For the purpose of this blog entry allow me to address a few of the reasons why working at Boston Children’s Hospital has had a continuing and profound impact on who I am, and the creation of Rahoo Baby. When assessing my career so far, I often look back and think about the following three things:
Hello again! This is part IV of our Helping Hands series focusing on hand use from 9-12 months old. In this blog, Matt, Co-founder of Rahoo Baby and pediatric OT discusses how we as caregivers can help little ones start using their hands age appropriately as they approach their first birthday!
Hello again! This is part III of our Helping Hands series focusing on 6 - 9 months old. In this blog, Matt, Co-founder of Rahoo Baby and pediatric OT, discusses how we as caregivers can help little ones start using their hands age appropriately from 6-9 months old.
Helping Hands - A Four Part Series on How to Encourage Hand Use at Every Stage of Infant Development
So what’s the first thing you notice when you look at a baby? When you’re assessing infant development, there’s just so much going on. As therapists, it helps to approach a developmental assessment with a framework that covers all the major areas.
Often times it's the simplest products that go the furthest in helping your baby learn. Here are the 4 must-haves in our professional opinion, for little ones birth to 1 year old.
Birth to 3 months old
The Boppy Pillow (but not for the reason you may be thinking of)
The Boppy pillow is an excellent pillow because of how versatile it is. Yes, it can be used for tummy-time, but the reason we love this pillow as therapists is because of how it can be used to teach a baby how to bring their feet to their hands. By putting your baby on the ground, and sliding this pillow under their bum, it brings their feet up higher than their waste which allows the baby to see their feet and even makes is easier to reach for them. This product is a classic and for good reason!
3 to 6 months old
There’s certainly no shortage of rattles you can find on the market. Really you cant go wrong with any of them. But the O-ball is nice from a learning perspective because it challenges the baby to not only reach out and use a gross grasp, but it actually requires them to focus on finding the wholes to grasp with their fingers. This isn’t going to be something that a 3 month old recognizes, but by the time your baby is 5 or 6 months old they will appreciate the extra challenge!
6-9 months old
Every baby needs a set of wooden blocks. A set meaning about 6 of them. Anything more than that and you’re talking about a block set needed for a 3 year old. They way a 6-9 month old will use blocks is going to very basic – that’s a good thing. With a 6 or 7 month old, start by seeing if they can hold one in each hand. Can they bang them together and midline and appreciate the sound they make? Can they transfer it from one hand to another? Can they hold two in one hand and reach for a third with their free hand? How about reaching across midline to pick one up as they sit on the floor independently? A set of wooden blocks, simple as they may be, is a hugely dynamic toy. That’s not to mention that around 18 months they can start practicing their ability to stack them!
9-12 months old
All you need is the wooden blocks ^ and a bowl. It’s that simple. Sure, you can buy a fancy version like the one offered by Lovevery, but what really matters is that you, the parent, are participating. Show your baby how to drop the blocks into a container. Demonstrate for them over, and over, and over, and over again. And once you’re tired of demonstrating, then let your baby hold the block and guide their hand over the container until they drop it, hear the sounds it makes, and see you cheering them on because they did it! Repetition is everything. You’re little one won’t even recognize what you’re asking them to do, but when they do, and they start dropping blocks into a container on their own, you’ll be patting yourself on the back!
Remember you can always DM us on instagram with any questions related to early childhood development! IG @rahoobaby
“As we always aim to do with all individuals and populations we work with, we must continue to remember that every individual has their own set of cultural ideas and that we must be open minded and client-centered”
A note from Rahoo Baby COO and pediatric OT, Erica Costa, on the changes we can look forward to in the field of occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy strives for what’s known as occupational justice both as a profession and with clients and patients. Occupational justice is “the right of every individual to be able to meet basic needs and to have equal opportunities and life chances to reach toward her or his potential but specific to the individual’s engagement in diverse and meaningful occupation” (Wilcock & Townsend, 2009, p. 193). When an individual feels a sense of injustice, this can have negative consequences on a person’s mental and therefor physical health.
It is our job as therapists to take all factors, both structural and contextual, into account when working with individuals. Societal, environmental, and racial injustice can impact our clientele and their ability to live a full and meaningful life. The current practice guidelines for occupational therapists continue to use terms such as diversity, inclusion and occupational justice (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014). Though this language is not wrong, it does not fully discuss anti-racism explicitly. Furthermore, the profession as a whole is in need of introspection now more than ever when one considers that approximately 82% of occupational therapists are White.
Occupational therapists pride themselves on their ability to be client-centered, doing as best they can to recognize and appreciate the importance of cultural diversity. However, as a profession, more research is needed to inform us and educate us on microaggressions, how they affect occupations, and what we can do to help create change. This is especially important to consider when looking at how far from diverse the profession itself is. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has not let any of this go unnoticed. AOTA recognizes that although this is something we continue to work at, a greater effort is needed. They are expanding the work of their Diversity and Inclusion task force to better enhance the equity and inclusion through the work of occupational therapy as well as within the profession itself. The hope is to continue identifying any existing gaps in order to increase opportunities for occupational justice, and to begin to close the gaps of inequality best we can.
