Hand and foot play is an important part of a child’s development. So is bringing the feet to their mouth (unfortunately I didn’t get a good picture of that!). So what are some of the reasons it is so important?
- Hamstring stretches – They just spent 9 months cramped up in the ‘fetal’ position. This means their knees were flexed and in close to the body. By reaching for their feet they are beginning to perform hamstring stretches that will help to lengthen the muscle.
- Core strength – By lifting their feet up and reaching with their hands, they are working their abdominal muscles which will help to develop their core strength. You try lifting both your feet up and reaching with your hands. Its not easy work on those abs!
- Midline – You can see in the pictures that they can bring their hands and/or feet to midline which helps to increase their awareness of where midline is.
- Body awareness – Hand and foot play allows your baby to explore their body and the various parts of their body. They begin to realize that their feet are attached to them and that their hands and feet can work together.
- Exploration – Once they are participating in hand and foot play, you will probably see them putting their feet in their mouth. This is how babies explore. They put everything in their mouth, including their own toes!
- Movement – As you can also see in the photos lots of movement is happening. He isn’t just lying flat on his back holding his feet. He is rocking back and forth, dropping one foot, picking it back up again, etc. This helps to create building blocks for movement and cause and effect. If they end up on their side, what do they have to do next?
- Self-soothing – When they are engaged in play with their feet, or putting their toes in their mouth, they are also able to self-soothe. This can help with sensory regulation.
If your child isn’t doing this, you can help to encourage them. Gently bring their feet up towards their hands. Maybe help them to put their hands on their feet and try to grasp them. You can make a game out of it by playing peek-a-boo behind their feet so that their feet are in midline when you are ‘hiding’. You could also do ‘This little piggy’ while you have their feet up in the air and count each toe. You can play ‘patty-cake’ while holding their hand and feet together and bringing them to midline for each ‘clap’.
What are other ways you have encouraged hand and foot play?