Exercice balls and cylinder cushions
Since exercise balls are gaining in popularity in gyms everywhere, they can easily be found in most stores. They are great tools to play with little ones.
In a nursery, exercise balls can be used to improve babies' balance and to strengthen their muscles while adding an element of fun!
Avoid forcing babies into any of the exercises. Be certain babies are physically capable of accomplishing each activity. If not, move on to the next one.
Allow babies to explore the ball on their own at first. Who can resist rolling such a big ball around? They will surely attempt to lift it which is nearly impossible given its size!
Here are other ways babies can explore exercise balls with their daycare worker's assistance. Begin by placing a mat on the floor and lay the ball in the center.
In a sitting position
Sit the baby on the ball. While holding the baby's hands, gently rock the ball from left to right, then front to back...Accompany your movements with a nursery rhyme such as Row, row, row your boat. Gently bounce the baby on the exercise ball. All these activities will encourage baby to work on his balance.
You can add music and follow the rhythm.
On their stomach
Place the baby on the ball lying on his stomach. While holding the baby, make circular motions with the ball. Younger babies will try to push with their hands to lift their heads whereas older babies will want to push off the ground with their feet.
Place a toy on the ground in front of the ball. Keep the baby on his stomach. While firmly holding on to the baby, slowly roll him down so he can either see the toy or in the case of older babies, grab it. Roll the baby back to the initial position.
On their back
Although I have never tried this position myself, I have a book which suggests it. As in the sitting position, the advantage is that babies can see us. I feel that younger babies may be the most comfortable with this position.
One of my books suggests babies play with large cylinder cushions. I like the idea that we can make them ourselves and therefore have several different sizes. Babies can then have fun climbing over them.
Simple method to make a cylinder cushion
Purchase a tube at a hardware store. Cover the tube with foam which can be found at a fabric store. The foam can be glued to the tube to guarantee it will stay put. Create an envelope for the tube with colourful fabric and fit the tube inside. Use thicker foam or add several layers of foam to make different sizes.
The cylinder cushion is much softer than the exercise ball. A very small cylinder cushion can be helpful for very young babies to elevate their upper body (head, arms and shoulders). To do so, simply place it under the babies' chests.
Again, there are several different activities to try. Babies can sit on the cushions or mount them like horses.
Objects can be hidden on the other side of the cushions and babies can roll over the cushions to retrieve them.
The cushions can be stacked to create a barricade to be climbed over.
Have fun exploring new exercises!