Choosing an Activity Center
An infant exerciser can give you some temporary freedom, but there are plenty of things to consider when choosing one. Can your exerciser adjust with your growing baby’s height? Is it portable and easy to clean? Your exerciser can be a great investment if you take the time to choose the perfect one for your baby.
An infant exerciser, which provides an entertaining place for baby when Mom or Dad needs a few minutes of "hands-free" time, is a useful investment for any parent. (An exerciser is not meant to be a replacement for the natural activities that a baby needs to develop properly; such as, rolling, scooting, kicking, and crawling, and should be used only as a supplement to baby's free exploration and floor play.)
With the many different exerciser products available, you'll need to take into account space considerations, travel requirements, and your baby's age, level of development, and preferences as you make the choice.
You and baby will be going places together, and taking along some of his favorite things will make the trip more enjoyable for both of you. An activity center that folds flat and is easily set up is invaluable.
Ease of cleaning
Babies have been known to make a mess or two, so make sure the seat pad is removable and washable. (Check washing instructions for proper care.)
A variety of developmentally appropriate toys will hold baby's interest and encourage developmental play. The best toys have a variety of textures, make interesting sounds and motions, and are made of chewable materials (especially for toys within baby's reach). High-contrast colors (like black, white, and red) are especially attractive to newborns.
For 4 to 6 Month Olds
For a baby who hasn't yet developed good head and neck control and cannot roll over on her own, consider an infant bouncer or infant activity seat that provides back and side support. As babies gain neck and back strength, they begin to appreciate a more upright perspective of the world. While they long to stand and look around, they have yet to develop the necessary muscle control to do so. Depending on your baby's unique development schedule, now may be the time to consider purchasing a doorway jumper or a stationary activity seat.
A doorway jumper is essentially a cloth seat that you suspend in a framed doorway. A large coil spring provides the bouncy action, and baby provides the power. By virtue of its size, a doorway jumper is relatively easy to transport. Before purchasing this type of product, make sure that your home is equipped with the proper doorway molding; to provide the correct connecting surface, the molding must be securely attached to the wall and extend at least ½" from the wall. When choosing a doorway jumper, make sure that the coil spring will be well out of baby's reach. Once you choose a jumper, read the instructions to make certain it's properly installed and positioned at the correct height for your child.
A stationary activity center is a versatile choice for an exerciser. These activity centers provide bounce, rock, and spin action for babies who are able to sit up unassisted and can be used until a baby reaches 30" in height or starts to walk (whichever comes first). Babies love the 360º rotation of the seat, which allows them to play with all the surrounding toys. (The seat also can be locked into position to create a convenient feeding place.) Baby also can rock on the saucer-shaped bottom or bounce on the flexible legs. Depending on price of the exerciser (which range from $39 to $90), a wide variety of toys and accessory toys are included to keep baby interested and entertained.
Some other stationary activity center features to consider
- Three height adjustments to allow the unit to grow with baby
- Stabilizing feet to negate the rocking feature, if desired
- Ease of cleaning
- Suitability for use indoors or outdoors.
A special note about walkers: stationary exercisers entertain baby without allowing the mobility of a walker; mobility that an infant can't understand or control. Babies move speedily in mobile infant walkers and can quickly enter dangerous situations, such as an open staircase, that can result in serious injury. It was for this reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 1996 proposed a ban on mobile infant walkers. The AAP suggested the use of a stationary activity center as a safer alternative.