Ever wondered how you could use your Nugget to help your baby pull to stand, start to cruise, and take those precious first steps? Our guest blogger, Bree Milani, an Occupational Therapist and Founder of Sprout and Thrive, specializes in baby development and movement analysis. She pushed her Pillow Packs all over the playroom to find the best recommendations for you and your baby!
As a movement expert and fellow busy parent, I’ve used the Nugget with my own kids from tummy time through first steps, and now into the toddler stage of fort building. Babies learn and develop new skills through repetition and practice; they refine those skills as they play and the Nugget is one of my favorite tools to help all of that happen. Below, you’ll find some of my favorite ways to set up your Nugget to promote your baby’s motor milestones!
Milestone: Pulling to Stand
Pulling to stand is the transition of moving from playing on the floor to getting up and standing, and it’s an important pre-walking skill. It requires a lot of core strength, balance, and coordination. To master all of that, repetition is key. So grab your baby’s favorite toy or snack and let’s play!
1. Kneeling Practice
Fold your base in half and add a triangle pillow on top. Help your baby get into a kneeling position at the edge of your Nugget. Put their favorite toy or snack up slightly higher than their reach, and encourage your baby to reach up for the toy. This motion of moving from sitting on their heels to up onto their knees is a great strengthening activity for their hips, buns, and legs to prepare for walking.
Another option for kneeling uses just the pillows, which is great for smaller spaces. Grab some links and attach them to your triangle pillow so that they hang over the peak. Encourage your baby to reach up and grab from them. They’ll get their little buns off of their heels as they reach upward and really work on strengthening their legs to prepare for walking.
Another skill on the way to pulling to stand is squatting. Try folding your base and cushions in half and stack them until you create a table that's about your baby’s armpit height. Connect your links to the Nugget tag to make a short chain, put extra links on the floor and ask your baby to get more. Your baby will have to squat down to get the pieces from the floor and stand back up to put them near the chain. This works their legs and hands while supporting communication all at the same time.
When that gets easy, try standing your triangle pillows up on end. Place puzzle pieces up on top of the pillow and the puzzle board down on the floor. Your baby will have to stand up, reach higher — great for hand eye coordination and core strength — and then bring the piece back down to the floor to put it into the puzzle. This setup has an added balance challenge with the overhead reaching and the goal of not tipping the pillow over.
3. Crawling Up Stairs
Setting your Nugget up as a squishy set of stairs is a great strength builder for baby’s buns, legs, and core which are all muscle groups they’ll need to use in standing. Try folding the cushion in half next to the base folded in half to create two “stairs” to climb up and over. You can place the triangle pillows the long way at the top platform with a favorite toy as a reward for all of that hard work. Bonus tip: If you help your baby come back down the Nugget stairs (on their belly) you’ll sneak in some extra leg and core building exercise before you entice them up the stairs again.
Cruising is when a baby is standing with their belly at a surface and stepping side to side. This is a building block skill for walking. It strengthens the hips, refines baby’s balance, and frees their hands up to reach and explore.
1. Hip Stabilization and Strengthening
Make a tower with your base and cushion both folded in half on top of each other and place your baby’s favorite food or toys on top, just out of reach. This will entice your baby to take those little side steps to go get it. They’ll strengthen the stabilizing muscles in their hips that support those first steps!
2. Confidence Building
Lay your cushion out flat and fold your base in half. Place those cute little triangle pillows on top like a mountain range. As your baby cruises side to side, they’ll have to put less pressure and weight through their hands (so they don’t tip the pillows over) and more of the work through their legs. Fun and functional is the name of the game!
3. Balance Practice
Link up that Pillow Pack! Place all the pillows side by side, with their points together, to create a semi-circle of pillows. Put some favorite toys on top and let your baby cruise around the pillows to get the toys. This is a great balance challenge causing baby to really refine their balance as they are upright.
Milestone: First Steps
Those long awaited first steps are so exciting but I always encourage parents not to rush it! The skills listed above are the building blocks for confident and balanced first steps.
1. Set the Stage
Place your pillows a few feet apart, help your baby stand up and put their back against one pillow. Place a favorite toy on the ridge of the other pillow a few steps away. Encourage your baby to go get the toy from the peak of the other triangle. As they get more confident, you can move the pillows further and further apart or add the cushion to walk over instead of the firm floor. If you have a Pillow Pack, you can set up a little mountain range across the room to encourage steps between each mountain.
2. Resistance Training
Use those fun, squishy triangles as a push toy! Let baby push it from the short end. If you have them push it over carpet, it will move more slowly, it will be more difficult, and it will make their muscles work a little harder against the resistance of the carpet. If you have your baby push it across a hardwood floor, the pillow will slide more quickly, require a little more balance, and quicker stepping, so this is best for a baby who is a little more confident with steps.
As your baby becomes a more confident walker, try creating an incline by putting a rolled blanket under the cushion. This will make the surface a little wobbly and cause your baby to really refine their balance skills. As that gets easier, try putting a triangle pillow under the base to make a steeper hill.
As you can see, there are so many creative ways to use the Nugget to support your baby’s development at every stage. If you want some more science-based simple play ideas, I’d love for you to join the Sprout and Thrive Tribe on Instagram (@_sproutandthrive) or at www.sproutandthrive.com. We’re all about empowering caregivers with knowledge and skills to support their baby’s development from infancy through their first steps.
Bree has a Masters of Occupational Therapy and a Bachelors in Special Education and Rehabilitation (MOT, OTR/L, C/NDT) and specializes in early intervention, infant massage, and is certified in neurodevelopmental treatment. As the Founder of Sprout and Thrive, she offers consultations, parent courses, developmental guides, and practical play ideas to help parents navigate their baby’s first year with confidence.