Category Archives: More on Movement

Why is Movement in the First Year So Important? Check Out “The Moving Child”

601278_370307493083679_753718206_nMovement in the first year matters! Movement and brain development go hand-in-hand, and early movement experiences influence the rest of our lives.

With this post, I’d like to point you to a film in the making that involves some of my colleagues, “The Moving Child.”

Their intro video is here (themovingchild.com), and check out more info here.

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As they point out, “statistics show that not only are children not moving enough, they are not moving in the ways they need to move from early infancy onward.”

Let’s get our beautiful children unstuck!

And, it’s not just about them, it’s about us too. Our children are an invitation for us to reconnect with ourselves–with our own well-being through healthy movement.

Here are some of my related blog posts:

The Importance of Measuring (Or, The Importance of Not Propping in Sitting, Standing, and Walking)

Trust Nature: Each Milestone is Important

LongDress 8575526-a-cute-baby-with-polka-dot-dress-crawls-on-a-wooden-floor from 123rf CROP

Exersaucers and Seats for Babies–What’s Best for Baby’s Health?

Cute! But Functional? Clothing Baby for Optimal Movement

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner. 

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Your Touch Guides Development: A Nifty Way to Hold Your Baby

It’s true. How we hold and move babies influences their development. Here is a nifty way to hold Baby that supports movement, self-motivation, and learning.

First, the position:

5mo sidehold1

In the picture above, we see: 

He’s inclined to the side

How do you usually pick up, put down, and hold your baby? What direction does he face in relation to the floor, ceiling, and walls?

This (picture above) puts Baby in an orientation to gravity other than straight up-and-down or forward-and-back. It allows his inner ear (proprioception) to experience a different way. It expands his range of options and his comfort!

His legs are bent at the hips (and knees)

This bending, or “flexion,” provides a strong base from which to uncurl into desire and movement. “Extension” (arching) gets us places too; but moving from flexion gives us a great deal of integration, support, and power!

His right arm is free and his left arm participates in supporting himself

My intention is to provide support that gives him a sense of safety and comfort, yet allows him to maneuver his own self as much as possible.

He’s looking up toward the camera

His senses are engaged. Perceiving the world has a large influence on development too!

The one toe we can see is engaged

That toe will be important when he belly crawls! Imagine a floor under his toes (like a running position). That big toe will eventually help to propel him forward in belly crawling.

I have him flush against me

My left arm is also supporting most of his body weight at his left side, even though it looks like he’s leaning on his left arm. This allows his body weight to fall into me so he doesn’t have to support all of his own weight. This is necessary because he’s not yet sitting, which is typical and healthy at his 5 months.

This inclined side position, with limbs engaging, is how he will eventually learn to get in and out of sitting by himself, without ever having been propped!

Next, the action:

5mo sidehold2 armreach

In this picture, we see:

He has started rolling toward his belly, which he could do easily from the incline

Imagine him slightly older, in this same position but on the floor and supporting his own weight. From this very position, he’d be able to move in any direction: roll forward, roll backward, push up to sitting, go down to his side, push himself feetward on the floor, or propel himself forward in belly crawling.

He is looking at a toy on the floor

Motivation: it’s why we move at all.

In fact, check out how everything about him is engaged toward his intention. When was the last time you felt 100% aligned toward your desire, in all aspects of yourself, with nothing hindering you?

His right hand is starting to reach toward the toy

This position allows him to reach first with his hand, rather than approaching the floor legs-first. This strengthens his upper body and his hand-eye coordination. His movement easily follows his intention. Arms-first movement is also very beneficial for babies who have been prop-sat.

His left hand supports

See how his left hand/arm provide stability while his right hand/arm move? This relating between “stable” and “mobile” is what movement is all about!

Stage-specific

Baby does not have to be at a certain developmental stage to benefit from this way of holding. However, this baby happens to be at a “side to side” stage of development called Homolateral. While on his tummy, he is learning how to shift his weight from one side to the other, which will become belly crawling. His entire left side is his supporting side, while his right side is his moving side. This is very different from hands-and-knees crawling! This way of holding him supports exactly the kind of movement experience his brain-body seeks.

Why?

I’m holding him in a way that mimics his own natural movement development, utilizes healthy body mechanics, and imitates the side-to-side weight-shifting he is already doing on his own. I want to observe and follow his flow in creative ways that don’t limit him to our culture’s habitual mindstate of “straight up and down.”

