Playing with Your Baby
Make sure that the strings or straps on the crib gym are no longer than six inches to prevent the risk of your baby's strangling. Once your child can sit up by herself, be sure to remove the crib gym. Otherwise, she might use it to boost her up and out of her crib.
At around four months, your baby will begin making good use of a cradle or crib gym. She will enjoy lying on her back and batting at or kicking, and later reaching out and grasping, the rings and bars that hang above her. By around six months, she may even grab rings or a bar and use it to pull her back off the ground.
Once she can sit up, your baby will also love swinging, now and for years to come. Outdoor swings and slides, whether found in a park, playground, or your own yard, provide hours of entertainment-and a little practice at shifting her weight on her bottom.
An automatic (wind-up or battery-operated) baby swing can also keep your baby entertained and is handy to have around. As an added bonus, many parents find that a baby swing can sometimes lull a baby to sleep when all else seems doomed to failure.
Make sure the legs that support a baby swing are far enough from the swing that your baby won't get her hands caught. With a baby bouncer, make sure the hook or clamps that hold it up are secure. Finally, no matter how secure and happy your baby seems in her swing or bouncer, never, never leave her alone while she's up in the air.
A baby bouncer or jumper may also delight your child. The baby bouncer consists of a canvas seat attached to a door frame or ceiling hook by elastic cords. Your baby can dance and jump and spin in the baby bouncer; it also gives her a new, upright perspective from which to view her world.
Fun is the whole point of both of these pieces of equipment. If your child doesn't like them or tires of them, by all means take her out. If she loves them, then let her have as much fun as she wants, but be sure not to use the equipment so much that your baby has little or no opportunity to practice her motor skills while on the floor or in your lap. Although swings and bouncers provide plenty of movement, neither does much to exercise or develop your baby's skills.
Walkers are especially dangerous near stairs. So never put your baby in a walker if she has even the remotest access to a down staircase. Keep the basement door shut and locked. Use chairs, tables, or other furniture to block off your baby's access to all other down staircases. (A gate may give way to the combined weight of baby and walker.) Or better yet, whenever your baby's in a walker, keep her in a room (or rooms) with a closed door.
Like automatic baby swings and baby bouncers, a baby walker, which is a canvas or plastic baby seat set inside a table framework with a wheel at the base of each leg, does little to advance your baby's development of physical skills. Indeed, if your baby spends too much time in a walker, it may retard certain pre-crawling and pre-walking skills that he cannot practice while in the walker: getting on all fours, pulling himself up to a standing position, balancing, and falling safely.
If you make sure your baby gets adequate floor time in order to practice these skills, however, a walker-used safely and sparingly-may delight your child and expand his horizons. Like a swing or bouncer, a walker gives your baby a new, upright view of the world. Unlike a swing or bouncer, however, a walker enables your baby to get somewhere. He can move himself around by pushing his legs against the ground. (Of course, he will probably go backward for quite some time before he figures out how to move forward.)
The ability a walker gives a baby to move about is both the chief appeal of a walker and the chief danger. Every month, 2,000 infants in this country receive medical treatment for injuries sustained in walkers. So if you do let your baby use a walker, supervise him constantly. With the help of a walker, your baby can go a long way very quickly and reach many places where he probably shouldn't be. If you plan to use a walker, you'll need to babyproof everywhere in your home.
More on: Babies
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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