Children are never too young to move and learn about what their bodies are capable of doing. In order to run, jump, throw, and dance when they’re older, infants have to start developing and mastering balance, coordination, good posture, and other physical skills that will serve as the foundation for the more advanced physical skills they develop later in life. In Encouraging Physical Activity in Infants, Steve Sanders, EdD, discusses the importance of physical activity for infants, how you can create the best environment for physical activity, and provides a variety of tips on how you can get little bodies moving. Here are just a few of the tips he shares:

Birth to Four Months

  • Overhead Play Gyms – Provide growing infants with an overhead play gym they can use. As children stretch and reach for an object hanging from the play gym, they develop and strengthen muscles in the back and shoulders.
  • Bicycle Kicks – Infants begin kicking their feet at around two to three months of age. Take advantage of this natural movement and help them strengthen their legs by gently moving infants’ feet back and forth in a bicycle-like motion. After a few weeks, infants should begin pedaling some on their own when you lay them on their back.

Four Months to Eight Months

  • Pull Up, Push Down – Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front, and place the infant on his or her back, facing you, and positioned between your legs. Offer your thumbs for the infant to grasp, and then place the rest of your fingers around the infant’s forearms and gently pull him or her up to a seating position. Once you’ve done that, gently push the infant back down, using your legs as the cushion for the back of his or her head. You’ll notice that infants will tuck their head forward as they sit up, and many will try to stand if you continue to gently pull on the way up.
  • Kicking Sideways – As children approach eight months of age, many of them will be pulling themselves up to stand and holding onto a sofa or short table for support. When infants are holding onto the furniture, place a small ball (foam or rubber) next to their feet. Children may kick the ball accidently at first, but if you continue to put it next to their feet, they will figure out that they can raise their feet to kick the ball on purpose.

Eight Months to One Year

  • Baby’s First Obstacle Course – Cut out both ends of a box to form a tunnel, and have infants crawl through the passageway. You can put an infant’s favorite toy at the other end of the tunnel if they need encouragement. 
  • Cruising – Stand infants next to a sofa or short table. Have them hold onto the furniture with one hand and hold your hand in the other for balance. Slowly move back and forth along the furniture to help infants practice walking. They will eventually let go of your hand and practice walking on their own.

Encouraging infants to be physically active will help them have the beginning skills they need to lead a healthy lifestyle and stay physically active as they grow older. Browse the Active Play category in the Infant and Toddler Care section of our website for a variety of materials you can use to encourage physical activity in infants. Be sure to check back on the Kaplan Blog for part two of our three-part Get Kids Moving blog series!