The Biddy Belly
There are a couple of seats like this on the market, but I personally like the Prince Lionheart Bebepod;the best. It's easy to clean and can also be used for feeding if you don't have room for a high chair. An added bonus: on the days when baby will not let mommy shower, it's easy to pop baby in the Bebepod and take a shower together! The seat is not as contoured as the Bumbo Baby Seat, so it encourages baby to use his/her own muscles to sit up. Another thing to keep in mind is that these seats only come up to mid-back, so if your child needs more trunk and neck support, he or she may have a difficult time using this seat at first.
Remember, baby should always be supervised in the Bebepod and it should NEVER be put up on a table where baby can fall.
Balls, Balls, Balls
While infants are too young to engage in traditional ball play, it's beneficial to introduce balls to them once they are a few months old. Just make sure that the balls in your home are too large to fit through a paper towel roll, to decrease the risk of choking. Young infants can use balls to practice visual tracking, grasping, flinging, and functional mobility. Smaller balls help with your child's flinging/throwing skills and larger balls help with your child's early ball rolling, corraling, catching, and kicking skills. Here is a list of different types of balls to consider:
- Edushape Sensory Ball - These balls are great because their nubby outsides provide tactile stimulation to infants, encouraging them to grasp and explore them. They're also great for children with visual impairments. They also come in various sizes and shapes.
- Light Up Balls -If your child does not show interest in ball play, try a ball that lights up to attract his or her attention! Since the balls light up upon impact, they provide visual feedback which makes flinging them fun.
- Balls with a Combination of Textures and Lights - These work well with children who have little to no interest in balls, have visual impairments, or have difficulties with textures. The lights are often intriguing to children and though the texture may be aversive, they may be more apt to touch and feel this type of ball.
- Suction Cup Balls - These are fun to use when infants and young children are learning to throw. Tape a target like a hula hoop or use dry erase markers to draw a target on a window or mirror and have your toddler practice throwing for accuracy. They're light, so you shouldn't be in danger of breaking the glass.
I'm sure you wonder how a ring stacker can help a child with gross motor skills and I will get to that. First, ring stackers help children develop fine motor skills as they try to place the rings onto the toy. They also help with cognitive development as they problem-solve, sort by size, and identify colors. I use ring stackers to help children practice walking. I put the base on one side of the room and the rings on the other side of the room and have the child walk across the room to take the rings to the stacker. I also use ring stackers to help children practice pulling to stand and squatting to putting the base on a table and the rings on the floor. The child has to squat down or lower him/herself to pick up a ring, then stand back up again to place it on the stacker base. My favorite ring stacker is the Fisher-Price Little Superstar Classical Stacker because it plays music and flashes lights when rings are stacked onto the base, which provides children with excellent positive reinforcement.
Convertible Push Toy
Convertible push toys are great because they're multifunctional and can be used for a relatively long period of time. I really like the Playskool Walk N Ride because it can entertain children from infancy up until 2-3 years of age. Infants can play with the spinners, roll it back and forth, and open and close the door on the front. Older babies can use it as a push toy to practice walking with support. Young toddlers can use it as a ride-on toy to help with balance and lower extremity strengthening. Both my 9-month-old and 3-year old enjoy playing with it. Ours stays indoors and has survived 3 very active boys.
Though they can take up a bit of space, play tables are great because not only are they fun, but they help with pre-walking. As your child plays with the various toys on the top, he or she will have to weight shift and cruise around the table. The toys on top also help with fine motor and cognitive development. If you purchase one similar to Alex Jr.'s My Busy Town, younger infants can enjoy it and practice upright sitting posture and trunk control as they play with the features on each side.
I hope that this installment of my 2011 Gift Guide comes in handy for you! Next week, look for my guide on gifts for toddlers and preschoolers.