Weight bearing activities are crucial to an infant's orthopaedic development. Weight bearing activities increase the infant's bone density as well as develop muscles necessary for gross and fine motor skills. These activities are not complicated and do not take up great amounts of time; most activities are completed throughout normal daily life. However, opportunities must be created if an infant's development is not progressing normally.
Tummy time is the crucial start to an infant's proper orthopaedic development. Paediatricians recommend an infant get at least 20 minutes of tummy time every day. Tummy time involves the baby lying on the floor in a prone position, then being helped upright before burping over the shoulder. Time spent playing on the floor is important in encouraging the infant to move towards the next milestone. The weight bearing exercises, pushing up and rolling over, are prepping the baby's muscles and bones for crawling, specifically the wrists, arms and trunk.
Babies are ready to progress to the next weight bearing activity, crawling, between six and 10 months of age. Not all babies will learn to crawl successfully, while some progress straight into walking. Crawling strengthens the bones and muscles of the infant and will also provide eye and hand coordination practice while stimulating the baby's brain. Crawling can be encouraged by getting down on the floor with the baby and placing a toy a foot out of reach. Verbally encourage the baby to move towards the toy.
Additional weight-bearing exercises may be worked in to a baby's day to provide extra exercise or interaction. When the baby is on the floor on his back, press against his feet with your hands. Babies have a natural reflex to press back on your hands. This exercise will help the baby's legs strengthen for standing. Repeat the same activity with the baby's hands.
Most babies are ready for assisted standing around 10 months of age or earlier. Support the baby under his arms and stand him up on the floor. The baby will usually bounce up and down before straightening his legs. Encourage the bouncing as it will strengthen the quadriceps muscle. As the baby becomes more confident in standing, support the baby by holding his hands instead of holding his trunk. This modification will further strengthen the baby's balance.