No baby room feels complete without a crib mobile, which has cute characters that rotate over your baby’s head. Beyond decorative effects and even soothing a fussy baby, did you know a crib mobile can also boost your baby’s brain? How?
Crib mobiles can develop a baby’s brain by increasing their spatial awareness and fine-tuning their motor skills. Outside of these brain benefits, babies can also improve their hand-eye coordination, head control, and eye muscle strength through a mobile.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how crib mobiles can augment an infant’s development. We’ll even provide tips on selecting the best mobile for baby, so make sure you keep reading!
This Is How a Crib Mobile Can Increase Brain Development in Infants
By the time an expectant mother gives birth, her baby already has a growing brain. Development of this crucial organ begins when the fetus is five weeks old. By week six or seven, the neural tube in the brain closes, which splits the brain into sections.
The baby will now have a cerebrum for feeling, remembering, and thinking. Their brain stem will develop as well, which regulates blood pressure, heartbeat, and breathing. Your baby will have motor control too through their new cerebellum.
Brain development doesn’t stop until a person is 25 years old, so there’s plenty you can do as a new parent to encourage your baby’s brain to keep growing, especially at their age. That includes using a crib mobile in their room.
Here’s how a baby can grow its brain through a mobile.
Improved Motor Skills
Motor skills are a part of everyday life and something that most people rarely think about. You have two types of motor skills, fine and gross motor skills.
Fine motor skills are those involving the toes, feet, fingers, hands, and wrists. The muscle group that executes these movements is smaller and so the tasks we do through fine motor skills tend to require precision. They can include writing on paper or playing the piano.
Gross motor skills require a bigger muscle group to perform. Your baby will soon begin using their gross motor skills, as they’re needed for crawling, balancing, and walking. As a baby gets older, their gross motor skills will become sharper, which continues throughout their childhood.
By the time a baby is three months old, they should be physically capable of following the movement of an item with their eyes. The constant spinning of a crib mobile gives them something interesting to watch.
With time, they’ll want to reach out and touch the items on the mobile. As your baby learns to talk, they could even begin to identify what they’re seeing on the mobile, which is very fascinating and prideful for parents!
Better Spatial Awareness
Mobiles can also teach babies spatial awareness, which is sometimes also referred to as spatial contextual awareness.
To be spatially aware means you’re able to identify your proximity to items and people on a continually changing scale. Other contextual clues such as your activity, location, and time of day also come into play with spatial awareness.
For example, if you’re going to cross the street but you see a car rushing down the road, you don’t keep walking. This is due to your spatial awareness. Your brain tells you the car is too close and that walking in front of it would be dangerous. You wait until the car stops and then walk.
You might also avoid walking on that path during rush hour because you know the traffic gets especially bad. That’s using context for spatial awareness.
As the above example shows, having spatial awareness is part of what keeps us out of danger, so it’s an important skill to foster in a child, and the younger, the better.
Your baby’s crib mobile will rotate, as we said, and this is where a baby’s spatial awareness abilities can come into play. As they try to reach for the toys on the mobile, they’ll begin to realize spatial awareness concepts such as the distance between themselves and other objects.
Other Benefits of a Crib Mobile
Developing your baby’s brain might be the primary purpose of a crib mobile, but these mobiles have other advantages as well. Here are some perks your baby will reap as you turn the mobile on and they watch it spin.
The development of vision in babies is very interesting. From the time they’re born until they’re about four months old, babies focus only on what’s right in front of them up to about 10 inches away. They can visually trace items or objects a short distance from the face of their parents, but that’s about it.
At around eight weeks old, your baby’s hand-eye coordination abilities manifest, as we said before. This allows your baby to watch with their eyes. Yet for several months, it might seem like your baby has crossed eyes, which fades as their eyes develop further and they can focus.
A crib mobile will not only stimulate your baby but strengthen their eye muscles as they spend hours watching the mobile rotate and rotate.
Soothes and Encourages Sleep
Some first-time parents assume that crib mobiles are for sleep when they’re more for your baby’s development. However, some types of crib mobiles can indeed help your baby slip off into dreamland. These mobiles usually have demure patterns and/or colors and play sounds or music.
Even if your baby can’t sleep with the mobile on, it should be soothing enough that if they’re fussy, spending a bit of time watching the mobile will calm them down.
Better Head Control
A baby’s head is one of the biggest parts of them, with a 13 ¾-inch head circumference for newborns being quite common. By the time they’re a month old, your baby’s head circumference will increase to 15 inches.
Over the coming year, your baby will not only be able to hold their head upright but sit up and even walk around of their own volition. You can speed this process up somewhat through a crib mobile.
As your baby follows the mobile with their hands as well as their eyes, they can rotate their head with the mobile. The more they do this, the stronger their muscles for head movement become.
Do Crib Mobiles Make Babies Dizzy?
You’ve turned on your baby’s crib mobile and then stayed in the room with them, watching the mobile for a minute. Honestly, it made you feel kind of dizzy! You wonder if your baby, who’s lying in their crib with the mobile over their head, would feel the same way.
