Developmental uses of the Busy Baby Mat products

product recommendations

In a world filled with SO MANY baby products, it’s sometimes hard to decipher through to find the ones that are actually the best - meaning the most practical & functional. We all want a product that stimulates our infant and toddler’s learning & development, but also is super functional and convenient for our lifestyle. One product I have LOVED since James (my first born) was a tiny baby, is the Busy Baby Mat. This mat suctions to a variety of surfaces including windows, highchairs, shopping carts, and more so your baby can engage in play while you avoid having to constantly pick their toys up off the floor. GAME CHANGER. This product line also includes a variety of things like bottle bungees, a bib that has utensils attached, and more. All of these products are seriously AMAZING and SUPER practical. 

Not only are the Busy Baby products SUPER practical, but they also have a ton of developmental considerations. And as a pediatric OT, you know I LOVE to nerd out on all things development. So let’s dive into those!

Babies undergo rapid development in their first year of life, with some very significant changes in areas of cognition, motor skills, and sensory integration. In a world that is pretty fast paced, it’s so important to understand how to support your baby’s development not only at home, but also on the go!

One way I used the Busy Baby Mat to support my first born’s development was taking our toys on the go to encourage independent play. Everyone wants their baby to play by themselves sometimes, right!? I found that bringing his toys on the go encouraged him to be a part of our mealtime, but also kept him busy when he was bored with us! I found that bringing the Busy Baby Mat along with us when we were in restaurants not only allowed him to entertain himself, but also allowed me to enjoy my meal without having to be constantly interrupted to pick his toys up off the floor. And an added bonus, it was screen free!! I really desired for James to learn independent play, but also develop skills like exploration, problem solving, and motor skills. The Busy Baby Mat helped us do that even on the go, during times where we couldn’t prioritize structured play. James learned very early that he would be an active participant in our mealtime, but also entertain himself at times too. We still prioritize this now as he has become a toddler and I am so thankful we learned these skills early. Learning these skills is helping him build confidence and autonomy, while also giving me a small window of time to enjoy my meal 🤪

The Busy Baby Mat can also encourage fine motor development as our baby engages play and mealtime activities using these products. By picking up small foods by themselves on the mat, to using their utensils connected to the Busy Baby bib - fine motor skills are being isolated and achieved. At home and while at restaurants, we would place safe-sized foods, like smashed blueberries, peas, or rice grains, on James’ Busy Baby Mini Mat and encourage him to grasp these foods using a pincer grasp (grasping with thumb and index finger). A pincer grasp usually emerges around the 9-12 month mark and this mat definitely encouraged him to develop these skills. We would also hook this fine motor based toy onto his mat so he could engage in play with this during mealtime. He loves playing with this toy still to this day and it includes so many fine motor components. The Busy Baby bib also has helped James become much more proficient with his utensils which takes a lot of fine motor precision and coordination.  These products have really helped us seamlessly continue to encourage his fine motor skills even while we were on the go! 

The Busy Baby Mat is also wonderful in encouraging self feeding skills from an early age. As discussed above, having your baby learn to finger feed themselves is HUGE for fine motor development but also independence in mealtime. The Busy Baby Mat also encourages independent feeding when using the bib + utensils products because you don't have to worry about your baby dropping the spoon on the floor which results in the child using their hands (at least this is the case for my child!). Utensil usage requires ALOT of skills - including precision, motor coordination, processing and sequencing, motor planning and more. When you eliminate the likelihood for the utensil to fall on the ground, the child has more opportunity to practice these skills repetitively during mealtime. Practice makes perfect! And uninterrupted practice is even better! The bib + utensil set also comes with a fork which is GREAT for fine motor precision and dexterity. Have you ever tried to stab one pea on your plate with a fork!? It is pretty tough but an AWESOME activity for a toddler to encourage fine motor skills that will support future independent feeding skills. This also will encourage other future skills, like self care (operating buttons and tying shoes),  and even handwriting skills later in toddler-hood and early childhood. 

Busy Baby also makes a product called the Bottle Bungee which is AMAZING in helping our babies and toddler learn independent drinking skills. One common occurrence with our toddler is tossing the cup on the floor when completed. Instead, with the bottle bungee, he has to learn to place the cup back on his tray and if he does throw it, the cup will not hit the ground and roll away. So, the “throwing this on the ground” game is out of the question because it doesn't work with the bottle bungee. YAY! This allows the baby to continue to practice the sequence of independent cup usage with no added interruptions, much like that of practicing with the utensils.

The Busy Baby Mat can also be used to encourage gross motor skills like sitting and standing! This mat can come in handy when you are encouraging your baby to acquire skills required for independent sitting and standing. For example, you may suction the mat onto a window or smooth surface, like a dishwasher or fridge, and encourage your baby to play at eye level. This activity of playing at eye level encourages skills like proper posture, protective responses, core engagement, balance and more for independent sitting skills. This purposeful isolation of skills is important in encouraging this milestone with your baby. 

When using the Busy Baby Mat to encourage sitting - place the mat on a window and hook various toys to the bungees. Place pillows around your baby for security and encourage your baby to reach and play at eye level with the toys attached to the mat. This will encourage so many skills required in sitting which is AMAZING. For example, the Busy Baby Mat encourages core strength because your baby is able to sit at a vertical surface and attend longer to the toys placed on the bungee. This prolonged attention allows your baby to engage their trunk longer which leads to more independent sitting skills! 

You can also place the mat on the same window or surface and encourage standing with your child. Standing is a precursor skill to walking and placing toys at eye level and encouraging your baby to play in this position is GREAT. You can encourage your baby to reach once they are stable in standing which is amazing in isolating skills like core strength, stability, confidence, and dynamic balance which are required for your baby’s first independent steps. Place the Busy Baby Mat on a surface with toys attached and encourage your baby to reach above head making sure their feet stay facing forward and hip width apart. You can also have your baby reach to the sides of their body, outside of their base of support, to encourage more dynamic balance in this standing position. Is reaching too hard for your baby? Try having them stand with the mat + toys at eye level and encourage in play while placing a hand on a surface for stability. You can also support your baby at their shoulders or hips when they are standing at the vertical surface to help your baby balance and reduce falls. 

The last developmental consideration of the Busy Baby Mat that I want to discuss is parent-child bonding. When you engage in play with your baby, whether that be at mealtime or at home during more structured play, your baby is feeling loved and seen. While the Busy Baby Mat encourages independent play, it also serves as a tool for bonding with your child. Through interactive play sessions, you can engage with their babies by offering encouragement, support, and affection. My favorite way to show affection to my kids while I play with them is looking them in their eyes and give them tiny little kisses on their noses. I want them to know I see them and love them SO much. These shared experiences create opportunities for emotional connection and communication, strengthening our bonds with our babies and children.

In conclusion, the Busy Baby Mat and other products by Busy Baby Mat are more than just a functional and practical baby products. They have SO many developmental considerations not only for young infants, but toddlers too. As a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in infant development, I give Busy Baby a 10/10 for product quality, practicality, and most importantly developmental appropriateness. Seriously, every family needs one of these mats!

Thanks for reading! Check my blog for more information on product recommendations for your baby!

You can also shop Busy Baby Products here!

Brooke, OTR/L

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