BALANCE: FROM BABY TO GYMNAST. Baby’s balance development.




Balance and walking: 


Level 3 balance development activities are designed to help baby to balance naturally and correctly when she walks. Walking will be baby’s next goal after she has done enough creeping. 


Baby should have completed Level 2 of BABY’S GREAT ADVENTURE before commencing this Level 3 of BALANCE: FROM BABY TO GYMNAST. Level 3 balance activities are more active than Level 1 and 2 balance activities. 


Level 3 balance activities can usually be commenced when baby is from four to six months old; if she has done the Level 1 and 2 balance activities since birth. If she has not done the Level 1 and 2 balance activities then she will need to do those two levels before she commences the Level 3 balance activities.  


Parents who are unfamiliar with Magnificent activities occasionally and spontaneously do Level 3 balance activities when playing with children aged less than five years. Although the parents are aware that their children enjoy the activities and that the activities are safe they only do them occasionally. But, it is regular daily play using the Balance Development activities that is most beneficial for children’s balance development, much more so than occasional activities. It is regular, repeated balance development activities at baby’s existing level of development that most benefits her brain development. Parents can decide when baby is ready to commence these activities by the following means:  


  1. Start each activity slowly and carefully and do so for perhaps only two seconds to see how baby enjoys it. Then gradually increase the time spent on each activity until after about two months each activity takes about 15 to 20 seconds. Then gradually increase each activity to one minute (if baby enjoys it; which she should) over the next month or two. 


  1. Speak with an early childhood nurse, paediatrician or other competent person to check that baby is physically capable of doing the activities (most children are, of course). Keep in mind though, that general practitioners may not be sufficiently trained or experienced to understand early childhood development at this Level. 


  1. Parents and baby should be enthusiastic, confident and have enjoyed the Level 1, 2 (and possibly Level 3) balance development activities.  


  1. Baby should be older than four months and have completed Levels 1 and 2 balance development activities since birth. If she has not done Levels 1 and 2 since birth then she should commence and complete Levels 1 and 2 before commencing Level 3. 


At this Level balance activities become more physically active and are in many respects the same as, or similar to, balance play activities that parents around the world sometimes play with their children. But, by doing the balance development play activities on a regular daily basis baby gets the twin benefits of regular daily enjoyment and excellent natural balance development. To the contrary, in many homes around the world balance development play activities are generally unplanned and only infrequently played.


If you introduce these activities to baby carefully, safely, joyfully and lovingly she can be expected to respond just as enthusiastically as older children do to Disneyland or other theme park rides.  


Keep in mind that slow movement is as important as fast movement as baby needs to experience changes of balance at all reasonable speeds. Therefore commencing activities slowly is beneficial to baby. Consequently faster movements can be left until all has gone well with slower movement.  



Fun balance activities for parents and babies:


Do all eight of the following activities (or at least all those you feel comfortable with) twice each day. If your partner is unavailable for part of the day then plan to do the shared activities when she is available.  


Space the activities out throughout the day.  


It is useful to occasionally pause during each activity and to then start again and complete the activity. This gives baby experience of another interesting variation, gives additional opportunity to experience acceleration and deceleration; and she also learns to expect the unexpected. 


Treat any activities that are new for baby in the following way:


Start each activity slowly and carefully and do it for perhaps only two seconds to see how baby enjoys it. Then gradually increase the time spent on each activity until after about two months each activity takes about 15 to 20 seconds. Then gradually increase each activity to one minute (if baby enjoys it; which she should) over the next month or two. 


  1. Dancing.


Continue to dance with baby once each day for five minutes. Parents and children who are keen dancers sometimes increase their dancing sessions to up to three 20-minute sessions each day. 


  1. Shoulder Turns:  


Continue to do shoulder turns as in Level 2 only now (because baby is bigger) she can be placed a little further over your shoulder. Turn from left to right and then from right to left. Try to do four to six turns in each direction but never allow yourself to get dizzy. Do one turn then pause for 5 to 10 seconds between turns, and then do another turn and so on. Pause for more than ten seconds between each 360 degrees turn if you need to avoid getting dizzy. 


  1. Whizzes:  


This activity is keenly sought after by many children. 


Baby lies face down on a blanket, grass or floor with her parent at her right side. The parent then uses her left hand to firmly take hold of baby’s right ankle and the parent then uses her right hand to firmly take hold of baby’s right wrist. Parent then lifts baby off the ground and begins to turn around from left to right swinging baby through the air at parent’s waist height. Swing baby for four rotations from left to right. 


Then put baby down and stand on baby’s left side. This time take hold of baby’s left ankle and left wrist and swing her headfirst as before but this time from right to left. Swing baby for four rotations from right to left.


