Body awareness (babies)
We’ve all been there, it’s evening time and you’re busy trying to prepare dinner, sort the laundry, answer the phone and check emails – taking multi-tasking motherhood to new levels. As you’re dashing about the house, baby emits an ear-piercing cry from the cot. Luckily daddy has just arrived home and scoops her up. He talks to her soothingly and swaddles her in a soft blanket. As he rocks her gently back and forth singing to her, she starts to calm and makes eye contact.
Even when upset, young babies are born equipped to respond to pleasant sensory experiences. The sight of a smiling face, the feel of a blanket, and even the scent of her dad plays a role in a baby’s ability to collect and organize herself.
Researchers a couple of years ago found evidence that newborn babies have a built-in body awareness ability – so you can start encouraging this instinct straight away.
Good to know about your baby’s body awareness
Small infants begin to show curiosity about parts of their bodies while staring at their hands and bringing their toes up to their mouths.
Between six months and a year, a baby’s understanding of body parts changes. Babies begin taking charge of their bodies, holding up their heads and getting organized to crawl. This is a great time to play “Where’s your nose, where’s your mouth etc?”
Before 18 months of age, children typically don’t recognize themselves in the mirror. They stare at their reflections and may recognize the image as a sibling or someone else familiar to them.
Young infants visually discover their bodies when they first notice their hands. When a baby can hold objects, she has reached a milestone in her ability to understand spatial relationships.
ClapHandies PlayTips that help your baby develop body awareness
Baby massage is a great way to help baby process touch, pressure, and body awareness. In the baby Playlabs we show our mums how to do basic baby massage, we start with the leg strokes as we find these are the strokes baby likes best. If you can, try taking a baby massage course – it is a wonderful experience to share.
Baby In the Mirror
Hold baby in your arms in front of the mirror. Talk about and point to her body part – eyes, nose, mouth, arms, etc. Then step away from the mirror and ask, “Where did baby go?” Move back in front of the mirror and say, “There’s the baby!”
Hide-and-seek enhances a baby’s growing sense of body awareness, or the knowledge that they are separate from you. So hide yourself away from view and pop back in.
Make pointing out facial features more fun by making a different noise when touching each different part, e.g. beep for nose, ring, ring for ears etc.
Great rhymes for teaching baby about their bodies
In the PlayLabs we have a rhyme called “My Eyes can See” and it’s all about learning about your body parts. Check out our Rhyme Time ideas.
Sing/say “body” rhymes, e.g. “This Little Piggy” (fingers and toes), “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”.
Sing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” to your baby and at the end of the song, drop a handful of soft, colourful pompoms over their tummies and chests. How do they like this new game? If they look interested – widening their eyes and smiling, jiggling their arms and legs, try it again. The game encourages babies’ awareness of themselves as an individual, separate from you.
Another activity which we do In PlayLabs to develop body awareness uses feathers to gently touch different parts of baby’s body, naming the parts as you go along – here are your hands, your chin, your nose etc. We repeat this by putting gentle pressure on each body part – here is your wrist, your knees, your head, giving a little squeeze each time.
You’re So Big!
To play “So Big” ask your baby “How big is baby?” Then lift her arms up into the air and say: “You’re sooooo big!” Babies love this game and will eventually learn to lift their arms in response to your question.
Trickle water over baby’s body in the bath while encouraging her to look at that body part. After the bath, dry off baby and then rub lotion onto her while naming her body parts.