Baby and Toddler Exercise: Ways to get moving

From the moment they're born, babies begin to develop their strength. At first, the cuddly bundle of joy in your arms will have little to no strength, but within just one short year they may have developed a wide range of skills including sitting, crawling, walking and running. That's an amazing development in such a short space of time. But, your child needs support and encouragement in order to get to this stage.

When should you start tummy time?

Attend almost any parent and baby group, and you’ll quickly discover just how many mums and dads are actively encouraging tummy time. Tummy time is important for infants and is likely to be the first form of exercise your baby will undertake. The benefits of tummy time are proven, helping your little one to develop strength in their neck, arm and shoulder muscles in advance of learning to crawl. Tummy time can also help to avoid flat spots on your baby's head, known as plagiocephaly, brachycephaly or flat head baby syndrome, which can develop when your baby is frequently put in the same position. For safe sleep, a baby needs to be put to sleep on their back. But, this means that they spend many hours resting on the back of their head. However, it’s worth noting that there are a number of products available at Direct4Baby, that are specifically designed to support your little one’s head whilst they sleep, such as the Babymoov Lovenest. This memory foam cushion acts as a head positioner, which has been created and patented to help prevent flat head syndrome. The Babymoov pillow respects the shape of a baby’s delicate skull and provides support, without restricting your little one’s natural movement as they sleep. Likewise, when they're being fed, their head will rest on your arm. By using tummy time while they're awake, you're giving your baby's developing skull the chance to move in other directions, free from the pressure of a parent's arm or the surface of their crib. You can start tummy time from the day you bring your little one home by lying them on your chest, then move to the floor as your baby grows older and stronger. Try this for three short sessions each day, around five minutes long (if comfortable for both you and your baby), until your child is happy to independently continue for longer. Lying your baby on a surface, such as a Super Mat, can really help, as the bright colours help to keep their attention.

How do you do tummy time with a newborn?

The tummy time process is simple. Rather than lying your baby on their back, instead lie them on their front. This should always happen under constant and close supervision, particularly until they've developed the strength to lift their own head and should be done with baby on your chest until they’re old enough and strong enough to try tummy time on the floor. Many babies don't enjoy tummy time initially, but many will grow to love this experience. Simply trial tummy time only for as long as you are comfortable with. Some mums have found that it can help to provide distractions to encourage your baby to lift their head, by putting toys and mirrors in front of them. This is also a great time to interact with your baby and to stimulate their senses.

When can a baby go swimming?

As an alternative or supplement to tummy time, some parents like to take their baby swimming. It's commonly believed that babies can't go swimming until they've received their vaccinations, but in fact, infants can swim at any age and don't need to be fully vaccinated. If you're wondering 'when can babies go in a pool?', then the answer is, ‘as soon as you're ready!'. Swimming is a great way to build your baby’s strength as well as provide plenty of bonding time and sensory stimulation. If you’re considering taking your little one to your local pool, be sure you’re fully equipped beforehand. At Direct4Baby, we have a whole host of suitable baby swimming products and accesories designed to help support and aid your little one as they learn, explore our full range of baby swimming accessories from Zoggs online.

What should babies wear for swimming?

When they're very young, children cannot easily regulate their body temperature. Choose warm swimming pools and long-sleeved swimming costumes that are made of thicker materials - and don't forget the all-important swim nappies! Many pools require a 'double nappy' approach. This involves a standard reusable or disposable swim nappy, covered by a neoprene additional layer.

What are the best walkers for babies?

Another great way to build your baby’s leg strength is with a baby walker. With so much choice, it can seem like a challenge to find the best baby walkers. Walkers allow your baby to get used to propelling themselves using their feet and legs, though they should also be given plenty of time out of the walker to practice these skills unsupported. Good baby walkers, like the My Child Dino Island Baby Walker have activities to keep children occupied while walking. These toys stimulate their minds as well as their bodies with lights, sounds, mirrors and moving objects to help develop crucial cognitive skills.

When should babies use walkers?

Baby walkers can be used from around six months old and will support your little one until they're confidently walking unaided. Many of the best baby walkers have height adjustment settings, meaning the walker is able to keep up with the growth of your child.

Are baby massage and baby yoga a good idea?

Baby massage is a passive activity for your newborn. It's something you can start within the first few weeks from birth and provides a valuable bonding opportunity. You can join a baby massage class, or carefully practice at home. Baby massage involves gentle touch and rubbing your baby's skin to calm and soothe. Baby yoga is another activity that you can start with your infant when they are 10 weeks plus. If you’re new to baby yoga then don't panic, your baby doesn’t need to have the physical ability to perform the downward-facing dog! Baby yoga can be both a social event for parents and great for your baby. It’s an activity that can build strength, engage baby’s senses and it can even help to stimulate your baby's digestive system.

What about toddler exercise?

Once your child is a bit older and is confidently walking, they can enjoy varied exercise opportunities. Exercise should be fun and may include swimming or structured activities like toddler football or a gym class. You can also encourage unstructured exercise by taking your children to the park, an indoor soft play centre, or simply by going on walks. The NHS recommend that physical activity for toddlers should be a conscious decision for at least three hours a day. Toddlers can learn a wide variety of physical (and cognitive) skills by climbing, running, jumping, rolling and dancing - but of course, exercise isn’t just about staying healthy - it’s about having fun too! If you’re looking for baby and toddler toys that can help make exercise fun, then browse our toys and games here.