By Eleska Aubespin – Florida Today
You’re never too young to exercise.
Yet, with a growing industry of gadgets and toys that can occupy baby’s time, parents might be missing that point.
That’s why TV producer Karen LeBlanc-Ulibarri and Margaret Barnes, a pediatric occupational therapist, both from Orlando, Fla., have created a series of videos called “Wee Exercise” for babies.
“The problem is, you have all these gadgets to occupy baby when Mom is cleaning, cooking or working,” says LeBlanc-Ulibarri, the mother of 2-year-old Alexis. “And studies show that really hinders physical development of the child during the first year.”
She’s right. According to a February 2002 report released by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, babies should be encouraged to be active from birth.
“Confining babies and young children to strollers, play pens, car and infant seats for hours at a time may delay development such as rolling over, crawling, walking and even cognitive development,” the report states.
Physical exercise not only establishes good health patterns, but can make your baby smarter, LeBlanc-Ulibarri says:
“Early movement is directly linked to higher learning and intelligence. Neurons in the brain are forming as a result of this type of stimulation.”
Casie Farrell of Melbourne, Fla., believes it aided her daughter, Delaney, 3.
“My daughter has been in gymnastics and swimming since she was 6 months old,” Farrell says. “She walked much earlier than other kids, she talked earlier and potty-trained earlier.”
Farrell, who works out regularly, exercised Delaney after reading about its benefits.
“I know a lot of kids who aren’t active and didn’t seem to develop as quickly,” Farrell adds.
In the “Wee Exercise” videotapes, LeBlanc-Ulibarri and Barnes use simple household items to help babies exercise. The exercises also provide parent-child bonding time.
“There were lots of things on the market that dealt with shapes, foreign languages and cognitive development, but nothing about physical development,” LeBlanc-Ulibarri says. “So I called Margaret for ideas, because she was a pediatric occupational therapist.”
Then, realizing they were onto something, they created the video series and gave free copies to government-access TV channels.
“We want parents to realize we are responsible for coaching our children and helping them reach their potential. And putting them in bouncy swings while they watch cartoons is not going to do it.” LeBlanc-Ulibarri says.