Julianne Janiszewski PT, MSPT
A play gym is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used throughout your baby’s first year and can also be used as an incentive for playing in many positions that promote strengthening and skill development.
For the most versatility, choose a play gym that allows you to interchange the toys. Toys suspended from the gym should be light weight. For an infant it is best to include toys with a red/black/white theme or toys with faces. As the baby grows, add toys with the primary colors, a variety of textures, and added noises such as crackles, chimes, and rattles. Switch and move toys frequently to keep baby interested. Use favorite toys and suspend from different positions on the gym to encourage a variety or head and body positions and movements.
ALL ACTIVITIES WITH PLAY GYM SHOULD BE SUPERVISED.
- Have your baby lie on his/her back with a blanket roll under the head and shoulders. Place the play gym over the baby with the toys in reach. Encourage the baby to reach the toys by hand over hand placement on the toy and moving a toy to catch the baby’s attention.
- When your baby can reach and bat for toys with the blanket roll under his/her head and shoulders, remove the blanket roll and allow the baby to play while lying flat on his/her back.
- When your baby is comfortable in supported sitting, place the baby sitting in front of you. Have one hand supporting the baby’s chest and another hand supporting the baby’s upper back. Place the play gym in front of your baby with the toys a few inches above the baby’s legs. When your baby can play with the suspended toys, move the toys higher so that your baby has to reach higher to contact the toys.
- Some car seats have a play gym bar attached to them. If your baby car seat does not, you can suspend the toys on your play gym at the appropriate height to engage your baby while you are preparing to leave the house. If the play gym is too low, place the gym legs on books or blocks to be at a comfortable play height for your baby.
- The play gym is an excellent toy for tummy time. Suspend the toys from the play gym at a height the baby can see when the baby’s head is lifted up. Play in front of your baby, talking to him/her and moving the toys to engage him/her. As your baby gets stronger, encourage your baby to use either hand to reach for the toys
- Your baby can play this game while supported on his/her forearms or hands. For playing this game with arms extended and supporting the baby’s weight, start with the baby’s tummy on a pillow or wedge. Remove the support when your baby is stronger.
- When your baby is easily able to reach the toys with either hand, place the play gym just a few inches forward out of reach. Talk to your baby and play with the toys to encourage them to move forward. Gently assist the baby forward by flexing one leg towards his/her tummy.
- When your baby can be positioned in the hands and knees position, place the baby gym in front of your baby to attract attention to their preferred toys and encourage him/her to reach for toys.
- Support your baby while standing at a couch or table. Place the play gym in front of the baby on the elevated surface. Encourage the baby to play with toys with one hand or both hands. Encourage visual attention through all fields of vision by moving toys to far sides, up and down, etc.
A baby play gym is a versatile toy that can easily be used through the first year and beyond. Hopefully, this information has provided you with some new and fun ways to play, play, play with your baby gym. The pediatric development experts at PTC would be happy to help you with additional ideas at any time to address specific skills with your play gym at home. Be sure the enjoy the very best part of play gym play…those adorable baby giggles and wiggles!