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The reason dancing with your baby plays such a key role in our BabyROO programs is not only because it is such a fun and enjoyable way for everyone to pass some time, dancing also stimulates almost every area of your baby’s brain, encouraging the growth of vital neurotransmitters.
You can include dance in your baby’s day from the earliest weeks after birth. Babies will generally love the rhythmic movement of dance – remember, they were rocked and swayed in utero for nine months. The gentle movement of dancing is repeating this soothing stimulation.
The benefits of dancing, for little bodies and brains
- Dancing provides stimulation to very special nerve endings called vestibular receptors. The vestibular system is centered in the inner ear and almost any movement will stimulate the brain via these nerve endings. A well-modulated vestibular system is a crucial foundation building block for all learning.
- Each time you dance with your baby, the vestibular/balance sensors in the ear sends messages to the brain about its location – up, down, sideways, and forward, backward or central. This vestibular stimulation is essential for the development of good balance, coordination and posture.
- The stimulation your baby receives during dance also helps the development of muscle tone, space and body awareness, vision, hearing and touch as your baby is moved gently through different positions.
- Dance helps your baby to develop a good sense of rhythm, form, time and flow. Your babe-in-arms will internalise the rhythmic movements and continue developing the understanding of a steady beat, the underlying, unchanging, repeating steady pulse he would have heard during pregnancy. (Refer to our article in this magazine for the importance of beat and developing a good sense of rhythm).
- When dancing while holding your baby, you are replicating vestibular stimulation he would have experienced in utero – the rocking and swaying. This helps to calm your baby, helps him feel secure and provides many lovely parent/baby bonding opportunities.
- Dance allows for imitation, repetition, coordination and exploration of movement to the rhythm, mood and feeling of music.
- Dances and songs provide opportunities for memory training and coordination, even at this early stage!
Tips for dancing with your baby
- Remember to bend your knees to protect your back when lifting your baby.
- Hold your baby gently and securely against your body. If your baby does not yet have adequate neck muscles to lift his own head, support the head in all dances.
There are many different ways to hold your baby whilst dancing. Variety in this respect is good as each position works on slightly different muscle tone, balance and vision development! How you hold your baby will depend on their level of muscle tone. Examples include holding your baby; in the tummy time position; facing towards you; facing away from you; lying on his right side, then his left side. Ask your BabyROO teacher about each of these holds. If you are unable to attend BabyROO classes, you can find the ‘how to’ of all these holds and lovely dances to accompany each one, in GymbaROO and KindyROO’s free online Active Babies Smart Kids BabyROO series here.
- If your baby is facing you, look directly into his eyes as you talk, dance and sing. This is wonderful for bonding.
- Pat your baby to the beat of the song and/or walk around keeping the beat – this helps develop a good sense of beat and rhythm.
- Any spinning should be very slowly. Spin to the right and then spin to the left as the fluid in the inner ears needs to reach equilibrium again. Stopping or ‘freezing’ for a few seconds is an absolute baby favourite and it also allows the fluid to settle and your baby to process all the movement.
- If you have had a caesarean, check with your doctor first before doing any lifting and moving with your baby.
- Be careful not to ‘over stimulate the brain’ by dancing too fast or for too long. Be guided by your baby and his reactions.
- The BabyROO Dance CD by Tessarose and our CandyLion CD provide you with lots of music to choose from – however, you can dance to whatever music you prefer! Just remember to mix it up – sometimes slow and quiet, other times rock and roll or jazz! Choose the music that suits your baby’s mood. If you want your baby to settle down, then try a lullaby or a waltz!
- Enjoy and cherish these together moments, before you know it ‘your baby’ will be the one leading you around the dance floor in the parent/student dances at school.
Join in here!
Here is a lovely dance to do with your baby. You will find many more dances, activities and baby development information throughout GymbaROO’s free online BabyROO series and at your local BabyROO centre. Babies just LOVE looking at other babies and parents as they swish, bounce, rock and sway!
GymbaROO for Babies from Birth: 12 FREE online BabyROO videos
Our free online series is taking the parenting world by storm! It is highly recommended by doctors, paediatricians, early childhood experts and the Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Association. This series is being called: “The essential guide for parents.” Join the thousands of parents already playing with their babies from birth, in the best way for brain and body development and laying crucial foundations for future learning. What happens in the first year, not only matters, it matters a lot! Active Babies Smart Kids BabyROO series – Click here.
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Bindy Cummings (B.Ed hons) is a teacher, GymbaROO early childhood neurodevelopmental consultant, early childhood development lecturer, GymbaROO teacher trainer, INPP consultant and iLS consultant. She is the Editor of GymbaROO’s First Steps magazine and mother of 4 children. More on Bindy Cummings here: http://activebabiessmartkids.com.au/about/meet-our-experts/