When it comes to inexpensive toys kids love — lookin’ at you sidewalk chalk, cardboard boxes, and literal sticks in the yard — bubbles are at the top of the list. But why do kids love bubbles so much? Not only are they totally mindblowing for little ones, they apparently help their brains and bodies develop important life skills.
Bubbles aren’t just good, cheap fun. Christy Surgeoner, occupational therapist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, tells Romper in an interview that she uses bubbles with her patients all the time.
“Bubbles are fascinating to little ones,” she says. “They’re a tool we use in therapy to facilitate a myriad of skills. Playing with bubbles is an inexpensive way to work on a variety of developmental skills.”
Karen McCormack, occupational therapist at Children’s of Alabama, agrees in her interview with Romper.
“You can use bubbles in so many parts of development, from 0 to 3 years of age, just by having them available during downtime or when a child is fussy, and you can make it applicable to where they are in their motor development, visual skills, or oral-language skills,” she says.
When babies are able to focus and see clearly, around 2 to 3 months old, they may start enjoying watching a parent blow bubbles. It stimulates their brains and gets their eyes working. Basically, bubbles float and it keeps them engaged and interested.
“Kids love to follow or track the bubbles with their eyes as they float,” says Surgeoner. “It’s a great way to work on tracking and coordinating both eyes to follow bubbles horizontally and vertically. This type of tracking with your eyes is integral to developing eye-hand coordination.”
Surgeoner also says when babies and toddlers reach for bubbles to try and pop them, that’s great practice for their fine motor skills. When they extend a finger to touch one, or pinch one between their index finger and thumb, important things are happening in the brain and muscles. McCormack says this usually happens around 5 to 7 months of age.
“Usually around 5 to 7 months they start learning their depth perception, so this is the time to really have fun with that eye-hand coordination,” she says. “Maybe using bubbles when they’re in the high chair and they’re reaching and touching, all of a sudden they’re going to start learning that pincer grasp or isolate that index finger to pop the bubble.”
The benefits of bubbles keep coming as your little one ages. McCormack explains that as your baby starts walking, chasing bubbles helps them learn to stop, start, change directions, and shift their weight. After their first birthday, when children are really working on language, bubbles can help with that, too.
“Now they want to hold the wand and dip it into the container, which is part of the foundation of holding a pencil in school in the future. And when we have bubbles, you have to blow them, right? It’s great exercise for the muscles in your mouth, tongue, and jaw. At the same time, you’re asking, ‘Did you see the bubble? Bub, bub, bubble. Pop the bubble! Pop, pop, pop.’ So, it’s also for language development.”
Christy Surgeoner, OTR/L, occupational therapist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville
Karen McCormack, OTR, occupational therapist at Children’s of Alabama