Baby Gymnastics and Baby Exercise at Home
Baby gymnastics is a great way to help your baby exercise. I have a lot of newborn and baby exercises in this post that you can start with at birth. Here, we’ll go beyond those baby exercises and incorporate more baby gymnastics skills you can do at home with your child.
Though you can start baby gymnastics at birth, it’s usually best to wait a couple of months or so for the following skills, depending on your comfort level. Of course, you will be doing all of the activities with your baby, but the sooner you begin them, the sooner they’ll learn on their own!
If your baby is older – toddler age, I have a post for them here.
3 Baby Gymnastics Skills to Try at Home
We’ll cover 3 real gymnastics skills you can do to try baby gymnastics at home…
- Forward Rolls for Babies
- Handstands for Babies
- Hanging for Babies
If you don’t have carpet, consider putting down a mat or even
A child won’t normally begin to do a forward roll on their own until a year or so (and that’s only if you’ve already been doing them with them!). But you can start them much younger. They will probably begin imitating the roll by standing with their head down on the ground – it will take longer for them to get the idea of bending their knees to push into the roll. All of my kids would do this and wait for me to give them that nudge into their roll!
Hold baby in front of you, both facing forward. You may need to be on your knees, or it may be easier for you to have your baby to your side – experiment!
Place one arm (I use my “bad” arm) around their torso and your other hand on the back of their head. As you gently encourage their head to bend forward to the ground, you’ll be supporting their body with the other arm around their torso. Lift their torso up over their head as you bring them to the ground in a rolling motion, ending with them on their back.
Once your child starts getting the action of tucking their head to their chest, you can progress to holding them at their hips.
Have them put their hands on the ground in front of them and, if they’re tucking their head, lift their hips up and over. Make sure to lift high enough to not strain the neck, but not so high they’re off the ground.
I love to use handstands with babies to increase strength. It’s a great way to get them ready to crawl and if they’re already crawling it should be much easier. Handstands with infants begin with their reflex to putting their hands on the ground and lead up to a wheelbarrow position – excellent for torso strength. The further back you put your grip, the harder it is – older babies and toddlers can have the spot move all the way to their legs.
For young babies, start with them in front of you again. Hold them under their arms, parallel to the ground. It’s a natural reaction for them to reach for the ground, putting their hands down. If they don’t do this, try bringing them closer to the ground until they do. You may need to lift and lower a couple of times before their hands reach down to the ground.
Once their hands are on the ground you can let them support themselves with their arms on the ground while still holding them. They may suddenly bend their arms with the pressure so you don’t want your baby’s face to crash into the ground!
Once your baby gets used to supporting much of their weight with straight arms, you can move your hands back to their hips in a wheelbarrow position. Experiment with lifting their hips higher, while still being cautious of them bending their arms.
Hanging is a great gymnastics skill for babies. It’s helpful for their grip strength as well as arm and shoulder strength.
Babies are born with a natural grip reflex, which they lose around 6 months. But if you keep them gripping, they gain the strength to hold on to things better, resulting in more efficient hanging. Keep them gripping even after the reflex is lost!
Keep in mind that the following baby exercises aren’t about pulling your baby or forcing anything. Do not hold your hand around theirs if they’re not doing most of the work. Infants’ shoulder sockets are prone to slipping out of place and that’s obviously not an outcome you want.
You can keep them safe by making sure they’re pulling their head/neck up and they should have a slight bend to their elbows. Let them use their strength – not yours.
Start infants out on their back on the ground or your legs in front of you. Let them grasp your fingers. Once they have a firm grasp, slowly try to lift your fingers and see if they’ll hold on. You can keep lifting your fingers up if they’re holding tight until they lift their heads with the strength of their arms. You can gently support their grip with your thumbs so their head doesn’t fall if they do let go.
Try the same activity above but use a stick/pole. You can put your hands around your baby’s to ensure they don’t let go, but don’t force their grip. You should be able to feel if they’re doing it, as they’ll keep their necks strong and not let their head fall back. Eventually, you should be able to lift the stick so much that they come up to a seated position (once they’re lifting high enough, put one hand behind their back so they can’t fall back down).
Keep going! Bring the stick they’re holding higher until your baby is in a full hang.
Alternatively, you can also try hanging with a bar. Whether you have a bar at home, or if you want to try at a park, try getting them used to hanging on a fixed bar. More details/videos on bar hanging coming soon! Sign up for my email list to get the updates here. You can check out the gymnastics bars I recommend in this post.
Hold your baby, facing you, with one hand on their upper thigh and the other just under their armpit. They should be on the opposite side of the bar so that it’s close enough for them to reach out and grasp it. If they don’t grasp it, just lift them up and down, playing peek-a-boo with the bar. They may grab it, especially if the bar is at about their chest height.
If they do grab the bar, continue lifting them up and down, bringing them down enough to let their arms go straight (while maintaining your spot on them). Eventually, they’ll hang on their own! If they do, you may bring both hands to their upper torso.
When to do Baby Gymnastics at Home
Anytime your child is in a content, awake mood is great to practice your baby’s gymnastics moves. Often the skills can even help alleviate tummy issues, like gas, or can help drain fluid from their ears. Babies need to move around just like us, it gives them a good stretch and increases mobility, and just feels good!
The main thing to remember – if your child is not happy with what you’re doing, stop. You can try again later or reassess why it seems uncomfortable for them and try something else.