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How to Use Toy Placement to Gain a New Skill

It's not always about the toy, it's about where you put it! As a therapist, we have learned all of the tricks to teach your little one a gross motor skill, including what to do with the toy! Did you know that depending on where you put the toy, you can encourage movement? Here are some examples:


Does your babe often fall backward or slouch while sitting on the floor? Try getting a taller toy such as an activity table or piano, or place the small toy on top of a stool. This brings the arms up and forward, which allows for better posture and a little stabilization. With the arms forward, they won't be as likely to lose balance backwards. Check out this example below of some nice upright posture after getting a taller toy:


Sometimes when we want our baby to roll, we put the toy to their side. When we put it there, they can already see it and are already occupying themselves, especially if they can reach it too. Try putting it above the head at an angle. This brings the toy slightly outside of eyesight and causes them to reach with the opposite arm across their body to roll over. Baby still struggling with rolling? Check out my 4 R's of Rolling post here. Look at this little one learning to roll with that toy placement:


Is your little one wanting to get in and out of sitting? Put a toy just a little out of reach while your baby is sitting. This allows them to place one hand down to support their balance while they reach across their body to grab the toy. This is the first step to transitioning to hands and knees. Make sure you place the toy at an angle to one side or the other, as it is very difficult to transition over the center of the body. Look at this one reaching outside of their base of support to reach this toy:


I have to say, squatting is one of my favorite skills to work on! Does your child sit down instead of squat to reach a toy that fell? Try this trick- hold the toy low, and right before they grasp it, move it back up to eye level. This perfect amount of trickery is usually enough to get a squat! Make sure after 1-2 tries that you give them the toy because we want them to feel that success! Look at this little one rocking the squat trick:

There are many toy placements that are helpful to attain a new gross motor skill. Keep in mind that it takes the right motivation and sometimes this comes from toy placement! As always, if you are concerned or have questions about your child's development, please reach out to your pediatrician.

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