The National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus (NBOTC) is a network of practitioners, educators, researchers, and students of African Descent who work to both promote the success of their colleagues as well as advocate for equitable services for clients in communities of interest (NBOTC, 2020). Our mission as occupational therapists is to promote strengths and help eliminate barriers to any day-to-day activity. As we always aim to do with all individuals and populations we work with, we must continue to remember that every individual has their own set of cultural ideas and that we must be open minded and client centered.
American Occupational Therapy Association, A. (2014). Occupational Therapy Practice Framework, 3rd Edition. American Journal of Occupational Therapy .
Data USA: Occupational Therapists. (2018). Data: USA. Retrieved from https://datausa.io/profile/soc/occupational-therapists#demographics
NBOTC. (2020). American Occupational Therapy Association. Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/Practice/Manage/Multicultural/Cultural-Competency-Tool-Kit/NBOTC.aspx
Wilcock, A.A. & Townsend, E.A. (2009). Occupational justice. In E.B. Crepeau, E.S. Cohn & B.A. Boyt Schell (Eds.), Willard & Spackman’s occupational therapy (11th ed., pp. 192-199). Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
The Rahoo Baby Learn & Lounge™
The Learn & Lounge, is the most versatile newborn lounger on the market. This infant support pillow helps babies meet development milestones. It can be used as a newborn lounger & baby seat, baby feeding pillow and tummy-time trainer. Like all Rahoo Baby product being developed, The best newborn lounger, The Learn & Lounge is designed to prioritize safety and have a lasting impact on infant development. The Learn & Lounge is the best baby lounger pillow and is also considered one of the best tummy-time products available.
(Featured above is Matt, co-founder & CEO of Rahoo Baby providing OT to one of his favorite kiddos)
What is pediatric occupational therapy?
In our own words, pediatric occupational therapy is a scientific approach to helping children develop the skills needed to function across all environments. Let’s unpack this a bit:
The scientific approach
To help a child of any age overcome any challenge, an occupational therapist must first understand the characteristics of early childhood development through each stage of development. Knowing this is what allows a therapist to appreciate the baseline skills a child should even be expected to possess at any given age. Next, a therapist must also possess a baseline understanding of all the various systems which make up the human body (ex. central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, musculoskeletal system).
Helping children develop the skills needed to function
Understanding the scientific approach mentioned above is what allows therapists to first recognize specific deficits in any particular area of functioning (evaluation), followed by the creation of a particular set of therapeutic exercises or activities designed to improve or compensate for those areas (treatment). But remember, without first having the baseline understanding of where, for example, a 3-year-old is developmentally, a therapist would have no way of creating a treatment plan that both challenges the child therapeutically, but also engages them cognitively – in other words the treatment plan must not only help a child develop certain skills, it also needs to be fun and motivating for the child! Because I think we all know what it’s like asking a 3-year-old to do something they don’t want to do…exactly.
Across all environments
Occupational therapy can is aimed at helping a child develop the skills needed at school, home, and the community.
If pediatric occupational therapy is designed to help infants and children develop the baseline skills required for well-being, why is it that only about 2% of children receive occupational therapy. Well, about 4 million babies are born in the US each year. Compare that with 600 OT programs, each producing on average of 40 new OT’s each year. So essentially it would be impossible for each child to receive therapy services.
Fortunately, not every baby needs OT. But that’s not to say that every baby wouldn’t benefit from OT, because they would. In fact, it’s our opinion that every baby should have the opportunity to access the benefits of OT. This realization is what lead us the create baby products in the first place.
Every baby product we design is completed using the same scientific approach a therapist uses during a session, meaning every feature of every product is intentionally designed to help a baby or child develop a certain skill they will need to develop at that particular stage of their development. Let’s take the Learn & Lounge for example. Look at all of the things this lounger is designed to help infants do:
- bring their hands to midline to play with & mouth their own fingers (which is so important it could have its own blog)
- visually scan their environment to promote curiosity and learning
- enjoy and therefor master tummy-time so they can learn to sit, crawl, walk etc.
- overcome acid-reflux so they can develop a fondness for mealtimes
Here’s the thing - these are some of the same skills that a therapist would be helping a baby develop if they were to see them for an individualized session in the home or at a nearby clinic.
Instead of “Does my baby need occupational therapy?”, parents should be asking themselves “Can my baby benefit from occupational therapy?”; because with 85% of brain development occurring between birth and three years old, the answer is absolutely, yes.
Of course we love to see parents using the Rahoo Baby newborn lounger (keep tagging us on instagram! #rahoobaby), but there are other plenty of other ways that parents can play an active role in their child’s development. For example, apps like Kinedu and Babysparks are available for parents who want to learn about fun, OT recommended activities they can do at home with their baby, while companies like Lovevery are taking the guesswork out of which toys children should use at each age.
The point is this – parents today are in-the-know. Today’s moms and dads understand how crucial learning and development is during birth to 3 years old, so it’s understandable that they are desperate for products and apps for support in this area of parenting. Five or ten years ago it would have been fair for a parent to claim that finding support from child development experts like occupational therapists is hard to access, but not anymore. Today’s parents are demanding the best for their baby, and companies like Rahoo Baby, Lovevery, Kinedu and Babysparks are offering just that.