No, mobiles shouldn’t cause dizziness in babies since they don’t spin that quickly. Most motors in mobiles rotate at 10 RPMs, which is not much at all. If you’re concerned about making your child dizzy with their crib mobile, you can buy one with speed settings and turn it on the lowest speed.
You can also use the mobile for short periods, then turn it off. However, if your baby doesn’t seem to be dizzy, remember that mobiles are benefiting their brain a lot, so try to keep it on!
Are Crib Mobiles Necessary?
Perhaps you didn’t grow up with a crib mobile, so you question the necessity of one for your child. Is its inclusion mandatory or can your baby safely and healthfully go without?
Yes, you can forego a mobile if you don’t have the budget or space for one or if you feel like your baby would be better off without it. In the next section, we’ll discuss the downsides of crib mobiles, so please make sure you read that before you decide.
If you don’t use a mobile for your infant, you can develop their fine motor skills in other ways. Here’s how.
- Keep your baby on their tummy when they play, especially until they’re three months old. This will build strength in their hand, arm, shoulder, and back muscles.
- Use other dangling toys besides a crib mobile.
- When your baby is four to six months old, play hand games like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or pat-a-cake for coordination.
- Move your baby so they’re sitting on different sides of their body, as now they must use new muscles.
- Once your child is six months or older, let them get creative with their hands and fingers when playing.
The Downsides of Crib Mobiles
As we said we would, let’s discuss the issues that some parents have with crib mobiles.
Could Make It Hard for Your Baby to Sleep
As any new parent knows, putting your baby down to sleep is usually anything but easy. The last thing you want to do is complicate matters further, but that can sometimes happen with a mobile.
How, you ask? Your baby begins to associate being in the crib with the mobile spinning as playtime rather than sleepy time. One way to avoid this is to buy a crib mobile intended less for stimulation and more for relaxation.
Might Keep Them up If They Awaken in the Night
Babies love mobiles because they can’t see more than a dozen feet out beyond them, and the crib mobile is right in front of them. So if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and their mobile is still spinning, rather than try to fall back asleep, they will want to stay up and watch the mobile instead.
If your baby doesn’t start crying or fussing when they wake up, then you might not even be aware of what’s going on because you’re asleep in the other room. The next day, when your baby is a terror because they’re sleep-deprived, you might put two and two together.
Could Fall and Hurt the Baby
Crib mobiles clip onto a baby’s crib, hence the name, but if the attachment points aren’t secure, then the mobile could fall off and into your baby’s crib, leading to injuries. By triple-checking the attachment points, you can avoid this harrowing scenario.
Might Pose a Choking Hazard
For now, your baby is only reaching out for the toys on the mobile with their hands, but eventually, they’ll be able to sit up and try to grasp the mobile. The strings securing the toys should be seven inches long at most so baby can’t easily grab them.
By the time your baby is four or five months old and certainly by the time they’re six months old, they can sit up and stand, so the crib mobile has got to go. At that point, the toys attached to the strings can be a choking hazard and the mobile itself can be a health risk as well.
Tips for Buying a Crib Mobile
The information in this article has inspired you to buy a crib mobile for your baby. Here are some tips that will make shopping a smoother experience, especially for first-time parents who might not be totally sure what they’re looking for.
Be Willing to Spend More Money
Mobiles, unlike many other areas of baby’s care, are not overly expensive. The priciest ones with sounds and music are about $50. We’d say it’s worth splurging for a crib mobile for several reasons.
For one, more expensive mobiles tend to come with remotes so you can turn the crib mobile on and off without getting too close to your sleeping baby. Much more importantly, a premium mobile is going to be made of quality materials, so you know it’s safe.
Decide on Lights and Sounds or None
You don’t have to buy a crib mobile that plays music and lights up if that seems like sensory overload for your baby. You should be able to find plenty of mobiles without these extra features, and you can usually shave some money off the overall cost as well.
Choose the Material
The dangling mobile character toys come in an assortment of materials, the most common among these wood, plastic, and cloth. Wood is quite durable and cleans up quickly and easily, plus it has a rustic look that some new parents might find appealing.
Plastic mobiles are even more durable than wood and they too clean up in a jiffy. It’s hard to go wrong with plastic.
Cloth mobile toys aren’t as durable as plastic, and dirt can settle on the cloth surface easily, but they’re soft if your baby ever gets their hands on them.
Think Carefully about Colors
We mentioned this before, but the colors and patterns in crib mobiles can stimulate or soothe a baby. The more muted the colors and the fewer patterns, the less rousing your baby will find the mobile. On the other hand, bright and vivid mobiles with lots of fun patterns could keep your baby awake in the middle of the night.
Crib mobiles can accelerate a baby’s brain development by increasing their spatial awareness and motor skills. Mobiles also improve hand-eye coordination and head strength. Although parents needn’t buy a crib mobile for their baby, the benefits far outweigh the risks, so we say it’s certainly worth it!