What is a baby gym?
Many lists that you are provided with when buying items for your newborn baby, include an item known as a ‘baby gym’. A baby gym can come in many different forms but is normally an arch which your baby lies underneath and allows your baby to be stimulated with sounds, colours and textures.
The arch may be a criss-cross type arch or a single arch and can be made from plastic, wood or material. The arch will usually be brightly or boldly coloured and have small toys made from a variety of textures and colours hanging from it so that your baby can play and swipe at them when lying on their back.
A lot of parents prefer to buy a baby gym that comes complete with a colourful and attractive play-mat. The play mat is usually soft and padded so that your baby is comfortable whilst lying on their back but they can also be used for tummy time as they often have mirrors, squeakers, tassles and bright pictures for your baby to play with and look at. However, a normal blanket or nice carpet can be used under a baby-gym arch if your arch does not come with its own play-mat.
How will my baby use a baby-gym?
A baby gym can be useful for a new-born baby as it is normally a safe and comfortable place for you to place your baby if you need to leave your baby for a few moments. At first, your baby will only be able to focus on the toys which hang down close to your baby, but gradually his eyes will develop and he will be able to focus clearer on the objects and colours. Your new-born baby will need your help at this stage but he will also enjoy listening to any noises or sounds that you can make using your baby-gym.
As your baby grows, he will learn to kick with his feet or swipe at the toys with his arms. Your baby will try to reach and grasp at the hanging toys. Your baby will probably enjoy using the baby-gym from about three months until he can move without help.
Does a baby gym help my baby grow and learn?
As soon as a baby is born, they have a natural instinct to try and learn to use and control their muscles and to learn all that they can about the world around them. Baby gyms have been carefully designed to help babies to learn, to play and to develop skills.
A baby gym can help your baby to develop their eyes and be able to focus clearly on objects. As your baby lies on the mat below the arch, he will try to look at and focus on the toys and colourful objects hanging above him. Once your baby can see the toys clearly, he can begin to focus on the toys as the move and swing above him.
A baby gym will then help your baby to develop his hand-eye co-ordination as he will then try to reach for the object. He may try with his hand, arm or foot but he will want to learn how to move the toy by himself. Your baby may also begin to understand ‘cause and effect’ and how if he moves his leg, the toy will then move too.
Eventually, your baby will be able to reach out and touch or grab the toy with control and this will please your baby and encourage him to want to touch, feel and grab more objects which he can see and may in turn encourage crawling or movement.
by Jenny, mum to William and James