A couple weeks ago, while I was at a meet-up with some local moms, we were exchanging favourite activities and toys for our little ones. The mom-squad knows that I work as a pediatric occupational therapist (OT) so it’s quite typical that on these outings I get asked for my opinion of what toys are the most developmentally appropriate for kiddos.
My “OT brain” has been a useful tool while being a mom, and though I do try to shut it off while socializing sometimes it’s hard, especially when you’re being solicited for advice. Anyways, I got asked for my professional opinion on certain toys and since we talked about some pretty popular ones I thought it might make an interesting blog post.
First off, let’s talk about the Bumbo seat. I’m sure 98% per cent of you had or have this for your littles. It’s light-weight, easy to transport, and helps your kiddo learn to sit up on their own, right? Well, not exactly. Developmentally, infants typically don’t sit up on their own until about six months (on average). So if your three month old is sitting tall in the Bumbo seat you might be thinking this is good practice and they’re going to get nice and strong, but it’s actually the opposite that’s happening.
The Bumbo forces the child into a sitting position (and an immature one, at that) and prevents them from using their own muscles to do the work. It’s a passive way to get them to sit, meaning there’s no muscle or sensory engagement going on and it can actually slow down development of their physical skills.
Want a better option? Pop them in a laundry basket or in the middle of a nursing pillow, with a few other pillows or blankets around them for support. Now I do believe there is one exception to these recommendations, and that’s for children who may have some sort of developmental delay or disability. For these children, a Bumbo can be wonderful to help them sit up and interact with their peers.
Similar to above, there’s always chatter regarding jumpers and exersaucers. Sorry to burst your bubble again but while these make for great entertainment, they aren’t very developmentally friendly. Like the Bumbo, they often place children in positions they aren't ready for.
In the case of these two devices, that’s a semi-standing position. Being coaxed into bearing weight before they can do this themselves has the potential to create muscle imbalances (their legs get strong before their trunk) which can interfere with learning to crawl or walk.
I know these explanations may sound unnecessary or tedious. I mean, I’m pretty sure I rocked the Jolly Jumper as a kid and by most standards I turned out OK. But it’s food for thought, and I wanted to share a few tidbits of my knowledge with you. I’m off the clock and speaking as a parent who happens to be an OT. I’m in no way speaking as your OT and telling you what you have to do with your kids.
If I had to give one piece of advice though, it would simply be to use everything in moderation and give plenty of tummy time. As for toys, you’d be surprised what you can do with a pot and a plastic spoon. Sometimes half the fun is giving them everyday items and watching how they use and explore them on their own terms.