Baby Gymnastics: 10 Fun Vestibular Stimulation Activities

10 fun & brain-building balance stimulation activities for your baby that encourages brain development, physical skills, and parental bonding.

Some of the most natural ways that human parents have played with their babies for all of history involves moving baby through space in different ways and at different speeds. For instance:

  • bouncing baby up and down on your knees while singing a nursery rhyme
  • dancing around the room with baby embraced to your chest
  • rocking and swaying baby around to his great delight
  • playfully holding baby upside down and blowing on his stomach
  • lifting or tossing baby up in the air

No one really tells us to do these things with our children, we just do. It comes naturally, and of course, babies find absolute delight in these boisterous pastimes, which of course encourages us to want to do these things even more!

But did you know that moving your baby through space in a variety of positions and speeds is actually doing something important and valuable to your little one beyond producing giggles and smiles?

What is the Value and Importance of the Balance Activities?

When a baby is born his vestibular system is almost completely undeveloped. After spending his first nine months in the anti-gravity, aquatic environment of the womb, he has received none of the sensory input that is required to organize, develop, and grow the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and adjusting one’s position in space.

Think for a minute about a tiny newborn trying to lift his head and look around while his head wobbles about like a bobble head. Or a 4-month-old whose legs are extremely strong and has the muscle strength to stand, yet doesn’t have the balance to do so.

The vestibular system and its development is responsible for all balance, and balance, in turn, is responsible for all mobility: everything from lifting the head or arm, to rolling over, to sitting, and, especially, crawling and standing and walking.

Instead of leaving the development of your baby’s vestibular system and balance to chance or accident, you can help your baby develop on purpose in just a few incredibly fun minutes of play each day, and have a lot of fun doing it!

The following activities will give your baby’s brain sensory information about what it feels like to move through space in different positions and at different speeds, and how to orient himself and adjust his body, vision, and sense of balance from the different positions.

And just a reminder, always use common sense:

  • Only do an activity when you are entirely confident of your ability to keep your baby secure and safe. If you are overtired, on medication, have physical problems, or have any other concerns about your ability to safely move your baby through these different positions, do not attempt.
  • Always move your baby cautiously and gently. I hope it’s obvious, but never shake, throw, or vigorously move your baby in any way.
  • Start slowly & briefly. In the beginning, do each activity for about 10-20 seconds each. As time progresses, you can gradually increase the duration of each activity to a minute each, and increase the speed of motion by a small degree (still always going slowly and carefully, though).
  • Always ensure that the area is clear and free of possible bumping or tripping hazards before doing these activities. You should have a few feet of space all on sides.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

1. Turning in circles on left side (horizontal rotation)

For this activity, rest the left side your baby’s head on your shoulder so he is facing out and can see things.

Carefully turn around in circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

2. Turning in circles on right side (horizontal rotation)

This is the same activity as above, except this time your baby should be on his right side.

Carefully turn around in circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

3. Turning in circles, face down (horizontal rotation)

This is the same activity as the above two, except this time your baby should have both of his arms resting on your shoulder and have his stomach facing down, with his head peeking out and being able to view what is behind you.

Carefully turn around in circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

4. “Swing set” rocking (horizontal acceleration)

For this activity, your baby will rock forward and backward, stimulating the motion he would get if he were in a swing.

Lie your baby face up on the floor, then gently lift him up, with one hand supporting his bottom and the other hand support his shoulders, neck, and head area. Gently swing him forward and backwards, recreating the movement of a swing.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

5. “Cradle” rocking (horizontal acceleration)

For this activity, hold and support your baby in the same way that you did for the previous activity (swing set rocking).

Instead of moving your baby forward and backwards, you will rock him side to side, as if he were in a cradle.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

6. Sideways turns, left side up (horizontal rotation)

For this activity, gently lie your baby down on the ground, then carefully grasp his left arm and left leg and slowly lift him upwards so that he is hanging sideways and facing outwards.

Gently and slowly turn around in circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise.

7. Sideways turns, right side up (horizontal rotation)

Repeat the above activity, except this time grasp your baby from his right arm and right leg.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

8. Standing turns (vertical rotation)

For this activity, gently lie your baby down on the ground, then have him hold onto your thumbs with his hands, facing you.

Very firmly and securely hold his hands, wrists, and arms, and lift him up off of the ground.

Gently and slowly turn around in circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

9. Upside-down turns (vertical rotation)

A favorite! Jeremiah (my nephew, pictured) loves this one!

For this activity, gently lie your baby down on the ground, then carefully grasp his lower legs and ankles and slowly lift him upwards so that he is hanging upside-down and facing outwards.

Gently and slowly turn around in circles, first clockwise, then counterclockwise.

Fun & brain-building vestibular stimulation activities for your baby

10. Lifting & tossing in the air (vertical acceleration)

Last but not least, the iconic picture of parental (or in this case, auntly) love and connection.

For this activity, firmly grasp your baby by the torso, facing you. Gently lift him up above your head and back down to face level.

Eventually, and with extreme caution, if you are comfortable and sure of yourself and your baby’s safety, do this same activity except when you lift him up above your head, very gently toss him up so that he leaves your hands for a few centimeters, then bring him back down to face level.

 

My nephew, Jeremiah, was the star of today’s pictures, and were taken when he was 8 months old.

How do you physically play and interact with your baby in a way that promotes balance development? Are there any other activities you like to do that aren’t mentioned here? Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

These activities have been inspired and adapted from the books, Fit Baby, Smart Baby, Your Baby and How Smart is Your Baby. Please check them out if you’d like to learn more.



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