You may have heard that reading to even newborn babies has many cognitive, social and developmental benefits (Baby Brain has a nice overview of reading with baby). But did you know that there's one type of baby book that can help your newborn's motor development, help prevent Torticollis and Flat Head Syndrome?
The Best Books For Newborns
The best books for newborns are, truly, whatever books you are willing to share with your child. But one of my favorite types of books for babies in the first months of life are accordion-style books - board books that unfold to display a long string of pages and pictures. Why are these so great? Unfolded accordion books promote head turning - one of the most important early motor skills. Accordion-style books super-charge Tummy Time by giving your baby an incentive to lift AND turn his head.
Why Is Head Turning Important?
Many babies are born with very subtle little imbalances in their muscles - usually from their squished womb position. Maybe a little tightness on one side of the neck or a slight curve of the torso, one arm that moves more freely than the other. When babies are allowed to have daily active awake times, they can usually naturally stretch and strengthen out of these asymmetries without a problem.
Unfortunately, many babies today spend a large percentage of their awake times restricted by Baby Holding Devices, slumped in a semi-reclined position with gravity pulling them into their positional preference. This can exacerbate any minor imbalances AND reduce the amount of time babies have for strengthening and stretching. This is one of the major contributing factors to the rise in Flat Head Syndrome and positional Torticollis.
Using Accordion Books To Super-charge Baby's Playtime
Books in Tummy Time
In Tummy Time, an unfolded accordion book encourages baby to turn his head and move his eyes left and right. This not only helps encourage head turning, it promotes eye movement skills important for reading and other lifelong activities.
If your baby is too young to lift his head to see a propped book, try laying him over your lap or over a tummy time pillow with the book unfolded on the floor or propped (depending on how high your baby is lifting). This lifts baby up a bit and places the book lower. Learn more about ideal toy placement for Tummy Time.
Books in Belly-Up Play
By placing an unfolded board book on either side of your baby while he's on his back, you promote head turning (stretching and strengthening) AND minimize the amount of time he lays flat on the back of his head. Babies spend the vast majority of their time asleep and should be placed on their backs to sleep for safety. Awake time should encourage head positions that decrease pressure on the back of the head.
Books in Sidelying
Many parents never hear how great for baby the sidelying position is. Not only does it take pressure of the back of baby's head, laying on his side helps baby stretch the side of the neck closest to the floor and strengthen the side closest to the ceiling. By laying your baby on each side equally to look at books, you help balance out any minor asymmetries he may have.
3 Great Accordion Books For Baby
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Baby Look by Shanda LaRamee-Jones & Carol McDougall
The authors of this book generously gave me a copy and I have to say that it's a hit in our house well beyond the Tummy Time months. It features simple photos of baby faces on both sides of the unfolded book.
Baby Love by Sandra Magsamen
This is the cloth book pictured in title image above. A adorable, tiny relative of mine has this book and works on reaching for its soft pages while looking at it in Tummy Time.
Black & White by Tana Hoban
This book features high contrast black and white images perfect for a newborn's developing eyesight in the first weeks of life.
Want More Ideas for Baby Play to Promote Development?
"Begin With A Blanket" features 45 simple activities, most of which use simple household objects to help you make your baby's awake times active and fun! Available in print and eBook.
What others are saying:
"This book is perfect for a new mom!"
"I plan on buying many more as gifts for new parents."
"This is a fantastic book, really quick simple and effective ways to play with a baby (and how it aids your baby's development). My baby is 14 weeks old and we've found that he enjoys all of the activities (even those for a younger baby)."