Brain Builders: Stimulating Activities for Your 1-month-old Baby

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By Tammy Morey

Ever notice your newborn baby seems to always roll up in a ball? That’s because newborns have spent the last nine months curled up in the uterus, and they seem to automatically curl into the fetal position – with knees bent and arms drawn forward – whenever they are placed on their backs or sides. This is a perfectly natural reflex given that they have spent their lives in that position, unable to stretch. Their pectoral muscles are too short and tight while their back muscles have been stretched and are too long.

Your baby will, of course, naturally uncurl with time; however, there are some exercises that you can do to accelerate the process, helping your baby to strengthen his upper and lower back while stretching the chest and hips.

Baby is beginning to notice sounds and may turn his head toward them.

Your baby’s torso, specifically the abdominal and lower back area – which are often referred to as the “core muscles” – is what controls his body. If you were to stand up and move your arms, then lift one leg at a time, you would notice that your core muscles are what allow you to move your extremities. By making sure that your baby’s core muscles are strengthened and stretched, you can create the proper muscle structure, establishing the foundation upon which your child can begin to build good posture.

In the first month of your baby’s life you’ll observe some of the following milestones:

  • He’s beginning to notice sounds and may turn his head toward them – more for the right ear than the left.
  • His legs are not so tight or drawn toward his chest.
  • His grasp is still a reflex, and his hands will still be balled into little fists, but he may grab objects as they touch or brush his hand.
  • His communication skills will improve through cries, grunts and squeaks.
  • He responds to smells with facial reactions.
  • His bottom will still remain higher than his head when he is lying on his tummy.
  • He may begin to lift his head slightly for brief periods of time.
  • His eyes will start to focus on objects and faces.
  • His sense of security will deepen through the interactions with his primary caregivers.

The following exercises were designed to help your baby work on many of these skills. Keep in mind they will stimulate your baby’s entire body. They shift from upper body to lower body to allow a rest period between exercised areas and to, thus, avoid overworking a muscle group. Each time you perform the exercise, your baby is actually responding; his brain will be registering the action, and his muscles will be getting stronger.

Activities for Your 1-month-old

Engine, Engine

Engine, engine number nine
Sliding down Chicago line
When she’s polished she will shine
Engine, engine number nine

Begin by placing Baby on his back and have him clasp your thumbs in his hands. Place your fingers over his hands to secure this grip.

While saying the first line, cross Baby’s arms across his chest and then uncross his arms straight out to the sides at about shoulder height. For the second line, raise Baby’s arms straight above his head and then lower them down to his sides. Say the third line while raising Baby’s right arm over his head and lowering his left arm straight to his side. Then, finish the rhyme by gently lowering Baby’s right arm to his side and raising his left arm over his head (alternating arm raises).

Muscles exercised: pectoral, upper back, arms, shoulders and hands
Exercises performed: arm cross, arm raises and alternate arm raises

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Head and shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head and shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose
Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Brain Builders-Stimulating Activities for Your 1-month-old BabyPlace Baby on his back, and hold his legs in your hands. Gently touch his head and then shoulders while saying “head and shoulder.” When saying “knees and toes,” while holding his legs straight with your thumbs resting on his shins and your fingers grasping his calf muscles, bend Baby’s knees toward his chest. Then straighten out both legs and lower them to the floor twice. Next, gently touch Baby’s outer eye area, ears, mouth and nose.

Muscles exercised: legs, hamstrings and hips (may also relieve crankiness because it massages the internal organs)
Exercise performed: knee bends

Shoe the Old Horse

Shoe the old horse
Shoe the old mare
But let the little ponies run
Bare, bare, bare

Place Baby on his back on the floor, and clasp his right ankle in your right hand. With your left thumb on the ball of your Baby’s foot, gently press his foot upward into the flexed position. With the fingers of your left hand above and your thumb under his toes, press Baby’s foot downward into the pointed position. On “bare, bare, bare,” gently pat the bottom of your baby’s foot three times. Repeat the rhyme, and perform the same exercise with Baby’s left foot.

Muscles exercised: feet, ankles, shins and hips
Exercise performed: foot flex

Tummy Time

Prepare for a blanket on the floor and place your baby on his tummy on it. Make sure that your position is in front of your baby’s head and also on your tummy. Then start to sing and talk to your baby. Also encourage him to try to lift his head to see you. If he is not able to lift his head to you very much or at all, don’t be discouraged. A baby’s head is the heaviest part of his body at this point and, therefore, takes tremendous effort to lift. Start with a few minutes three times a day and work up to 15 minutes each time.

It is important to incorporate tummy time into your baby’s daily routine so that he will begin to strengthen the muscles in his head, neck, shoulders and back. The development of these muscles is a prerequisite to rolling over and crawling.

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