So, explore with your baby! Find creative ways to hold him that sometimes take him a little off of center. This is especially important if your baby has been propped or held in sitting or standing. It gives him a chance to feel himself and explore the world in a variety of ways.

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor. She also uses Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Video! Educational Play, Tummy Time Options, and Comfort Moving While Holding Baby

Video time! Here is a snippet of what we “Infant Developmental Movement Educators” do. In this clip, Sandra Jamrog (IDME and Childbirth Educator) shows:

  • Playing with an older baby who has not yet rolled. We interact not by using force, but through ‘educational play’ to help the baby find new or missing movements for himself. Watch at about 1:12 how the baby engages his attention and reaches, and Sandy follows his impulse. This helps his nervous system learn unconsciously and open up reflexes/movements that were previously not available or not used.
  • Ways to move while holding Baby that both help the caregiver be comfortable and support Baby’s movement. …like getting down to and up from the floor.
  • Creative options for Tummy Time; and fun rolling with Baby

Video by Saliq Francis Savage.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

Thumb-Sucking for Movement Integration or Emotional Comfort?

I’d like to look at an important distinction I observe about thumb-sucking. This comes from my experience so far both as an Infant Developmental Movement Educator and as Nanny using Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

I see two different arenas of so-labeled “thumb-sucking”: one offers benefits to physical health and the other offer challenges to emotional health. (But really, we are whole people!)

Sucking for Movement Integration

This sucking I will switch to calling “mouthing.” For typically-progressing children, it generally doesn’t extend beyond babyhood. It often involves all the fingers or fist; which means that it can involve the thumb alone–and here is where it can cross over into the sucking described below.

But back to mouthing: think of a young baby ‘mouthing’ her fist while snuggled in your arms or on her tummy. As she aims her hand to her mouth, she is also measuring–getting an internal sense of her own body in relation to itself. Sometimes she will squirm: mouthing can get the entire digestive system revving! This kind of mouthing is calming and grounding (it stimulates the inward, organ-monitoring Parasympathetic Nervous System rather than the outward sensing/motoring Sympathetic Nervous System).

Mouthing, along with efficient nursing, helps to organize the movement of the head, neck, and jaw. It also supports self-feeding later. And a fun fact: mouthing helps to stimulate the thumb’s journey out of the little tiny baby fist!

(See also my “Hand To Mouth” post for a related topic)

Sucking to Stop Emotion

Let’s look now at a very different sucking of thumb. This is the more classic image: Baby hangin’ out with his thumb, or perhaps Mama left for work and in the thumb goes.

This sucking does not tend to engage the whole body in a cellular wake-up dance like mouthing. It is more passive and is employed at times of upset or can become constant.

This is the emotion-stopper. This baby may seem calm or independent, but he is most likely feeling some recent or pent-up emotion and holding it in rather than expressing it. Crying is physically and emotionally healing! He may not feel safe to cry, so his thumb can allow him to repress what he is feeling. But please don’t pull his thumb out of his mouth! For much more in-depth information about supporting this baby, please see Aletha Solter’s books, including “The Aware Baby”).

Telling the Difference

Mouthing can indeed turn into emotion-stopping sucking. Here are some clues to begin deciphering them:

  • Does Baby’s sucking engage her whole body or seem automatic?
  • When something stressful happens, does Baby let out his cry or suck his thumb?
  • Does Baby seem engaged in sucking as an activity or does she have a blank look in her eyes? Does he focus on sucking or play with something else at the same time?
  • Does sucking involve just the thumb always, or at times the other fingers, fist, toys, or clothing?

There are some cases in which I feel extra sucking can be healing–in conjunction with an understanding of emotional support. For babies with “special needs” or medical needs, please consult with professionals.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

Baby Reflexes: Hand-To-Mouth is More Than It Seems!

You may have seen Baby hangin’ out on his belly or back with one hand at his mouth and the other lengthened behind his head. It’s a reflex! Good ole–what we call–“Hand To Mouth.”

Many people are familiar with its mirror: Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR). ATNR is easy to spot in the youngest babies: the notorious turning of head to one side, with the ‘back’ arm bent and the arm Baby is turned toward to lengthened. Legs are involved too, to varying degrees: the same-side leg will be bent or lengthened to match what that-side arm is doing.


