Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baby Up and Baby Down

In today’s Nursery Rhyme Time, we shared an early literacy tip about tummy time and encouraging your child to sit up.

Did you know that different kinds of physical movement are incredibly beneficial to your baby? Tummy time helps develop back and neck muscles and visual tracking abilities. And sitting upright causes baby’s larynx to drop lower in the throat. That extra space allows baby to make a much wider variety of sounds, and is actually why humans can speak and animals can’t. So make sure baby spends time both horizontal and vertical!

You’ve probably heard of tummy time – making sure your baby spends plenty of wakeful hours on his or her tummy. When babies are young, this helps them develop their back and neck muscles. It can also decrease the likelihood of flat spots on baby’s head, a common problem for babies who spend too much time lying on their back or in reclining seats. It also allows baby to develop their visual tracking abilities, since they’re controlling their own head, and therefore eye, movements.

Healthy Children.org, a website sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has a whole host of tips as to how to best utilize tummy time (and a bunch of other great parenting tips). Though some babies don’t seem to like tummy time, the benefits are worth sticking it out. Try introducing fun new toys while baby’s on his or her tummy, and make sure you provide lots of fun interaction.

Once babies can hold their own heads up, help them practice sitting up. Spending time in an upright position is essential in developing baby’s language skills because it allows baby’s larynx to drop. Humans have greater spoken language than animals precisely because our larynx is low in our throats. When babies are born, their larynxes are closer to their mouths, which protects them from choking and allows them to drink and breathe at the same time. As they grow older and spend more time upright, their larynx drops. The additional space between our larynxes and mouths allows us to make a wider variety of sounds, and that’s why we can talk and animals can’t.

So while your baby’s tiny, make sure to encourage lots of tummy time. As your baby gets older, encourage him or her to sit up. Once he or she has spent enough time upright, your child will begin to make a much wider variety of sounds and will be able to begin the process of speaking your language!

Research and More Info:

The Healthy Children website provides a wide variety of information about child development, including info about tummy time.

The Baby Center website has more great info about tummy time.

We also have a few great books about language development! Try:

Language Development by Erika Hoff (Information about larynx dropping begins on page 43.)
How to Talk to Your Baby by Dorothy Dougherty
How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life by Roberta Golinkoff

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