Albeit being small, toddlers have energy, lots of it and the question that arises is how to burn that energy and get rid of it? The answer is fairly straight forward – build an indoor playground inside your home and keep them busy by doing something challenging at which they will succeed.
Being stuck inside, whether a rain day or Corona related lockdown puts many parents in a situation that can become frustrating, and although being a parent is very rewarding, it comes with responsibilities and one of those is finding a way to keep your toddler active, inside, potentially for weeks. Especially for parents now working at home with no alternatives.
While keeping an older child (age 5 to 6 and older) busy for a bit is not a problem, however younger toddlers, especially those under the age of two want and need to stay active and exercise enough to burn that built up energy. Therefore, finding creative ways to engage him/her in physical activities is vital to keep them busy, help them grow, and to give you as a parent a few minutes to get things done around the home or if working, are able to join a meeting without hassling between screen and child.
An easy way to ensure activity for your toddler is a gym-type play mat. Large gym mats (like those from Skip Hop), allow your toddler to play and move and work on their development skills without the worry of having them fall down and bump their heads, something carpets don’t really protect against either. They are fun (can be colorful) and are easy to set up, allowing your toddler to move freely in a spacious area.
Before we dive into a gym mat lets look at what a play gym is.
What’s a Play Gym?
In laymen terms, especially for new parents, a play gym refers to a plastic or wooden arch with small toys suspended from it.
These baby play gyms come in a variety of materials, designs, textures, colors, and sounds to stimulate your baby/toddler. Some contain music and lights, while others are plain and simple. Along with this, some baby play gyms come with a mat, which usually has a variety of textures, mirrors and/or flaps to get your child’s attention. Discovering is part of the experience he/she will love as part of the development process.
Baby play gyms are great for kids as young as a month old, albeit them not being able to see clearly, at this point they may only play with the accessories closest to him/her – also in regards to reach. Yet, as their eye sight and body motion increases, colors become clearer, and roughly around the age of 6 months, they will be able to play with the majority of toys around them.
The next step is discovering with their hands and feet, grasping and pulling and pushing and perhaps unintentionally throwing. At this stage (from roughly three months) you’ll notice an increase in the amount of energy and activity from your child as their coordination begins to become better.
Why you need a play gym?
Although you may want to hold your child around the clock, especially as a new parent, you will need time to rest along with making sure you are able to go about other activities, perhaps around your home. This is why a play gym is ideal for toddlers. These play gyms are built with the purpose of keeping your baby/toddler engaged as they develop, while you focus on other activities. They are a fun place for your little one that you can use next to you as you attend to other things, from phone calls, to preparing dinner to doing laundry, etc.
The important thing when it comes to play gyms is that they provide a variety of “things to do.” This means various textures, sounds, materials, etc. Another important factor to using a play gym is in regard to the physical development they offer your child. Tummy time helps your child strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles, while developing motor skills, and keep your child from lying on its back all the time, which could lead to a flat head.
Helping your baby develop
Providing a variety of touch, feel, hear, toys help your baby/toddler discover and explore their abilities. Especially the initial six months of a childs development go by fast. Initially your baby will focus on things close to him/her. They will follow things hanging above their head, and textures, sounds and other accessories will encourage them to try to grab, reach, and look at the variety of toys around him/her.
Yet, right after this phase, your child will want to begin touching objects, and they will do everything possible to get to them – which then plays a critical role in developing and improving their coordination capabilities (movement).
Play gyms at this age will support them in understanding the cause and effect concept by being able to reach out and touch toys, which ultimately give your small one a sense of control of their body and movements. Simple actions can lead to results.
Benefits of a play gym
1. Promotes Physical exercise
One cannot deny that playing outside (outdoors) significantly helps a child’s development, however, as initially stated above, lockdowns or bad weather will at times force you to stay inside. Therefore, in such circumstances your toddlers will still need movement and exercise, however the question is what to do when it is cold or freezing outside? Rather than sitting down and putting on the television, creating a creative environment for your toddler (and even older kids) is vital, because everything else including running aimlessly around your home is a recipe for disaster.
Creating an indoor play gym for your toddler will allow them to get enough physical exercise to exert themselves and burn enough energy as if playing outside. A simple play gym equates to play and exercise at the same time. The combination is helpful when it comes to your child’s health.
2. Different routine
After childbirth, your baby will love to be swaddled and held, yet as time goes by they will require more than holding and swaying to be entertained. A baby play gym offers a great alternative to their daily routine of interaction with you. It provides a fun way to get your child excited through different developmental activities.
On top of this you can get involved in play time with your baby by engaging with them and pointing to the various toys and talking to him/her along with sounds. Reinforce language and communication skills between one another rather than just making baby sounds.
Do not underestimate the power of a baby play gym for you as a parent as well. It allows you to take a break for a few minutes. It will keep your toddler occupied through an entertaining diversion while you go about other things. However, do not leave your child unattended while they play.
3. Helps with self-awareness
Many play gyms are equipped with small, unbreakable mirrors where toddlers can spend time discovering their reflection. Typically children will begin noticing themselves within a mirror around the age of three months, staring and trying to reach out to play with their reflection.
These skills are essential to the development of their own self-awareness, and these playgyms are an incredible toy to help practice their play and self-awareness skills.
4. Touch & Feel
Baby play gyms help your child in reaching milestones by allowing them to reach out and grab things, hence tactile stimulation. When your child has interesting things to look at, their hand-eye coordination develops. The sounds and shapes and colors contribute to the interactivity. Play gyms are specifically designed to be easy on their hands and assist them in moving objects, differentiating between surfaces and objects, and as mentioned above with self-awareness.
On those rainy days or now during a pandemic, burning a child’s energy needs structural assistance through the creating of an environment that will allow them to focus on specific tasks that get them engaged. Therefore, a baby play gym is ideal to give your toddler an indoor play environment on a mat (perhaps additional, as mentioned soft map) to play, interact, discover, laugh, and engage with. At the same time, it gives you as a parent two free hands to do a few things before interacting again. So when your toddler is ready to graduate from your arms and moves into the phase of wanting to wiggle and wobble around, this activity is ideal to help burn energy. Simple, but helpful in many areas of child development and the ability to start learning about independence, movement and their environment, safely.