Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

January 20, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM

DIY Play Gyms

Out of all the toys and devices out there, especially for newborns and pre-crawlers, one of my favorites is a baby play gym or mat. They come in various shapes and sizes: colorful mats with two arches and multiple dangling toys or one simple wooden arch with two toys. No matter which one a parent chooses the benefits are endless. They help to promote cognitive skills, reaching and grasping, head turning, body turning, sensory stimulation, etc.

Recently I was working with a family where we decided the child would benefit from practicing overhead reaching so that he could strengthen his arms as he lifted them against gravity, in addition to working on the accuracy of his reach and expanding his play beyond mouthing (he could learn to bat, shake, turn, etc.). What better way to work on this than through the use of a play gym! Problem: the family doesn’t yet have a play gym. Solution: let’s create one!

If you haven’t purchased a play gym, don’t fret. A piece of string or rope tied between two pieces of furniture will do the trick for now! In the moment two adults sitting on couches facing each other worked just fine. A rattle was strung onto the string and the adults held the string over the baby while he laid on his back on the floor. Within seconds the baby immediately reached up for the rattle, batted at it, and pulled it down to his chest. Exactly what we wanted! A little ingenuity and the child is already developing new skills that will benefit him immensely.

Note that care should be taken in regards to what you decide to put on the string – be mindful of choking hazards for babies that are reaching and mouthing. And always monitor, but also have fun!

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