Outside play for babies

Early movement prevents hyperactivity later

As strange as it may sound, when a baby moves enough before the age of two, chances are slim that your baby will be hyper-active or battle with concentration when he or she goes to school one day.

Movement wires the brain, and a baby needs to move a lot before the brain has developed enough to control the impulse to move. Sitting still is easy once the big muscles (gross motor) of the body is strong enough to ‘hold’ the body upright, so the fine or small, skilful muscles of the eyes and hands develop so baby can self-feed and stack three blocks, or a child can get dressed, go to the toilet, hold a paint brush or much later - read and write.  

Instead of rushing off to buy a toy, put your baby in a stroller and take a walk outside. Fresh air is brain food and when you mindfully choose a variety of surfaces and angles, a walk down the street turns into an amazing multi-sensory experience for baby. Research at the BabyGym Institute in Johannesburg has found that even when a baby lies passively in a stroller, the experience of going up and down a hill; turning corners to the left and right and feeling the vibration of a variety of surfaces like tar, sand, grass, paving bricks and gravel are fun ways to stimulate proprioception and the vestibular system – two crucial components in the development of the brain.

Watch your baby’s reaction for any signs that you are overdoing it a bit. When you hear a high pitched cry and baby moves in a frantic manner, STOP. Baby is saying: “my brain is in overdrive. My brain and I, need soothing�?. Stop and cuddle baby. Nothing soothes better than your touch, the smell of your body and gentle and rhythmic rocking. Choose a smoother road home. Babies love these 4x4 walks and enjoy the light playing through the leaves and the smells and sounds of nature.

“Studies show that positive touch affects stress reactivity, impulse control and empathy; free play in nature influences social capacities and aggression,�? says Darcia Narvaez, Notre Dame Professor of Psychology.

Restrictive clothing, and constricting devices like supporting chairs and walking rings hamper free movement, while space and opportunity to move without bumping into furniture or knocking things over supports muscle tone, spatial orientation, body awareness and confidence. While a lack of space and the freedom to move breed frustration, aggression and destructive behaviour, a walk in nature; rolling on grass with your toddler; swinging forwards and backward; going up and down a slide; or twirling round and round and dropping breathless in a pile of giggles boost every facet of your baby, toddler or child in a wholesome way.

John Wooden cautions us with the words: “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do�?. Your baby needs one-on-one time with you, and natural multi-sensory experiences to thrive.

You might want to read more about birth order and whether it makes a difference.