7 music and movement activities to help your baby develop advanced motor skills

by | Feb 16, 2015 | Child Development, Movement for babies, Research | 0 comments

Rocking, bouncing and swinging activities stimulate your baby’s vestibular system

You and a friend from your mother’s group are carrying your babies when you stop and talk to each other. As you stand there you both start to jiggle without even thinking. Does this sound like a familiar scenario?  We intuitively know what our babies need – we bounce, rock and swing our babies to keep them happy. Have you ever wondered why? It all has to do with babies developing vestibular systems.

What is the Vestibular System?

The vestibular system is the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to movement, sense of balance and spatial awareness. In her book Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head Dr Carla Hannaford explains that all learning in the first fifteen months of life is centred on the vestibular system development. Whenever baby is in constant and fluid motion, their vestibular system is being stimulated. So as you can imagine, movement activities such as rocking, bouncing and swinging are very important for your baby.

Of course it is also important to ensure that we perform these movements safely. Read on to discover gentle and secure ways to rock, swing and bounce your baby and how to make them more fun through song and rhyme.

Rocking activities for baby

The obvious way to rock your baby is by cradling them in your arms, particularly for newborns. Another option is to hold them against your chest while you sit on the edge of a seat and rock your body back and forth or sit in a rocking chair. Once your baby has good neck control you can try putting your baby on an exercise ball, supporting their pelvis. Then just rock them backward and forward gently. Ensure that their head goes low enough for a good range of movement.

As you rock or sway your baby you might like to listen to some music or sing a song or say a rhyme. Here are a few songs taken from my 8 session program of music activities for babies:

1. Rock-A-Bye Baby

2. My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean

3. Row Row Row Your Boat

Swinging activities for baby

Swinging activities provide a moderate level of vestibular stimulation and because the movement is in a back and forth motion it is not as overwhelming to the nervous system as spinning or moving fast. The linear motion and change in direction also have a calming effect.

In the first few months of life you may like to try laying your baby on a blanket and with you and a partner each holding the end of the blanket, swinging your baby back and forth gently. Then as soon as your baby can hold their head up steadily, you can try swinging them by facing them away from you and holding them under the arms close to their armpits.  By the age of one, your baby will probably be strong enough to swing with their back against your forearms and your hands underneath their upper thighs as if they were sitting on a playground swing. And you can always take your baby to the park and put them in the baby seat.

Here are a couple of songs which are sure to delight your baby as you swing them.

4. Swinging

This is a song I wrote and sang to my babies when I took them to the playground. It has been taken from Session 4 of The Bubble Box – music program for babies.

5. Swing Me Over The Ocean

Say this rhyme and follow the actions below.

Swing me over the ocean (while standing up, swing baby to one side)
Swing me over the sea (swing to other side)
Swing me over the garden wall (swing around)
And swing me home for tea! (on this last line, swing child up into arms for a BIG hug)

Swing me over the treetops, (while standing up, swing baby to one side)
Swing me over the zoo (swing to other side) 
Swing me over the garden wall (swing around) 
And swing me home to you (on this last line, swing child up into arms for a BIG hug)

Bouncing Activities for Babies

Knee bounce rhymes are a joyful way to continue developing the vestibular system and your baby’s sense of balance and core strength. For younger babies, with limited neck strength, lay them across your thighs and make bouncing movements smaller. For older babies with greater neck strength sit them on your lap facing you, holding onto their sides or hands, bouncing as much as they enjoy.

Check out these knee bounce rhymes from The Bubble Box, my music program for babies.

6. This Is The Way The Ladies Ride

7. The Grand Old Duke Of York

Research shows that babies may develop more advanced motor skills when they experience vestibular stimulation regularly. So it’s worth doing a mix of these activities every day. I’m sure you and your baby will also have lots of fun and share plenty of smiles and giggles as you do them too.

Join my 8 session online program of 100+ music activities for you and bub.

If a face-to-face music class isn't practical for you or your baby/toddler, consider my online program! I'll teach you how to do music with your little one in the comfort of your own home. I sing and demonstrate the actions - you’ll soon be singing along, sharing smiles and giggles and feeling great for playing an active role in your baby’s development.

30 minutes a week = a lifetime of developmental benefits.

Sarah Richard-Preston

I'm Sarah Richard-Preston, creator and presenter of The Bubble Box - a program of music activities for you to share with your baby. I demonstrate the activities through streaming videos, right here on The Bubble Box website. I'm a qualified teacher with 13 years experience in early childhood education and I am passionate about music and the developmental benefits music promotes. Join me online in my 8 session music program today to give your baby's development a boost and make the most of precious baby time.


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