Baby Safety Playtime
Do you or your partner like to playfully toss a baby in the air or flip him over - and enjoy listening to his scream? Out of nowhere, a baby doesn't giggle like a pair of airy pieces carried in the hands of his adoring parents. However, before you let your crumb fly, be sure to play it safe.
What kind of play is not safe for babies?
Certain types of play can be dangerous, especially depending on the age of the child. Children and young children, especially those under the age of 2, should play carefully to avoid injuries and accidental falls.
Young children have large heads that are proportional to the body, weak neck muscles (especially young children), and a fragile brain that is still developing. The baby's skull is relatively soft and moldable after birth (to pass through the birth canal) and strengthens as the baby grows.
Thanks to all these characteristics, small children are more prone to potential injuries when shaking and falling head. Severe tremors, such as those caused by frustration or anger, can lead to violent head injury (AHT), also known as Shaken Child Syndrome (SBS). Violent shaking in children of any age can cause serious brain damage or death, but infants and young children are very sensitive. SBS is a form of child abuse that results from violent shaking, albeit briefly.
The actions in typical play, like bouncing on the knee or tossing a child in the air do not lead to shaken baby syndrome, but can be risky. Gentle play is the order of the day.
Here are some tips for fun and safe play:
- Never shake a baby or child.
- Avoid any play in a young infant that involves jostling her unsupported head or neck.
- Flipping and tossing games pose a risk for falls, which are particularly dangerous for children under 2. These games can also potentially whip head back and forth causing discomfort or injury. Stay away from "flipping" games, and with all activities make sure you always support your baby's head and neck.
- If you're jogging, push baby in a stroller; never run with her in a baby carrier.
- Avoid pulling, jerking or lifting young children by the arm, or even swinging them by the arms to avoid potential partial dislocation at the elbow, also called “nursemaid’s elbow.”
- Provide your baby a safe environment to explore.
Don't waste time worrying about harassment in the past. If your child has not shown any signs of injury, it is clear that he or she was not injured. If in doubt, always consult your doctor. Here are some safe ideas for kids of all ages:
Birth to 6 months
- Your baby may have started smiling; smile and see what happens when he opens up your life and works with this vital socio-emotional skill. Imitate cooing and have fake conversations.
- Time on the abdomen is essential for the development of neck and upper body strength. Land and communicate with her. Talk to her or place a toy, book or mirror in front of her and encourage her to join them.
- Hold your baby and show her the world from different positions.
- Introduce sizes, shapes and colors and let her handle safe toys (nothing too small that could be swallowed).
7 to 12 months
- Ensure that her environment is safe for exploration as she starts to crawl around.
- Hold a mirror up to her cute little face and watch her watch back.
- Play the all-time favorite game of peek-a-boo.
1 to 3 years
- Pretend play is an important way for toddlers to learn. Provide plenty of simple and safe items so she can mimic what you do! Play along and pretend with her.
- Read with your toddler. Name the pictures she shows interest in, describe what you see, and ask questions.
- Sing songs, say rhymes and play different rhythms on tupperware, pots and pans.
- Get outdoors and explore together. Help her learn about movement through jumping, walking and standing on one leg.
How to babyproof your home for playtime
It can be relatively easy to prevent your baby from being harmed and distracted in the first few months - you could carry him from room to room, put him on a blanket or activity mat, and suggest that the baby is at peace.
But once she turns into a master of mobility - and always on the verge of trouble (“What’s that shiny little thing on the carpet?”) - you’ll have to redouble your efforts in the security department.
Even if you once child proofed the house, look around and pay special attention to the rooms where the child hangs the most and protects him. You want to give her a lot of supervised freedom, play and explore, without having to go through every second, and the way to do that is to make sure his playing area is safe.
Remember that toys also have guidelines, so when considering buying toys for your child, keep some safety tips in mind. (Tip number one: read the warning labels and pay attention to them!)
What to do if you're feeling frustrated
Being a parent can often be difficult and tiring, and every parent can sometimes be frustrated. Even if you do everything right, babies sometimes cry. If you feel frustrated, put the baby in a safe place like a coat and walk out to get up. It’s okay if they cry for a while.
Seek and get help - reach out to a loved one. If you think you or any other caregiver may be shaking or harming your baby, even if it was brief or unintentional, seek medical attention immediately.