In about two or three months, when baby and parents are more experienced and confident, this activity can also be done in reverse for baby’s added enjoyment. Whizzes in reverse are done as follows: After doing head first whizzes slow down and stop and then start turning in the opposite direction so that baby is now turning feet first instead of head first. Swing baby for four rotations holding her right limbs and then holding her left limbs.


  1. Arm Whizzes:  


Hold baby by her hands and wrists (your left hand holds her right and your right hand holds her left) and swing her from right to left for four rotations. Then reverse the rotation so you swing her from left to right for four rotations. 











  1. Rocking.  


Baby lies on the floor face up. One parent holds baby’s hands and the other holds baby’s ankles. Baby is then lifted into the air and rocked or swung by both parents as they swing her by her legs and arms in unison. Baby must be face up or she could be hurt.


  1. Rocking Upside Down.  


Lay baby on the floor face up. Stand behind her head. Bend down and firmly take hold of her ankles with your hands. Lift her up by the ankles until you are holding her in the air. Swing her from right to left like a pendulum on a ‘Grandfather Clock’ ten times. When lying baby back on the floor be sure to lay her on her back as she can then bend as you lay her down. To the contrary if you try to lay her down face first she could hurt her neck or lower spine. It helps to have a pillow or large soft lounge chair on which to lay her when you are putting her down. 


When you are experienced at rocking baby upside down, also do as follows when you complete the ten ‘pendulum’ swings.


Spread your feet apart and swing her through your legs ten times.


Young children usually thoroughly enjoy being held upside down and rocked like a pendulum. You are likely to get many requests for this activity, now and into the future.


  1. Swinging Back And Forth.  


This activity is similar to using a play park swing but, in this instance, without a seat.  


Baby lies on the floor face up. One parent stands to baby’s right side and the other parent to her left side. One parent holds baby’s right ankle with her right hand and also holds baby’s right hand and wrist with her left hand. The other parent holds baby’s left ankle with his left hand and he also holds baby’s left hand and wrist with his right hand. 


Both parents then raise their arms to lift baby into the air and they begin gently swinging her forward and backwards. Swing her back and forth once only the first time you do this activity. Swing her back and forth twice on day two, swing her three times on day three, and keep adding another swing each day until you are doing ten swings each session. Then continue doing 10 swings back and forth each session. 


  1. Vertical toss.  


Many parents (especially fathers) do the vertical toss when they greet their child. Most children greatly enjoy being tossed into the air and caught again.  


Toss baby vertically about one centimetre and then catch her the first time you do a vertical toss. Increase the distance you toss baby by about two centimetres each day until you are tossing her a safe distance above yourself and then catching her again. Different parents feel differently about how high they can safely toss baby. Some parents feel safe tossing baby up to a height of about three hundred millimetres beyond reach.  Obviously great care must be taken to ensure that baby is not fumbled or dropped when doing this activity. 


This activity gives baby experience in acceleration and deceleration as she goes vertically up, and acceleration and deceleration as she comes back down and is caught.  


Some medical reports indicate that vertical tossing can cause brain injury in some children as they accelerate into the air. Apparently, the injury is said to be caused by the brain suddenly moving and stopping during a vertical toss. Most children, however, appear to be unharmed by this activity.



Baby Gym Classes:


Baby gym classes have commenced in many cities around world in recent years. The quality of these classes ranges from excellent to poor. There are several reasons why the quality of classes can vary considerably. Some of these reasons are:  


Some gyms are ill equipped. Some teachers are authoritarian and some are not familiar with the developmental needs of young children. Some baby gym teachers and parents view baby gym more as a meeting place for parents while they do some activities with their children. Some parents see a baby gym class as an opportunity to give their child to another person, that is the teacher, whilst they socialise with other parents or leave the gym for a period of time. Some children (and their parents) are poorly behaved and do not interact well with other children. Some parents take additional children with them who do not participate in the class but distract the participating children.


Despite all the possible problems involved it is possible to find a teacher and gym where the class activities focus on the developmental needs of young children, the parents and children are well behaved, and there is a focus on enjoying child development. 


If you attend a good quality baby gym there are two particular points of value in doing so. The first point is that baby can become familiar with, and use, gym equipment. The second point is that baby will usually want to try doing what she sees other enthusiastic children doing. Unfortunately baby might also want to try doing what she sees other unenthusiastic or poorly behaved children doing. Parents must obviously decide for themselves whether any particular gym is suitable for baby or not. Baby is usually old enough for baby gym when she is about 24 months old. 


If baby or toddler attends a gym then any activities she does that are similar to her activities should be counted as part of her activities for that day.  For example count the number of times toddler walks along a balance beam at gym as part of her balance beam activities.