Developmental Benefits of Using Busy Baby Mats

Did you know that Busy Baby products can be used for therapeutic benefit to promote your child’s developmental skills? I’m going to take you through the various skills these products can help to promote as your little one continues to learn and grow!

Busy Baby Mat & Mini Mat

Visual Tracking: With use of tethers, baby gets practice developing visual skills of fixating on an object (ex: a rattle), then watching as it falls toward the ground (visual tracking).

Baby using Busy Baby Mat with a Rattle

Object Permanence-As your child repeatedly tosses their utensils attached to tethers, they will begin to make the connection that an object still exists when it is out of sight-object permanence.

Baby with a Busy Baby Mini mat who dropped her sippy cup connected to a Busy Baby Bottle Bungee

Pincer Grasp-As your baby explores with purees, and then finger foods on their Busy Baby Mat, they will get plenty of practice developing their pincer grasp. What first starts as a whole-hand grasp, will become refined to using just the tips of the thumb and first finger to self-feed!

Boy with Busy Baby Mini Mat learning how to self-feed

Self-feeding-As your baby practices self-feeding with utensils, the use of tethers allows for keeping utensils nearby for more success locating the utensils and practice with holding them to successfully bring to their mouth! Using the teething spoon is a fun way to bring added textures to mealtime, through increasing the amount of oral sensory input and adding awareness when bringing the spoon to their mouth! Using spoons help to desensitize the gag reflex, and the texture specifically present on the Teething Spoon helps to decrease oral sensitivities that may be present that may impede self-feeding. Once your child establishes a firmer grasp on the utensils you can graduate from use of the tether, and continue using the mat as a stable placemat for holding utensils.

Sensory Exploration-Our senses help our children understand their world. As your baby explores with purees, soft table foods, and finger foods on their Busy Baby Mat, they are taking in the experience through all senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, proprioception (sensing where our body parts are, how they move, and how much strength we need to move them), and vestibular processing (sensing which way is up and which way we are moving)).

Busy Baby Toddler Mat

Pre-writing and writing skills: The Toddler mat with clear transfer allows for repeated practice of firstly mastering the pre-writing strokes (vertical and horizontal lines, circles, cross, square, left/right diagonal lines, “x” shape, and finally a triangle). This is the order your child will developmentally master each stroke before mastering more advanced concepts of letters and numbers (next time you write your own first name, pay attention to the various pre-writing strokes involved, then look at common letters of difficulty for the beginning writer-it will all make sense!) Use your Toddler Mat with the learning stand and iPad to explore pre-writing and writing skills through various applications and games, where your child can practice both with their fingertip and use of a stylus for transferrable skills to using a pencil!

Boy writing on vertical surface with Busy Baby Toddler Mat

Pencil grasp: As your toddler practices pre-writing/writing on their Toddler Mat and gains comfort holding their pencil, paintbrush, or marker, they will begin to develop what is referred to as a mature grasp pattern”. For an additional way to promote a tripod grasp, secure your toddler mat to a vertical surface before your toddler explores with writing (this puts your child’s wrist into extension and naturally promotes a more mature grasp on the utensil).

Boy learning to write with Busy Baby Toddler Mat

Fine Motor Skills:

The Toddler Mat is a fantastic tool to engage your child in projects to encourage creativity as well as develop practical fine motor skills that they will continue to master as they enter pre-school and beyond, such as cutting with scissors, using glue and encountering sticky textures, stringing beads, and manipulating containers independently.

Child with Busy Baby Toddler Mat and beads project

Visual Perceptual Skills: With use of the clear transfer, you can facilitate strengthening many visual processing skills (the ability to process things we see in our environment through our use of vision) through worksheets including coloring, copying, drawing, and finding images as your toddler explores as a beginning writer and artist, to include

Toddler Boys learning to write with the Busy Baby Mat

  • Visual discrimination-Being able to differentiate between different shapes, sizes, and colors.
  • Visual Figure Ground-The ability to find an object in a visually busy environment (think I-spy)
  • Visual Closure-The ability to recognize a common figure when the complete image is not shown (ex: half of an image of a person’s face)
  • Visual Memory-As we learn to read and spell, copying information and being able to look at an image or form, then back to their own paper is an important skill.
  • Visual Sequential Memory-Your child’s ability to understand and remember a sequence of symbols, objects, letters, or words from an original image.
  • Visual Form Constancy-Recognizing the same objects despite changing size, shape, or their orientation.
  • Visual Spatial Skills-Understanding directional concepts (left, right, up, down). Think of the ability to understand the letter “b” versus “d”, you can do these thanks in part to your visual spatial skills.

Mother and Daughter preparing fruit smoothie

Meal Preparation skills: Mastering meal preparation comes with development of several meal preparation skills: scooping/pouring, stirring, chopping/cutting, spreading, measuring, and following simple directions. Many of these skills requiring fine-tuned use of both hands (bilateral integration). The Toddler Mat is the perfect large surface to aid in promoting these skills through practice with snacks, helping with a favorite meal, and simply experimenting on their own with ingredients to develop their confidence! After cleanup, use the Toddler Mat as a placemat for mealtime!

Boy making dinner with his dad

**In addition to the skills gained in practice with meal preparation, comes the added bonus of increased buy-in for your child to try new foods they helped to make through increased exposure and familiarity!

Beginning Math Concepts:

Math is all around us each day including during meal preparation and snack time! You can introduce the following beginning math concepts to your toddler while using your Toddler Mat:

Numbers: counting food items on the mat (“we have 1,2,3 crackers!”)

Shapes and Relationships (geometry)-on top, next to, under, discussing shapes of foods (ex: “your cookie is a circle/round”).

Measurement-Discussing size, weight, volume as you make a snack or meal on your mat (ex: “you poured all the milk, now the cup is empty!”, “This apple is heavy, this cracker is light”)

Patterns: Arranging foods into an A, B pattern (blueberry, raspberry, blueberry, raspberry)

Collecting/organizing: Have your child match the different sized lids to each container, or grouping food items into specific locations as they help with clean up!

If you have any concerns with your child’s development, including any of the skills mentioned above, please reach out to your child’s pediatrician for further guidance.

Stay creative and enjoy your little ones!

-Katie the OT Mom

Katie Sherrard






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