Motor Development Gear

With the explosion of new products onto the market, it can be difficult to decide which ones can help with your baby's gross motor development. Here is a basic guideline to help you when deciding.

Basic Gear

  • Mobile
  • Musical toys
  • Mirrors in the crib or play pen
  • Soft fabric toys with differing sounds and textures
  • Fabric dolls or animals with easy to grab limbs
  • Activity mat
  • Rattles

Lighter rattles are good for young children. Rattles can be played with in any position. They can be used to encourage rolling and movement; midline, fine motor and transfer skills; and they help children to reach toward things they can see and hear.

Equipment for Moderate Use

It is important for babies to be safe while being transported. Car seats and strollers are necessary equipment but should be used for transport only and not for prolonged periods throughout the day. The pieces of equipment listed below, when used for extended periods of time, decrease exploration of the environment, increase pressure at the back of the head, promote poor postural alignment and limit muscle activity that may lead to muscle weakness and delayed gross motor skills.

  • Strollers (with car seat carry along)
  • Car seats (carry along)
  • Bouncy seats

Equipment to Avoid

Some equipment that is marketed as beneficial is actually detrimental to your baby's postural development and overall safety and well being. These should never be used due to the detrimentals effects these can have on your child's gross motor development.

Johnny Jumper or Suspended Jumper

A child can fall; strangulation may occur; the apparatus could collapse; straps can fray or break; screws from device fall on children; increases risk of head trauma; increases vertigo with twirling; whiplash; and foot deformities can occur due to the child not landing symmetrically on toes.

Baby Walkers

These are banned by the American Medical Association (AMA). They are no longer manufactured or sold in Canada.

Concerns include an increased risk of injury secondary to harmful objects or falling down stairs and  delayed balance reactions. Electomyography studies (these show how your muscles activate or work while performing certain activities) have shown that babies using walkers may begin walking at similar times as babies not using walkers. However, babies using walkers demonstrated incorrect postures that encouraged their muscles to move in the wrong order.

Exersaucer

An exersaucer can be good for babies. They can cruise or stand around outside of toy; can play with toys from the outside of exersaucer to help enhance fine motor skills; and can practice pulling to stand on outside of exersaucer.

However, there are also concerns with use of exersaucers. While suspended in bucket seat, a baby may keep legs bent or stand stiff legged on their toes (neither position fosters proper body alignment); unequal weight can be put into lower extremities; it encourages weight bearing on the inside of the foot which can lead to foot deformities; it promotes round neck and back, pelvis tilting backwards during sitting ("slouching posture"); it sets up incorrect postural alignment because babies are placed upright before their muscles are ready; and babies will hyperextend their backs and drop their stomachs out forward.

Some studies have shown that babies will walk later from being placed in an exersaucer secondary to not experiencing appropriate weight bearing and weight shifting necessary to develop good trunk control and alignment. The infants show a decreased drive to explore and get from one place to another using gross motor skills; they rely on the saucer for stability instead of using their back and stomach muscles; and the saucers promote incorrect weight bearing into hip joint, which is critical for bony development. Infants learn improper alignment and compensatory patterns of movement in standing.

Bumbo Seat

A bumbo seat can keep weight off the back of the child's head. (This can be achieved in supervised tummy-time  activities.)

However, a bumbo seat promotes round neck and back, with the pelvis tilting backwards during sitting ("slouching posture"). A baby is not actively using any of their back extensor muscles and they have a  decreased ability to explore their environment. A bumbo seat can caused decreased cognitive, social and overall generalized learning activities.

Toys to Avoid

These toys pose potential choking and or suffocation hazards:

  • Antique rattles
  • Foam toys
  • Toys with elastic
  • Toys with buttons, bells and ribbons
  • Old wooden toys that may contain lead paint
  • Furry plush dolls that shed
  • Any toys with small parts
  • Loosely stitched or plastic eyes