Earlier, we discussed what not to do: Don't provide artificial movement for your child (no bouncy seats, for example), don't hold your child's arms over his or her head to help with walking or standing (bad for brain and body development), and so forth.
But what can you do?
1. Sitting on the floor and letting your infant use your leg as a prop to stand up. Watch in wonder as he or she tries and tries again. Remember not to dive in to help (and no saying, "be careful!")
2. Lie on the floor. Let your infant use you for crawling and propping him or herself up.
3. You can assist an infant on his or her back by holding both of your arms out, so he or she can grasp your hands to pull up. Do not pull your child, but stay stable and still so that you are useful. Let your infant grip your hands as if they were stationary -- leave your fingers closed and curved a bit, so there is a natural grip available.
Infants are in an amazing state of development as their minds soak in language and knowledge from the world around them.
Physical movement and exploration is one of the most important things for this age group. Creeping and crawling, pulling and pushing, grasping and biting...these all allow our children to explore their surroundings and learn about them in an interactive way.
Infants strive to stand and walk with incredible intensity as this stage of their development is a major milestone.
How can you help?
First, do not physically help your child stand or walk because he or she needs to progress slowly at the pace where his or her body is able to handle the weight of the body and the balancing of this weight when standing or walking. So, if you hold your child's hands, for example, it will prevent him or her from strengthening the muscles involved, and it will hinder balance. Also, holding your child up from his or her arms is an awkward and potentially damaging move (think if someone were to lift you by your arms). Small muscles and connective tissue can be injured in this way.
But you can help by making sure the environment is safe and promotes movement. Your child's bedroom should be completely free of anything that could injure him or her during a fall, and the floor of the bedroom should be comfortable and promote wiggling, crawling, and walking.
Material needed: One canister of tennis balls with a lid
Make sure the canister does not have sharp edges (some use pop top type aluminum seals).
Open the plastic lid, pour the tennis balls out onto a carpet (a thick carpet or blanket keeps the balls from rolling away), pick up a ball with both hands, and put it back into the container. Do this until the balls are all in the canister. Put the lid on. Ask your toddler, "Would you like open the canister of tennis balls?" (Note that we always use a few useful nouns and verbs).
Let your child play with the canister in whatever way interests him or her. We demonstrate just to give them an idea.
Other materials you can use include an empty oatmeal cylinder and other types of balls, wool felted balls, and so forth.
For everyone who is worrying about infant and toddler material purchase prices, bear in mind that most of the equipment needed in these years can be made at home! The expensive stuff you see for sale increases in quantity each year because it is a fabulous market, not because your child needs all of it.
Material needed: One empty glass bottle with a wide mouth (milk bottle, etc) One small pitcher of water Tiny teaspoon
Demonstrate pouring the water from the pitcher to the glass bottle, striking the bottle delicately with the spoon, listening to the note, adding more water, striking it again, and then emptying the water into the pitcher. Strike the bottle when it is empty, pour a bit more water in, strike again, and so forth. Your child will be eager to try.
A tip for working with really young children: Make your part of the demonstration short. Then let your child work with the material. Next time, you can show him or her a small extension to the initial exercise. The key point is to show, not tell. (Did you ever have someone try to tell you how to swing a golf club? If that worked, we'd all be pros).