You might not realise it, but the most simple (and fun!) activities can have brain-boosting capabilities.
Floor time and movement on the floor is essential for learning. Your little one must be able to spend up to 20 minutes of ‘tummy time’ per day from around 3 months old.
Why is it so important?
It strengthens your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles - as they will want to look up to see what’s happening around them. This will encourage your child to sit up, roll over and crawl earlier and this can prevent “positional Plagiocephaly”, which is flattening on the back of the head.
Between car seats and strollers, today’s babies spend most of their time on their backs or upright. You might find that your child initially resists floor time and persistence is key, building up from even just a few minutes.
To have the best of Tummy Time, position a favourite toy or child-proof mirror within their gaze and encourage them to reach for it.
Avoid tummy time shortly after eating to make sure it’s as enjoyable and comfortable for them as possible.
Building up strength
You might also see your baby push off the floor using their hands, which is the beginning of rolling over and crawling. It will assist in developing their will and determination to take action and complete a task. Their hands will become strengthened, assisting with holding a pencil when a little older.
Floor time also builds spatial awareness
Informing babies of their environment and helping them to build an internal map of their physical position in the world, such as next to a toy, on the rug, in the playpen, which helps with movement and navigation later on in life.
So what happens if your baby doesn’t get enough floor time?
Skipping the crawling stage can have a major impact later on. While this may appear inconsequential from a brain development angle, it can lead to challenges once your child reaches school age. By not crawling, their eye tracking can be compromised, and there might be less integration between left and right sides of the brain, which can inhibit fine motor skills such as tying shoe laces, cutting paper and doing up buttons.
How to get the most from floor time:
Do a little every day, building up the time to around 20 minutes.
To stimulate, regularly change the toys.
When they’re ready, offer a smooth space where your baby can try to move (leave hands and feet uncovered for grip).
Get down to their level. Eye contact and talking will help with bonding and model each other’s movements for fun.
Use this opportunity to safely stretch and massage your baby. Gently try cross-body movements to introduce the brain to patterns for crawling.
Floor time can be continued into childhood, with families interacting on the same level, playing, reading and discussing topics.