Every reflex has an opposite and balancing reflex, and these two are an excellent example. In Hand To Mouth, the arm and leg bend more fully on the side the face is turned to. Hand To Mouth gives Baby access to his hand. This sounds needless of mentioning; but it’s important when you have such a strong reflex that makes your hand go away from your mouth (ATNR)! Just think, if that reflex did not have an opposite! “Mouthing” his hand can bring Baby a sense of calm, give his brain awareness of all his fingers, build hand-eye coordination, and lay a foundation for feeding himself.

Do It Yourself For Understanding

Hand To Mouth:

  • Turn your head to one side.
  • Bring that same-side hand to your mouth and bend that leg up. Keep the other arm and leg lengthened.
  • That’s the position; now do it as a movement.

ATNR:

  • Turn your head to one side.
  • Straighten the arm and leg on the side you’re looking toward; bend the other arm and leg.
  • That’s the position; now do it as a movement. You may feel a ‘magnetic’ pull into the position–that’s your body remembering the reflexive quality of ATNR!

Why This Fancies Noticing

Reflexes are the building blocks of movement. For a typically-progressing baby, reflexes are triggered naturally while responding to his environment, and a lot of them happen while lying on his tummy. What if you could continuously switch back and forth between Hand To Mouth and ATNR in movement?

ATNR + Hand-to-Mouth (+ a few others) = belly crawling! That is, along with belly-down stimulation of the floor to push against, plus motivation to reach mama or a toy!

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

Baby Trek: Earth and Space

In a previous post, we toured the first year of movement development. But there’s more! And it matters in the realms of not only physical health, but emotional too.

From the instant of birth, babies begin exploring their inescapable relationship with gravity . . . that is, with earth and space . . . that is, ‘Baby Trek’!

Earth and Space: What’s the Big Deal?

Give it a go yourself. Move around. Hop out of your chair and do a jig, or bend down to pick up that teething ring the dog made friends with, or just lie down…

If you consider Earth your partner, what can you do with Earth? Perhaps rest. Or push against it to get up.

If you consider the Space around you as your partner, what can you do? If you had no Earth to push off of, how would you get from point A to point B? How would you get ahold of that vase before it falls off the table? Could we finally fly by reaching with our hands or even our heads?

Okay, okay. Back to babies. Babies push and babies reach. These two actions/attitudes are our natural responses to living on our planet. All of the milestones—the big ones like rolling, crawling, and walking, as well as the ones in-between—develop from Pushing and Reaching. (Well, they’re caused by the activation of reflexes, but that’s another post…)

Pushing: Selfness

The “Push Patterns” are really first about resting into gravity—and thendiscovering that from there we can push into the earth. Aaaah-HA! With this discovery, Baby can do all sorts of things! A push into his hands raises his head

A push into his hands raises his head and chest

and chest. A push backwards from his arms sends his whole body backwards, or he can pivot in a circle. A push of one foot takes him forward on his belly. If he’s sitting on his forelegs (kneel-sitting), a push can take him up higher and eventually to his feet.

The movements in this category establish Baby’s personal space, or “kinesphere.” They provide feedback internally, from the earth back into his body. He gets to know himself. He gets to know gravity and how to maneuver in it. He builds confidence and safety within his own Self.

Reaching: “Space—the Final Frontier”

No, seriously!

“ These are the voyages of [Baby Jane]. [Her] [first-year] mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations . . .”

Being on her tummy provides Baby the opportunity to develop her ability to push into the earth. With this expertise, she can now “boldly go where no one has gone before!” (hear the music?). Well, plenty of others have gone there before, but she

A reach takes him forward from sitting to crawling

hasn’t! Once she knows herself and her kinesphere, she can move out of it—think of her reaching with her hands from sitting to crawling, and reaching with one hand and then the other when she does crawl on hands and knees. She can reach for something beyond herself and then satisfyingly obtain it or travel to it. She can get to know the world around her on her own initiative. She can explore what, to her, are still strange new experiences. She can voyage.

Is it Sci-Fi?

There you have it, I have gone sci-fi. Or, rather, ‘psy-phy.’ I have expounded upon just a few psychological-physical correlations of Pushing and Reaching. But literally in the body, the Push patterns move Baby because one body segment pushes into the next segment ahead of it. In the Reach patterns, one segment/limb pulls the rest behind it. Both of these are important skills! Both are necessary aspects of our grown-up movement, emotional expression, learning, and communication.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)