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Rough and tumble play has many benefits for babies.
As they grow, it can teach them confidence as well as how to safely touch and interact with others.
That said, rough play does present some risk for injury.
To make sure that your baby is playing safely, ensure that you are in a safe environment.
You can bounce, swing, and tickle the baby as long as you are handling them in a safe and protected manner.
Creating a Safe Play Area
Choose a padded play area. When you are playing with the baby, find a soft, cushioned, or padded area.
If the baby accidentally slips or falls, they will land on the padded play area.
A couch, bed, or carpeted floor may be suitable.
You can also roll out a tumble mat or lay down some pillows to provide extra protection.
Remain close to the ground.
If the baby falls a long distance, they may become injured.
It is better to remain close to the ground or a padded surface when playing with the baby.
Sitting on a couch, carpeted floor, or bed can help reduce the chances of a bad fall.
Avoid sharp edges.
While rough and tumble playing, you do not want to accidentally hit your baby’s head on a table corner or other sharp edge.
When playing, make sure you are in a clear area that is free of clutter.
Remove any objects that your baby could accidentally hit, fall upon, or trip over.
Supervise the baby.
If you are not holding the baby during play, you should watch them at all times.
If they are crawling, make sure that they do not fall off a couch or bed during play.
Prevent them from crawling into another room by closing the door.
A playpen or baby gates can safely confine the baby while they crawl and play.
Playing with the Baby
Bounce the baby on your knees.
Sit on a secure seat.
Place the baby on your knees.
Hold them under their arms, and gently rock your legs up and down to bounce the baby.
Do not let go of the baby.
Also, avoid vigorously shaking the baby while bouncing them on your knee because this can lead to Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Lift the baby above your head.
Instead of tossing the baby in the air, you should try lifting them above your head instead.
Hold them under both arms with two hands, and raise them above your head, so that they are looking down at you.
Glide them through the air.
Do not release the baby, and keep both hands on the baby at all times.
Tossing the baby increases the risk that the baby will be dropped, and a fall from that height could injure the baby.
Furthermore, the sensation of being tossed might cause shaking-related injuries.
Tickle the baby.
You can start tickling the baby at around two months of age.
Tickle the baby softly around their ribs, or gently stroke their foot.
Only tickle the baby for a minute or two.
Stop if the baby starts squirming, crying, or trying to roll away.
Swing the baby
When swinging a baby, hold the baby under their arms, not by their hands.
Lift them an inch or two above a surface, and rock them gently from side to side.
Do not swing roughly.
You can also rest one hand under the baby’s neck and the other beneath their bum.
Making a wide sweeping movement, rock the baby slowly.
When swinging the baby, make sure that the area is clear.
Keep a safe distance from furniture, walls, and other people to avoid accidentally swinging the baby into something.
If you hold the baby’s hands or elbows while swinging, you run the risk of injuring their joints or arms.
It is always best to handle a baby under the arms instead.
Chase the baby.
If the baby is crawling or walking, you can start chasing them.
In a contained area, move towards the baby.
You make play noises, such as monstrous roaring or say something playful such as “I’m going to get you.”
If the baby, laughs and moves away, walk or crawl towards them.
When you catch them, grab them with both hands and gently swing them into the air.
If the baby starts to crawl or hide, they may not enjoy this type of play.
They might be scared.
Watch that the baby does not crawl off the edge of a surface, run into a wall, or hit their face on a sharp corner.
If it seems as though the play is getting too rough, stop chasing.
Start playing a different game instead.
If the baby trips or falls, wait for a reaction.
If they are uninjured, they may giggle and continue to play.
Avoid shaking the baby during play.
Shaking a baby can cause severe brain damage.
While moving the baby, instead of vigorously shaking or jostling the baby, use slow and controlled movements with wide movements.
Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome include vomiting, weakness, and irritability.
Too much shaking can also increase the risk that you will accidentally strike the baby’s head on an object.
Handling the Baby with Care
Wait until the baby is an appropriate age.
Babies can start playing very young, but you may want to wait until the baby is a little older to start some activities.
While newborns may enjoy being held and bounced, you may want to wait until the baby is three or four months old before you start swinging them around or lifting them high in the air.
Secure the baby’s head and neck.
Babies have weak neck muscles, and they may not be able to protect their heads during play.
While playing, make sure that the head and neck are supported. Place a hand beneath the baby’s neck.
The baby’s head should not be snapping back and forth, nor should the baby experience any whiplash.
If you notice this happening, stop immediately.
Try slower movements in the future with wider arcs of movement.
Protect the baby’s elbows and joints.
Your baby may not have developed strong joints or muscles yet, and vigorous play may cause accidental injury.
When handling your baby, hold them under the arms instead of by the hands or elbows.
Do not hold them by the feet or upside down.
Watch for signs of happy play.
If the baby is enjoying themselves, they will likely be smiling or giggling.
Their muscles will be relaxed.
They will interact with you, by touching your face or mimicking your movements.
Stop if the baby cries.
If the baby starts crying, it means that they are not enjoying the rough play.
While rough play can be beneficial to babies, it is not advisable to continue if the baby is uncomfortable.
Other signs of discomfort include clenching face muscles or excessive squirming.
Avoid roughhousing before bed.
It is best not to rile up the baby too much before they go to bed.
Too much excitement may interfere with their sleeping patterns.
It is better to rough play earlier in the day when they do not have to sleep.
Allow them to wind down before taking a nap or going to bed.