The Back to Sleep campaign rolled out in 1994 as an initiative to decrease the risk of SID, or sudden infant death syndrome. While this campaign has been successful in decreasing the incidence of SIDS, most people forget to finish the full sentence. Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play!
Placing your infant on their back during sleep times is safe practice, having your infant on their belly while they are awake (and being monitored) is very important for development.
Tummy time can promote:
Strong muscles in the trunk, arms and back, including strong neck muscles resulting in good head control
Development of appropriate spinal extension and rotation, which are both pre-requisites for walking
Initiation of exploring one’s environment, starting with vision and leading to reaching out for objects, rolling and eventually crawling
If a child remains on their back for a majority of their day it can lead to complications such as torticollosis, plagiocephaly or brachicephaly. These issues can lead to developmental delay, including asymmetries with crawling and walking.
What if my child hates being placed on their tummy?
Use some technique to make it a little easier for them!
You lay in a recline or semi-reclined position and place your child on your chest. Being in a reclined position eliminates some of the resistance of gravity, making it easier for your child to lift their head. This can also be used as great bonding time with your infant.
Have your infant lay over a boppy pillow, so the pillow is under their chest with their arms and shoulders in front. This position is similar to having them lay on your chest, decreasing the resistance of gravity.
Making tummy time fun!
The more time your child spends on their tummy the more they will enjoy it.
Get down on their level! Position yourself to be in line with your child’s eye site
Place different toys on the floor that are motivating for your infant to play with, such as music toys or light up toys. The toys can be placed to either side of your infant’s head or directly in front of them.
Babies love looking at themselves! If you have a mirror or a toy with a mirror attached, place it on the floor in a position where they can see themselves.
Make sure you have enough space for your baby to explore. It starts with just lifting the head and will progress to turning 180 degrees on their bellies to crawling!
One of my favorite resources as a pediatric occupational therapist to help kids begin to understand and process emotions as well as come up with strategies for self-regulation is the Zones of Regulation curriculum developed by Leah Kuypers. The Zones of Regulation helps teach kids how to self-regulate and deal with everyday strong emotions or unexpected emotions for different social environments.
The zones can be compared to traffic signs. When we see a green light, one is ‘good to go’ and can keep proceeding forward without making any changes. A yellow light, on the other hand, means to be aware or take caution. Sometimes we can keep going and other times we need to make a change. A red light (or stop sign) means stop. Often the behavior we are demonstrating is unexpected. The blue zone is most often compared to the rest area sign where you go to rest or re-energize.
When teaching children to begin using the Zones of Regulation, I tend to follow three stages of learning.
In stage one, the child learns how to identify the terminology and sort emotions according to the physiological features of each specific zones
Frowning, yawning, crying = blue;
Happy, calm, focused= green
Upset, butterflies in stomach, Heart beating fast = yellow;
Yelling, body feels tenses = red).
In this stage, there is a lot of detective work and identifying features of body language. I like to use a variety of pictures, books, and movie clips when possible to help during stage one.
In stage two, children start to learn strategies to adjust their zone and help them manage their internal emotional feelings. Children learn a variety of sensory motor strategies (e.g. swinging, taking deep breaths, walking, squeezing something) as well as cognitive behavioral strategies (e.g. expected versus unexpected, size of the problem, inner critic versus inner coach, stop/opt/go).
In stage three, children are more independent and are beginning to select appropriate tools to help with self-regulation. Depending on the child’s age, supports might still be in place such as visuals for choosing appropriate tools.
It is important to remember that ALL of the zones are expected to occur at one time or another. At some point we may feel tired in the Blue Zone, calm in the Green Zone, worried in the Yellow Zone, and possibly furious or elated in the Red Zone.
The Zones of Regulation focuses on teaching children how to manage their zone based on the environment and the people around them. The Zones of Regulation was designed to support people in managing all the feelings they experience, without passing judgment on what people are feeling or how they are behaving.
Leah suggests four main points to keep in mind with beginning to use the Zones of Regulation with any child:
It is natural to experience all of the Zones; there is no bad zone.
Our Zone is defined by the feelings and internal states we experience on the inside.
Our behavior is a byproduct of how we manage our Zone; therefore, consequences should not be tied to a Zone.
The context we are in helps us figure out how to manage our Zone so our behavior meets the demands of the social environment, and in doing so we are able to achieve the tasks we are trying to accomplish and/or the social goals we’ve set for ourselves in that situation.
Here are some additional tips to help kids develop their emotional intelligence and emotional self-regulation:
Provide as much stability and consistency as possible. Consistent limit-setting, clear household rules, and predictable routines help children know what to expect. This is turns help them feel calmer and more secure.
Model, model, model. We cannot do this enough. How we react and deal with emotions will establish the foundation for how those around us will also respond. We usually don’t have a choice in what we feel, but we always have a choice about how we choose to act regarding our feelings. Children learn from us. When we yell, they learn to yell. If we remain calm and speak respectfully, they learn to do the same. Every time you model in front of your child how to respond to an emotion, your child is learning.
Connect. Spend time everyday unplugging and connecting with your child. Young children first learn how to regulate by being soothed by their parents. When you notice your child getting dysregulated, the most important thing you can do is try to reconnect.
Name it and Accept It. Calling attention to your child’s feelings helps them understand what is going on inside them and learn that it isn’t okay to feel different emotions. Your child will know that someone understands, which might make him or her feel a little better.