Recommendation

For healthy development in infants (birth to 1 year), physical activity - particularly supervised floor-based play in safe environments - should be encourages from birth.

The importance of movement from birth to one year

From the time they are born, babies learn by interacting in a variety of ways. In particular, learning comes from how they relate to their physical, social and cultural surroundings.

Giving babies daily chances to move freely helps to:
  • keep their bodies and minds active
  • develop their senses, often through natural curiosity
  • develop good posture, strength and balance
  • make them feel loved, happy and safe
  • develop language and communication skills
  • teach them about their body and the world around them
  • encourage interaction with others.
For babies who cannot walk yet, being physically active means having daily opportunities to move around on their stomach or back in a variety of free spaces, without being constrained by wraps or clothing. It also includes practising movements such as reaching, grasping, pulling, pushing and playing with other people, objects and toys.

Babies both enjoy and thrive on interacting with people, so it is important to make time to spend with babies, including time playing with them.

Promoting movement in babies from birth to one year

Babies need a variety of play activities and environments throughout the day. Play activities that stimulate the senses also have the benefit of developing other skills.

Tummy time

Tummy time is important for strengthening head, neck and trunk muscles, and encouraging free limb movement.

Ideas for play:
Place babies on different floor surfaces – for example, rugs or mats. You can try placing toys or other appropriate objects just out of reach, for babies to reach for and try to grasp.

Getting around

Play spaces need to encourage babies to try and practise new movements, and to use large muscles for kicking, crawling and pulling themselves up to standing.

Ideas for play:
When babies become more mobile, they enjoy the challenge of making their way around different spaces. You may like to set up a tunnel for them to crawl through, or a sturdy bench for them to pull themselves up on.
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(Note: Experts advise against baby walkers and baby exercise jumpers due to the risk of injury, and because they can delay sitting, walking and crawling.)

Sound

Noises during play help with areas of brain development linked to hearing, and can also encourage movement.

Ideas for play:
Give babies rattles or other noisy toys such as wooden spoons and saucepans to play with. You can also play music for babies to listen and move to.

Touch

Babies need to feel and hold a variety of objects, to help develop their recognition of touch.

Ideas for play:
Give babies toys and objects made from different materials, or with different textures, for them to touch and squeeze. You can try making your own - for example, scrunched-up paper inside a stocking.

Sight

Moving objects that babies can 'follow' with their eyes help to develop eye strength and encourage movement.

Ideas for play;
Read to babies from fabric or cardboard books, place them below colourful mobiles or play 'Peek-a-boo'.

Outdoor play and babies

Playing outsdie can help babies to learn about different surroundings and feel comfortable with the world around them. Some experiences that outside play provide include feeling grass, hearing cars and birds and looking at the sky.

Everyone should be encouraged to show, talk and sing to babies about what they see, hear or feel, to help them enjoy outdoor experiences. This could also include taking them to the park or for a walk in a stroller.