Looking for playtime ideas for keeping your baby busy, active and happy? Here's a simple game that works really well for babies 4-6 months old and requires only a baby activity gym and some ribbon (gift wrap or fabric ribbon will do).
In this age range, your little one will have moved from the reflexive grasp of the newborn days to an intentional grasp to try to secure objects in those adorable little hands. By capitalizing on a new skill and your baby's innate interest in practicing it, this simple Ribbon Grabbing Game will keep your little one mesmerized and promote healthy development through playtime fun.
**This activity requires CLOSE SUPERVISION - eyes on baby within arm's reach. Ribbons can become a strangulation or choking hazard. Your close supervision of baby's play will ensure that she doesn't become entangled in or swallow any ribbon.
Infant Grasping Milestones
In the month after birth, your baby's hands will most often be closed or fisted. This is due to increased muscle tone (or resting muscle activity) that full-term babies have the first month of life. Your baby arrives in the world with a grasping reflex - the one that makes for adorable newborn photos of a tiny hand wrapped around your little finger. Your newborn's motor development will progress from reflexive movement to intentional or purposeful movements in the coming weeks and months.
By baby's third to fourth month, you'll begin to notice your sweet babe swinging his arms at objects and opening and closing his hands to try to grasp. Don't be surprised if your baby grabs hold of something and just can't seem to let go! Voluntary release - the ability to open the hand to let go - is a grasping skill that comes later. For this reason, the toys that came with your baby's activity gym may get frustrating at this age - your little one may feel trapped from time to time when he succeeds in grabbing a hanging toy but can't seem to let go. Luckily, there's no need to feel limited to the toys that came with your activity gym.
All of these new grasping skills are going to take some practice, especially to coordinate reaching and grasping. Growing up is hard work, little one! However, one of the coolest things about babies is that they are naturally interested in doing JUST the things that will help them master their next skills. They think that infant development is fun (and so do I)! Usually, all we have to do as parents is provide them with plenty of opportunities to practice and marvel at how determined they are and how much fun they're having!
A Simple Ribbon Grabbing Game
If you've read CanDo Kiddo for any length of time or read my book, Begin With A Blanket: Creative Play For Infants, you know that I'm a huge fan of activity gyms for baby play. By changing the types of toys you hang from your gym, you can match your baby's visual, sensory, and motor development.
A baby just learning to reach and grasp (and not yet able to let go) will love pulling ribbons from his activity gym. Drape ribbon strips over your baby’s gym and place baby belly-up underneath. (remember to CLOSELY SUPERVISE). Watch as your baby touches, bats at and begins to grab and pull the ribbons down - exploring and enjoying his new grabbing skills!
Modifying For Babies With Plagiocephaly or Torticollis
I'm a big advocate for using play and proactive positioning to help prevent and treat Positional Plagiocephaly (head flattening) and Torticollis (one-sided neck tightness). For Brachycephaly (broad flatness across the back of the head), alternate sides to encourage equal time on both sides of the head. For Plagiocephaly on one side of the back of the head, use these positioning modifications to encourage baby to rest on the side of the head opposite his flat spot. For Torticollis, encourage baby to look in the non-preferred direction. Be sure to consult with your child's pediatrician and/or therapist for more information about these conditions and about proactive positioning.
Not sure if your baby has a flat head? Here's a weekly check that it's important to do for the first 4-6 months of life.
Place Baby Beside the Activity Gym
Position baby beside instead of under the gym with ribbons within reach. Alternate which side you place the gym on to promote equal head turning if your little one has Brachycephaly (broad flattening across the whole back of the head). For babies with a head turning preference due to Torticollis and/or if baby has a flat spot on one side of the back of the head, strategically position baby beside the gym to encourage head turning in the non-preferred direction and/or away from the flat side of the head.
Position Baby In Partial Sidelying
Use a rolled towel or receiving blanket or a 1 lb. bag of dried rice or beans behind baby's back to help prop him partially on his side. To allow baby to move both arms freely, you'll want to make this a partial sidelying position - where baby isn't fully on his side with one shoulder beneath him, instead he's about 45 degrees from flat with both shoulders free. Position baby next to or under the activity gym with ribbons within reach.