Our passion for developing the next generation of baby products - the why behind what we’ve set out to accomplish at Rahoo Baby.
We set out on this journey – the Rahoo Baby journey - in 2018. For all the time we have spent developing products, we’ve spent just as much time developing our brand. It’s been a focal point of our startup, and one that we take great pride in. What we’ve come to realize though, is that developing our brand comes down to one thing – understanding our why…In other words, when you boil it down, what’s the one thing Rahoo Baby cares about most? What’s the one thing we believe in more than any other company and therefor sets us apart? Once we understood this, our why, we started to understand what this company would stand for.
Here’s our why:
Did you know that only 3% of children age birth to 3 years old get access to therapy? This is a troubling statistic, especially when you consider that approximately 85% of brain development occurs during that small window of time. It’s not just that though; 17% of children go on to be diagnosed with at least one form of developmental delay by age 5. In other words, nearly 1 out of every 5 babies born will be faced with the challenge of having to overcome a developmental delay during childhood. Knowing this, why is it that only 3% of families are given access to the type of specialized expertise that can have a dramatic impact on early learning and development? If this type of insight exists, and can actually improve developmental outcomes, shouldn’t it be available to everyone? Rahoo Baby is our vehicle to accomplish this type of change.
The products we create at Rahoo Baby incorporate therapeutic principles that drive cognitive growth and facilitate the achievement of key developmental milestones. Given our professional backgrounds, we are uniquely qualified to not only understand, but address the unique challenges that babies must overcome at every stage of their developmental journey. Rahoo Baby is using innovative product development to give all families (not just 3%) access to the type of developmentally-rich learning opportunities that all babies benefit from.
Our why at Rahoo Baby is our wholehearted belief that from the moment their baby is born, all parents should have access to expert tools and insights that help their baby thrive. This belief is what the Rahoo Baby brand is being built on.
If your baby needs a little boost to start walking then take 5 minutes and read this!
Learning to walk independently is probably the most common milestone that parents get hung up on. It makes sense though. Learning to walk independently is a huge deal! Not only does it mean your baby has successfully integrated a TON of skills they’ve picked up along their developmental journey so far, but it also puts their brains into hyper-drive! Imagine how stimulated your baby must feel – the neurological processes taking place – as they start walking. It’s not just the coordination and strengthening taking place though. How about the fact that they are now experiencing directionality the same way we do as adults. Going straight, backwards, right, left, sideways. Your little one is now seeing, feeling and experiencing the world as intended – pretty cool stuff! But also the cause of significant worry by parents when it’s taking longer than anticipated. So let’s discuss some very simple, yet very effective strategies for giving your baby the little extra boost they need.
Optimize the Environment
Cruising – walking while using their arms to support themselves against a piece of furniture - is typically what comes before walking. Standing up on your own two feet and taking steps is a lot less intimidating when there’s something to hold onto / lean on. Odds are your baby is getting pretty comfortable with sliding side-to-side along the couch. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready for walking independently either. Find some middle ground, or as we call it, the “just right challenge”. To do this, set your baby up with 3 or 4 pieces of furniture that they can go between. Try using the couch, ottoman and a chair or two. Set up each piece so they are always an arm’s length away, so that your baby can reach for and touch two pieces of furniture with each hand. This requires them to become more comfortable with more dynamic movements than just sliding side to side. As they become more comfortable with this, try separating the furniture a few more inches, then a few more inches, and a few more until your baby needs to take the “leap of faith” where they can’t simultaneously be touching each piece of furniture.
*pro-tip – each piece of furniture needs an age appropriate toy for motivation.
Even though your baby isn’t walking yet, you can still expose them to challenges they don’t seem ready for. For example, just because your baby isn’t walking yet that doesn’t mean you can’t help them walk up a hill. Sure you’ll need to hold their hand, but unsteady, varying surfaces will give your baby’s muscles much different feedback than a hardwood floor. Think about it like this – what’s more challenging, running on a track, or running on the beach? Of course running on the beach because it challenges the stability of every muscle, ligament and tendon from the waist down. Your baby needs that challenge! Hold their hand to allow them to bravely navigate up the stairs, along the beach and across the lawn.
Falling is Part of the Process
No one likes to see their baby cry. No one likes to see any baby cry actually. But in order for a baby to learn and understand what’s required for upright mobility they need to experiment. With experimenting comes failure – falling. With falling comes tears. But here’s the beauty of it…with those tears, and the fear your brave little baby experienced when they fell, comes the recognition that something they did, as they were trying to walk by themselves…didn’t work. In doing so your baby is developing the ability to recognize a flaw in their plan to walk, or the actual execution required. To put it simply – they are learning from their mistakes, which is a major component of motor planning – a skill your child will continue to rely on well past their days as a baby.
Learning to walk independently is an exciting milestone, and it makes sense why parents often worry when their baby seems skeptic about giving up on crawling and cruising. Hopefully these tips will give your baby the little boost they often need and put you at ease, knowing you are doing everything you can to help.