Nothing feels good like being called a parent. However, the title also comes with a wide range of responsibilities you must fulfill. One of them is finding ways to keep your toddler active, especially when you are trapped indoors for weeks or months.
Keep in mind that your little one needs to stay active and exercise enough. You need to be creative and find ways of engaging him/her in physical activities to avoid prolonged exposure to screens.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution for you; a play gym mat. A simple play gym offers something fun for your little one to use that doesn’t take up much time to set up and allows your toddler to move freely and work on their development skills.
This post discusses everything you need to know about a play gym and why it is the best option for burning toddler energy indoors. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Play Gym?
Before we dive deep into the other details, let us figure out what the term “play gym” really means. In simple terms, a baby play gym refers to a plastic or wooden arch with small toys suspended from it.
Baby play gyms come in different colors, textures, designs, and sounds to stimulate your little one. Some of them are fully equipped with lovely music and amazing lights. Most play gyms come with a colorful play mat for your toddler to lie on.
The mat usually has a fine, touchy texture, mirrors, and flaps to grab your kid’s attention. Once your baby sees a play gym, he/she will love to explore the different components and spend as much time as possible on it.
Most play gyms are ideal for kids as little as one month old, although, at this stage, he/she may only focus on the toys nearest to him/her.
However, as their sight develops, the colors start to become clearer and more attractive. By the time your kid hits six months, he/she will be able to see and play with all the toys on the play gym.
As your kid gets older, he/she will start to explore the toys further with hands and feet. He/she will start using their grasping skills to pull and bat the attractive toys.
You will most likely start to notice a burst of activity from the age of around three months as his/her hand-eye coordination starts to improve.
Do You Need a Play Gym?
If you have a toddler in your house, the answer to this question is definitely “yes.” Let us face the truth: even if you wanted to, you cannot manage to hold your baby 24/7. You need some time to rest and attend to other activities in your home.
Baby play gyms are specifically designed to keep your little one engaged while you focus on other activities. They serve as a fun spot for your little one to chill as you use the bathroom, answer your phone, make dinner, or do some laundry.
A good play gym provides your child with a variety of visuals, textures, and sounds. Some of the advanced play gyms have small swings and bouncers.
They are also perfect for tummy time because they help strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles, develop motor skills, and prevent your kid from getting a flat head.
How Will a Baby Gym Help Your Baby’s Development?
Your baby develops quite rapidly during the first six months. Therefore, you need to provide him/her with many toys and activities to help him/her discover and explore new abilities. Doing so will entertain and delight the toddler.
During the first few months of birth, your baby will mostly focus on easy things that are relatively close to him/her. The colorful swinging toys above his/her head will encourage him to follow the moving object with his/her eyes.
However, it won’t take long before he/she graduates from following with eyes to wanting to touch the objects. The baby will do everything possible to at least get a swipe at it, which plays a critical role in developing and improving his/her hand-eye coordination.
Reaching out and touching the toys provides your baby with a strong sense of control over his/her body. It helps him realize that simple actions can change the world around him, which helps him understand the concept of cause and effect.
Other Benefits of a Play Gym
Here are some of the other benefits of a play gym that your child will enjoy:
1. Provides an Interesting Diversion in Your Kid’s Daily Routine
During the first few weeks of childbirth, your baby will most likely be happy with being held and swaddled around. However, as time goes by, you will require much more than holding and swaddling to keep him/her entertained.
A baby play gym provides an exciting and fun alternative that allows your little one to improve in different development areas during playtime. It also provides you with a chance to interact with your baby during playtime.
You can get engaged in the play by pointing out the different types of characters on the play gym and the sounds produced. Once your baby is old enough, make sure you use this chance to reinforce language and communication skills between you and him/her.
A play gym can also be useful to you as a parent. Don’t underestimate the power of a baby play gym whenever you need to take a break for a few minutes. It provides an entertaining diversion whenever you need something to keep your toddler busy while attending to other tasks.
The only thing you need to do is ensure you don’t leave your baby unattended for longer periods while they play.
2. Convenient Form of Physical Exercise
We can’t deny the fact that outdoor play helps with child development immensely. Unfortunately, there are times when poor weather will force you to stay indoors for a prolonged time.
In other cases, parents don’t have enough free time to take their kids out for play. Without proper planning, your kids may not get as much physical exercise as they should.
So, what do you do when it is raining or freezing cold, but you need to help your little one burn energy? Do you simply sit down and switch on the Playstation or television, or do you let the kid run around in the house hoping he/she won’t break anything?
Honestly, neither of those options sounds great. Playing video games or watching TV can’t make up for the old-fashioned physical exercise, and letting your children run around the house aimlessly is a recipe for disaster.
That is where an indoor play gym comes in handy. Your toddler can still get enough physical activity indoors. You don’t have to brave the frigid cold or triple-digit heat to be at a playground, and you also don’t have to worry about them messing up your house in the name of playing.
And it is even more fun because, with a simple play gym, your little one can play and exercise at the same time. This combination is quite helpful for your kid’s health in the long-term.
3. Promotes Self-Awareness
Many baby play gyms are equipped with small, non-breakable mirrors where kids can spend time looking at their reflection in the mirror.
Most babies tend to start noticing themselves in the mirror at the age of three months. At first, they will be staring at the mirror without reaching out. However, as they become more aware of their surroundings, they will start reaching out and playing with their reflection.
They may first smile at themselves in the mirror at around five months and start to playfully respond to their reflection, laughing, making funny faces, and patting when they are around six months old.
All these skills are essential for the development of self-awareness, and baby play gyms provide toddlers with an incredible platform and opportunity to practice these skills.
4. Tactile Stimulation
As mentioned earlier, when you provide your kid with interesting things to look at, their hand-eye coordination develops and relatively faster. This helps them to reach a milestone of grasping things much faster.
Since play gyms are specifically designed to be easy on your child’s hands, they propel him/her into a world of tactile stimulation that helps them accomplish things such as moving an object, differentiating between bumpy and smooth objects, and recognizing themselves in mirrors.
During the first few months of your baby’s life, you may spend a lot of time holding him/her close. However, it reaches a point when you need to do more than the rocking and swaddling.
So, when your little one is ready to move out of your arms onto the next phase of development, a baby gym may be a great addition to your indoor space.
A play gym may be a simple thing, but it boasts many critical areas of child development and provides your little one with an exciting platform to start learning about independence and their environment.