Choosing the Best Baby Gym for your Baby's Development

How to use toys on the baby gym to work on baby's growth

By Damian Chuah
Choosing the Best Baby Gym for your Baby's Development

What are baby gyms

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Why in the world do babies need gyms? It’s not as if they need that toned body so early in their budding lives. Jokes aside, baby gyms are an excellent addition to your household as they enhance your baby’s development and growth. Not only do baby gyms improve your infant’s motor skills, but they also foster cognitive skills and abilities. Since they are spectacularly important, it is worth knowing: what exactly are baby gyms?

Instead of weights and treadmills, baby gyms are made out of various toys for your infant to play with. The basic baby gym structure usually comes with several toys dangling down from a frame or an arch. Some baby gyms even come with an activity mat, creating a whole designated spot just for your infant. Also known as baby play mats or activity gyms, baby gyms can come in all shapes and sizes; a simple search on Google will provide you with thousands of different products!

Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of a baby gym is to give your baby the workout they need. Whether on a play mat or in the cot, the attractive colorful toys dangling down should stimulate movement, building not just muscles, but also the gross motor skills necessary for future everyday functioning.

What age should we break out the baby gym?

There is no set age on when it is most appropriate to use your baby gym. After all, every single baby develops at its own pace. Nonetheless, there are a few key developmental facts that all parents should be wary when deciding when’s the best time to dust off that activity gym left in the storeroom.

For instance, it is important to note that vision is the most underdeveloped sense at birth. Developmental psychologists have found that babies at birth lack depth perception; they can only see objects that are seven to ten inches away from their face (the perfect distance for them to gaze up at their mother’s face while nursing). Only at an average age of two months are they able to start differentiating between black and white and recognize color. Another important motor skill babies acquire at two months of age is the ability to raise their heads and chests. Thus, only then would they be able to gaze upwards from the “tummy time” position.

Again, there is no one single age that is deemed most appropriate to start using a baby gym. There are some sites that recommend starting immediately after birth while others, much later. However, it should be noted that baby gyms, in all its colorful glory, are could be considered practically useless until the infant is about two months since they are unable to even see suspended toys nor move to grasp them. Utilizing a baby gym before two months defeats the purpose of stimulating movement.

The function of each toy on the baby gym

There are so many types of baby gyms on the market, and so many different toys strung up to choose from. Besides just physical development of reaching out and grasping the toys, babies are also developing cognitively. Their brains are rapidly growing in the first three years; especially in infancy, their minds are learning by taking in every single sensation they have. Thus, baby gyms are especially beneficial as they provide the necessary sensations required to produce a learning experience.

A common toy found on the baby gym is the colorful beads strung up and suspended. Visually attractive and captivating, they will provide your infant with something firm to grasp to. With the beads varying in shape, size, and color, the baby would be given a wholesome sensory experience.

Another toy typically found on baby gyms are stuffed toys. Soft to touch and very much squeezable, stuffed toys introduce a different form of texture for the baby the experience. Moreover, stuffed toys provide an opportunity for parents to play with their child; the infant is exposed to more words and can thus pick up language faster. With the additional advantage of being used apart from the baby gym, stuffed toys are certainly a must-have for your play mat.

DIY your own baby gym

For the first-time parents, buying your baby all the necessities can be considerably costly. If you’re on a tight budget and do not fancy the idea of hand-me-downs, the do-it-yourself baby gym is an option you should definitely look into. Not only is it cheaper than their mass-produced cliché-looking counterparts, but you also get the opportunity to customize the baby gym however you want. With some effort, your handiwork can be a masterpiece to proudly show off next time you have guests.

Constructing your baby gym is relatively simple as its very structure is made out of three main parts: the legs, the dowel, and the toys. Cut up four straight pieces of wood for the legs and a cylindrical wooden rod for the dowel to the length of your choice (some may say that 23 inches for the legs and 29 inches of the dowel is optimal). The idea is to have two legs on each side arranged in an inverted “V” to create a stand. Each leg should also have a hole big enough for the dowel to snugly pass through; you want to secure the dowel in place to make sure it doesn’t fall on the baby! Since you’re dealing with wood, it is best to be wary of any splinters that could harm your baby. Thus, be sure to sand every single inch of wood on your craft!

When stringing up your toys, the options on what toys to attach are endless! Having an assortment of toys strung up would keep your baby constantly entertained; use colorful beads, rings, and plush toys (hairless ones are preferable to prevent any allergic reactions) to create the perfect play environment for the months to come. If you’re painting the toys yourself, do remember to use non-toxic acrylic paints.

Pair up your baby gym with a comfortable mat to complete it.

Reviews of wooden and cushioned baby gyms

Baby gyms have been in existence for the longest time ever. With that, there are certainly loads of reviews online regarding which qualities of baby gyms are the best. A favourite for many parents is the wooden baby gym. Wooden baby gyms provide beyond just the basic functionalities of the gym; they also provide a beautiful timeless aesthetic. Moreover, they tend to be considerably durable and can even be passed down for generations! Besides the environmentally friendly attributes (#reduceplastics), wooden baby gyms also foster creativity as they provide the child an opportunity to project their imagination upon.

On the other hand, cushioned baby gyms are well-loved for their safety and comfort. No parent would ever choose to compromise the well-being of their child. Additionally, being comfortable ensures that play would not be interrupted by any uneasiness or distress, thus allowing greater amounts of time allocated to the learning experience. However, a major caveat that parents should be wary of is how much movement does the cushioned baby gym allow. There are some that are padded up to the point that the baby is confined to a single position, unable to move even its own head to any side. In those cases, although the baby can still reach and grasp for the suspended toys, they lose out in exercising their head movements. An ideal baby gym should allow the baby to independently move its head from side to side; it is an important gross motor skill to develop.

Conclusion

Baby gyms are certainly a boon to the development of the child. Besides keeping the baby entertained, baby gyms provide the perfect opportunity to develop motor and cognitive skills and abilities. They are also easily accessible and don’t have to be costly; a simple DIY baby gym is sufficient to provide your child with endless joy. Ultimately though, parents should be aware of what features the baby gym has. Make full use of the sensory experience that baby gyms present; the learning experience babies encounter in their first few years are vital for their development.

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