Tips for parents, family/whānau and caregivers on the kinds of physical activity babies need to be healthy.
Like adults and children, babies also need to be physically active. Exercise helps your baby's body grow, and also helps them to feel safe and loved.
Exploring their surroundings with all their senses – taste, touch, smell, sight and movement is all part of your baby's learning.
Support them by providing lots of opportunities for play and movement on different surfaces and spaces while keeping a watchful eye to keep them safe. This will help to keep your baby active as she grows and will also help with social, emotional and brain development.
Things you need to know before you begin
- Boys and girls should be included in all activities – there is no such thing as girl activities or boy activities.
- The order in which your baby achieves certain body skills is what is important, not the age that your baby gains the skills.
- Always stay with baby during physical movement activities (exercise) to keep baby safe.
If you're ever unsure consult your:
- GP, practice nurse, public health nurse.
- Nearest District Health Board and request a dietitian or Public Health Service.
- Māori/Pacifica health workers and/or marae-based health services.
Encouraging physical exercise
Provide chances for your baby to be physically active everyday, with play, crawling, dance, creative games around the house and more.
- Try a range of activities to discover the ones that your baby likes most. Encourage your baby in every exercise/activity and praise him/her for doing well.
- Exercise as a family and let every family member have a turn in choosing an activity to try.
- Be a role model and inspire your baby to be physically active by joining in with their games and activities – it can be fun for you as well!
Movement activities for your baby
- Lay your baby on their stomach and then lie down and face them. Blow bubbles (not too close to their face) and let them watch them. The bubbles will interest your baby and encourage them to lift their head, exercising important muscles.
- Have your baby lie on the floor on their back. Hang an object above her (try a balloon or a scarf). She can attempt to touch the balloon with her feet or hands.
- Sit down on the floor and have your baby sit between your legs. Have a friend/whanau member sit opposite you (they too might have their baby between their legs). Roll a ball between the person opposite you and their baby.
- Stay in the same position from the above activity. When the ball is slowly rolled, lift your baby's foot so it can stop the ball when the ball gets close.
- Again, stay in the same position – your baby is still between your legs. When the ball is rolled, capture it between both of your baby's legs.
For more fun active movement activities check out catching, throwing & kicking from Sport NZ
Developing fine motor skills
It is important for our children to grow strong, flexible fingers. Activities that involve the fingers help with the development of fine motor skills. These are small movements of the hands and fingers that are essential for everyday tasks like writing, holding small objects and fastening clothing.
Be patient, fine motor skills don't occur overnight – they take time, and practice, to develop.
Finger & hand strengthening activities
As your baby develops, finger games help each individual finger to wiggle and move. The following activities need control and will strengthen baby's little fingers. These ideas should also be used with your baby's toes!
- Softly play with your baby's fingers and hands.
- Use soothing movements including massage and touch to open up your baby's fingers.
- Use finger games like ‘Round and Round the Garden’ to strengthen and open up your baby's fingers.
- Sing songs that stretch out your baby's fingers, try ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.
- Caress your baby’s hands with different items so they can feel textures ie, feathers or wool.
Touch also helps baby become aware of the location of their fingers and toes. Games such as those above help with finger muscle development that will one day be used for holding pencils at school. (Information from Sport New Zealand).
|Active movement activity guides for children from 0 - 5 yrs|
Developing self esteem through active movement Sport NZ, 2008
Developing language through active movement Sport NZ, 2008
Upper body development: climbing, hanging & swinging Sport NZ, 2008
Physical activities for under 5's NZ Ministry of Health
Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Infants and Toddlers (Aged 0–2): A background paper - Partially revised December 2012 Ministry of Health NZ
Active movement activity guides for children 0-5 years Sport NZ, 2015