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DIY "Cloud Bed" For Movement

One of my favorite props to use with families is a large piece of fabric, like organza. It's a hammock, it's a snuggle, it's a roll-up-and-cuddle-together activity. It's also a ride for a pre-mobile infant who might like to gently be pulled along, or a wonderful tool for an older baby to use with rough and tumble play, to organize the sensory system and bring excitement into calm. As the parent, you're taking that responsibility on to tune into your child's level of excitement, and play!

I had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Ania Witkowska, a Somatic Movement Educator and Therapist who specializes in working with babies, young children and their parents. She was able to break down some very complex ideas and information about the basis of movement and learning in the early years and give us very practical and creative ideas and information to support parents of young children. Our conversation (featured in full on the corresponding podcast episode, Understanding Babies Through Movement, moved from the definition of what she does in her work and how it applies to families to the kinds of props she uses to help enhance interaction experiences in her workshops, classes, and consultations with families with young children. 

One of the three props Ania loves to use is a 2-meter / 2-yard length of organza fabric, which can be transformed into so many different ways to create a play activity for all ages of young children from birth to three. Organza is a strong, synthetic and transparent fabric that comes in all manner of color options. I loved all of her ideas, as did my own toddler, who aptly named our organza prop his "Cloud Bed." Here, in short form, are the ideas Ania offered to be used in play between parent/caregiver and all ages of infant and toddler:

Infant

  • Place the fabric under the infant lying flat on his back or tummy, presented as an additional type of texture to experience
  • Place the fabric under the infant lying on his tummy (ensuring that he can use his hands to reflexively protect his head) and gently pull baby along
    • For a baby who is attempting to move forward on his belly but is not yet quite managing the coordination or the effort to do it, this can be a bit of light release, and can break a cycle of frustration for them, let them have a little breather, let them have a little experience, and then they can go back to trying again.

Ayelet's additional ideas:

  • Gently touch your baby with your skin and alternate with the fabric, talking about the different textures, using descriptive words like smooth, rough or use different touches
  • Use the fabric to play peek-a-boo, hiding under it and then peeking out again
  • Throw the fabric up into the air and together, watch how it flows downward, talking about the pace (slooooowly) or making the sound of it (wooooooosh)

Toddler

  • Place the fabric under the toddler lying on his belly (ensuring that he can use his hands to reflexively protect his head) and gently pull baby along for a ride
  • Use the fabric as a hammock, with two adults firmly holding each side of the fabric
    • This can encourage rough and tumble play... the kind of play that challenges balance, that challenges direction which is important for coordination and visual acuity so your eyes can read better, and it's important for balance development.
    • Because you're controlling it, you have the ability to regulate it in time with your child. If your child is feeling incredibly hyper and is very worked up, you can start off with them at their level of excitement, and then you can gradually bring it down. 
    • When you're rocking them in something from fast, eventually to slow, you can use music that's playing or you might be singing, and can bring the pace down and the melody softer. You can help them to calm down, you can support their nervous system to find that parasympathetic rhythm that they're looking for, that they still are not so expert at finding.
  • Use the fabric as a snuggle / roll up and cuddle activity
    • Play under the fabric together, talking, singing/humming a soft melody, or simply staying silent

Ayelet's additional ideas:

  • Use the fabric to play peek-a-boo, hiding under it and then peeking out again
  • Throw the fabric up into the air and together, watch how it flows downward, talking about the pace (slooooowly) or making the sound of it (wooooooosh)
  • Stand or walk under the fabric, wave it over you or your child like a parachute, make a "thunderstorm" with the movement of the fabric and sounds of your voices, acting out thunder, lightening, rain

Materials

  • One piece of approximately 2-meters or 2-yards of organza fabric 

Instructions 

  1. Play using some (or all!) of Ania and Ayelet's tips, and enjoy the kind of creative open-ended play that comes from using a prop such as this!

How have you used your DIY "Cloud Bed," and how has it inspired you to engage with your little one? 

Answer in the comment section below!


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Ayelet Marinovich, M.A. CCC-SLP

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A. CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist specializing in work with pre-verbal infants, toddlers, non-verbal children, and their families. The Strength In Words podcast and blog were created as an additional resource for families of young children with infants & toddlers of all developmental levels. It is not intended to be a substitute for speech and language therapy.