Activities for improving strength, flexibility and coordination for sitting

What the active infant does in sitting

Reaches in all directions  Reaching far stretches and strengthens muscles and  improves coordination. 

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    Twists to the side to pick up objects Twisting is important for flexibility and developing the coordination for moving from sitting to crawling position. 

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Starts coming up onto the knees  These early attempts to move from siting into the crawling position are very important because they explore and train strength, coordination and balance. 

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Picks up and moves large objects 

  Infant love moving large things  

Your toy box for active sitting games 

The best toys for these games are ones that can be packed and unpacked, stacked, knocked over, picked and moved and thrown.  Avoid toys that grab the infants interest and will not be given up - such as a bunch of keys or a phone!

If you really want your infant to get moving, you need to actively participate and encourage him/her to reach, lift, pack, stack and knock things over. 

Below are some suggestions

A box or basket for putting toys into  
A set of plastic containers of different sizes
Pieces of cloth or scarves
Some cardboard tubes  
A couple of tins with lids
Plastic bottles of different sizes - partly filled with water to give weight
A range of cardboard boxes for lifting, moving, knocking over  
Cardboard boxes with lids that can be opened 

Games to encourage reaching, lifting and moving in sitting 
Unpacking and packing 

The 12 -15 month infant loves to unpack: a box or basket full of interesting things is an open invitation to action.  They are less good at putting them back again. 

Unpacking encourages reaching,  twisting and coming up onto the knees. 

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Sometimes the box becomes the toy 

Lifting, tipping and moving a cardboard box requires trunk and arm strength and challenges the infants balance and coordination. 

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Knocking over towers and pushing toys off  a box 

At 12-15 months infants are usually not very interested in building towers - but love knocking them over. They also love knocking toys off a raised surface. 

Build towers using large yogurt tubs,  large soft blocks,  cardboard boxes.  Build the tower just out of reach so that  the infant needs to stretch out quite far to get to the tower.

You can also encourage the infant to pick up and pass the building blocks to you as you build the tower.  Position the blocks so that the infant has to reach out in different direction to pick up the blocks. 

Yogurt tubs and larger boxes encourage the infant to use two hands - this encourages more trunk twisting. 

Picking up and moving bean bags 

Beanbags of different weights and sizes are great toys for developing strength and coordination.  And infants enjoy the challenge of moving heavy things. 

You will need to make these. The one's you can buy are all too light to be of any use.  A quick start is to use a 500 gm plastic bag of rice or pulses. 

Pack the beanbags into the box and encourage the infant to lift them out  of the box.  Put the box in different positions - to the left and right and in front of the infant to encourage reaching and twisting in all directions. 

Hiding toys 

Hide toys under a yogurt tub or cloth. Encourage you infant to uncover the toy by lifting the tub up or pulling the cloth off.  Remember to hide the toy so that the infant needs to work hard to get to it.

Ball games 

Ball games are great for encouraging visual attention, watching and predicting.  Have an assortment of larger and smaller balls of different weight.  A soccer  ball is a good size and the weight means that the infant must work hard to push it away or lift it. 

Roll the ball to the infant and encourage her to role it back to you. Sometime the infant is not keen to relinquish a ball. Have a second ball at hand  and when you roll this one, the first one will probably be dropped. 

Picking up and throwing larger and slightly heavier balls is hard work for the infant.

Ball games teach the infant to observe the ball and start to predict which way it will move. 

For more ideas on training active sitting 

Developmental Gym for Infants and Toddlers