Q. What is Baby Builders?
Baby Builders is an infant exercise program designed to teach parents to be proactive in their child’s development and health. As it is easy and enjoyable, babies are able to participate the day they arrive home to the time of walking. Baby Builders is beneficial to all infants, though it is specifically targeted to premature infants and those with special needs.
Q. What kinds of activities does this program include?
Baby Builders features fun, safe, constructive playtime activities which parents or caregivers can easily do with their infant. The exercises help improve motor skills as well as cognitive ability.
Q. How do the exercises in Baby Builders work for infant development?
The activities in Baby Builders help the baby in many areas. Physically, the activities stimulate joint receptors to help the baby understand where his body is in space. The program also helps strengthen and build neural pathways in the baby’s brain to improve motor skills. But probably most importantly, the exercises in Baby Builders are proven to help strengthen postural control muscles, allowing for more coordinated, balanced movement of the body.
Q. What are the postural control muscles and what do they do in relationship to infant development?
The postural control muscles are the muscles in the trunk which work to stabilize the head, shoulder girdle, spine and pelvis. Before you can move your head, jaw, arms and legs, you must stabilize the neck and the trunk. Try it: sit on the side of your bed with your feet unsupported. Now, lift one of your legs. What did you notice about your stomach, back and neck muscles? They all tightened. Try not to let those muscles tighten (keep them relaxed) while you lift your leg once more. What happens? You can’t lift your leg without falling off the bed. You have to stabilize your back and pelvis before you can move your leg without falling over. Your postural control muscles are the ones that help you stabilize your body during movement.
Q. How can one recognize weakness in postural control?
Weakness can appear differently depending on the child. A significant weakness can cause delays in infant development as seen in motor skills such as crawling, pulling up and/or walking. A more moderate weakness may not show up during the first year of motor performance at all, but seen several years later. Areas affected include higher level motor skills such as hopping, standing on one leg and walking in a straight line or balance beam. The child may be labeled as clumsy or uncoordinated. A lack of postural control affects many areas in a child such as hand-eye coordination, mobility, balance, hand function, perception, learning, cognitive development and even swallowing. In fact, a lack of postural control causes head instability which impacts a child’s ability to focus the eyes.
Q. Who can benefit from an exercise program that works to strengthen postural control muscles?
All children can greatly benefit from Baby Builders. Any parent or caregiver who wants their child to have good coordination and balance needs to incorporate exercises that strengthen the postural control muscles during the first year of life. The best time for a child to gain postural control is during his/her first year as it is a prime time for infant development. Those born premature, with Down syndrome or Cerebral Palsy are at the highest risk for weakness in postural control muscles. Such children are in greater need of exercise to prevent or minimize developmental delay. Premature infants must be involved in an exercise program geared towards strengthening the trunk, shoulder and hip muscles during the first 6 months after discharge from a neonatal unit. The last 6 months should focus on strength, balance and coordination. (De Groot)4.
Q. Why do healthy babies need this program?
Today, children are spending more time in high-tech devices and less time playing on the floor and interacting with parents. As a result, infants are at greater risk for delayed development. The exercises of Baby Builders allow for bonding while yielding positive developmental results.
We recommend a baby start out slowly, especially if he or she is younger than three months. Ideally, babies are to exercise for 20-30 minutes a day by 3 months of age. The activities do not have to be done all at once; parents can break up the exercises and do them throughout the day if needed.
Q. How does this program work with your child?
Baby Builders is divided into 4 stages of infant development; even a newborn can begin the program at Stage 1. The 5 exercises in Stage 1 help improve head control, hand-eye coordination and build strength in the trunk muscles. When a baby can easily do all exercises in Stage 1 they can progress to Stage 2. Stage 2 focuses on improving balance. When infants can do all Stage 2 activities easily, begin Stage 3. Stage 3 focuses on movement and continues to Stage 4, which focuses on coordination.