A Stargazing Box takes a little prep work but is a great go-to for a hard to entertain baby or a particularly fussy day. When I encourage parents to reduce their baby's time in Baby Holding Devices, very often there is a fear that their baby will fuss all day or that the parent will get nothing done because they'll be endlessly holding and soothing. For most babies, simple play activities that match their developmental level and interests can keep them happy and occupied without being held in baby gear. Here's one idea to try:
Making Your Baby's Stargazing Box
Find the biggest cardboard box possible so that your little one can move and stretch without getting scratched by the lights. Cut small X’s in the sides of the box and poke Christmas lights through to shine inside the box. A large enough box will accommodate belly-up play as well as sidelying and Tummy Time positions.
Play for Babies With Flat Heads or Torticollis
If you’ve noticed that your baby prefers to turn her head in one direction (one of several signs that your little one may have Torticollis, or one-sided neck tightness) or if your newborn has a flat spot, place lights strategically only on sides of the box that encourage head turning in the non-preferred direction or toward the non-flat side. Learn other tips for dealing with Plagiocephaly or Flat Head Syndrome.
The Value of Floortime Play
Play in a stargazing box is a great way to get your infant OUT of baby holding devices - infant swings, bouncy seats, Rock 'n Plays, car seat carriers, lounge pillows and more.
Babies today are spending more and more time in baby gear that restrict their movement and sensory experiences. Why is this a big deal? My pediatric therapy colleagues and I are seeing more and more referrals for infants with developmental delays in the absence of underlying conditions or diagnoses. Research points to more time in Baby Holding Devices as a contributing factor. Learn more about how Baby Holding Devices affect development.
Unrestricted play - while held, while on the belly, the back and laying on the side ("sidelying"), - is crucial for cognitive, sensory and motor devolopment.
Given adequate floortime play, babies stretch and strengthen out of their womb position - the fetal position (with hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and hands flexed) - AND stretch and strengthen out of the very common subtle asymmetrical positions from being squished in the womb. Lack of adequate opportunities for stretching and strengthening can lead to exacerbated asymmetries (such as Torticollis), head flattening (Plagiocephaly), sensory and motor delays.
Getting Help When You Need It
If you notice your child has a head turning preference or is developing an irregular head shape, consult with your child's physician. Many parents experience having these concerns brushed off by their doctor and later wish they had gotten earlier treatment. Bring a written list of your concerns and observations to your appointment and specifically ask if an evaluation by a pediatric Physical or Occupational Therapist is a possibility. Explain that you understand the value of early intervention and would rather err on the side of ruling out issues than waiting until they may get worse. And if you're still told to "wait and see" but your parent gut doesn't feel good about that response, get a second opinion! In America, many counties have early intervention agencies that you could contact for help.
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