Tag Archives: infant development

New Tummy Time Site! Important Information For New Families

Tummy time is often either a source of fun for families–or of distress. Check out my new tummy time website! EnjoyTummyTime.com – Your Source for a Respectful and Informed Approach to Tummy Time

BusCard-EnjoyTummyTime1

Whether it’s going wonderfully or is challenging, I have some important information to share with you, including tips you will not see in much of the tummy time literature out there:

  • How Baby gets into and out of tummy time makes a difference
  • Watching for and reducing a startle response
  • What counts as “tummy time”
  • Why tummy time is not just about muscle strength
  • Allow the newborn’s bending hips and knees in tummy time
  • Empowering ways to address that stuck arm
  • Engagement vs distraction–why paying attention to fussing is important
  • How propping devices can actually make tummy time more challenging
  • Tummy time is part of a bigger picture: lying on the side and back are important too!

This approach to tummy time comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education (IDME), part of the Body-Mind Centering approach to somatic education.

Make Tummy Time a place of ease, comfort, and delight!

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

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

Baby Play: What Does Learning Look Like? Being an Observer

Yeah yeah, babies play! With rattles and blocks; and pots with loud lids, and maybe Daddy’s glasses. Well… is there more? What are they really doing? What does authentic, baby-led play look like? What happens when we direct less and observe more?

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Babies are fascinating Players! They’re scientists and explorers from the start. Do we need to teach babies how to play? How to learn?

Many would say yes, it’s our job to teach them how, our responsibility to make sure they’re “learning” and that their activities are “educational.”

Yes, it’s a cat toy. Or, it was. What will the baby learn about tunnels and tracks and things that roll?

Yes, it’s a cat toy. Or, it was! (There’s a green ball inside it.) What will the baby learn about tunnels and tracks and things that roll?

I say not necessarily. Babies are expert “learners” already! They come that way. Learning is required for survival. When given time to respond and explore, typically-developing babies can’t not learn.

Our role? To provide loving presence, interaction, availability, and support. To provide an appropriate environment–maybe a play area, maybe outside, maybe the scenes of your everyday life. Yes, to sing, dance, and converse! To make creative options available—but not to continuously stimulate.

Enjoy this tour of playing babies! Notice in these pics how play is not a different activity than learning, or even functioning. It’s all the same thing!

Peekaboo! Or is it really that simple?

Peekaboo! Or is it really that simple?

He saw a space and was curious. His brain “measured” the size of the space (can I fit?) and the distance, and he set out on the adventure. He got through—and confirmed his test of perception!  This is the same baby that, a few months ago, was investigating the cat-toy-tunnel (above). Only now the investigation is on a different scale, and he’s the one “inside.” Perhaps he will build trains; or have an easy time learning the subway; or be really good at devising creative ways through obstacles in his life when he’s 30.

He saw a space and was curious. His brain “measured” the size of the space (can I fit?) and the distance, and he set out on the adventure. He got through—and confirmed his test of perception!
This is the same baby that, a few months ago, was investigating the cat-toy-tunnel (above). Only now the investigation is on a different scale, and he’s the one “inside.” Perhaps he will build trains; or have an easy time learning the subway; or be really good at devising creative ways through obstacles in his life when he’s 30.

Sometimes, when we’re quiet enough, babies “read” to us! Listen for her vocalizations, even if she’s not saying words you recognize.

Sometimes, when we’re quiet enough, babies “read” to us! Listen for her vocalizations, even if she’s not saying words you recognize.

If we wait, will this 3 month old work it out?

If we wait, will this 3 month old work it out?

I’d wait for him, myself—he looks pretty serious about his business. “Play” or “work”? “Effort” in what sense? Innocent play or intense mission?

I’d wait for him, myself—he looks pretty serious about his business. “Play” or “work”? “Effort” in what sense? Innocent play or intense mission?

He is determined, concentrating. Is play always happy? Are effort and work only for grown ups? Sometimes play just “is.” In our society, we’ve separated work and play: 5 days for work, 2 for otherwise; we spend our lives working, and then in retirement we play. What if the two were objective, interwoven, natural parts of daily life, no matter our age? What if we kept on playing for the rest of our lives?!

He is determined, concentrating. Is play always happy? Are effort and work only for grown ups? Sometimes play just “is.” In our society, we’ve separated work and play: 5 days for work, 2 for otherwise; we spend our lives working, and then in retirement we play. What if the two were objective, interwoven, natural parts of daily life, no matter our age? What if we kept on playing for the rest of our lives?!

Both play and functional movement (in this case, rolling) grow out of motivation, desire, attention, and intention. Can we even separate “play” from “function” in this case?

Both play and functional movement (in this case, rolling) grow out of motivation, desire, attention, and intention. Can we even separate “play” from “function” in this case?

Just playing… And… This is also a significant developmental pattern of movement, with her weight shifted to one side, one knee bent, and the “free” arm reaching/grasping. It’s “play,” but it’s also preparation for belly crawling!

Just playing… And… This is also a significant developmental pattern of movement, with her weight shifted to one side, one knee bent, and the “free” arm reaching/grasping. It’s “play,” but it’s also preparation for belly crawling!

This baby had just reached for a toy but didn't get it. Notice your urge--would you have gotten it for her? We can see her thinking about it. Perhaps she's problem-solving. The next thing she did was reach again for the toy!

This baby had just reached for a toy but didn’t get it. Notice your urge–would you have gotten it for her? We can see her thinking about it. Perhaps she’s problem-solving. The next thing she did was try again!

He’s learning to walk! Actually, he’s doing the exact same investigation process he’s done all his life while playing—motivation, curiosity, sensing what’s possible, and making attempts. Only now the reflexes are different, and we’ll end up celebrating what is commonly called a “milestone.” He was not taught to play, he just did that naturally by himself. This baby also was not taught to walk, he found it completely on his own; and here he goes! Play = function!

He’s learning to walk! Actually, he’s doing the exact same investigation process he’s done all his life while playing—motivation, curiosity, sensing what’s possible, and making attempts. Only now the reflexes are different, and we’ll end up celebrating what is commonly called a “milestone.” He was not taught to play, he just did that naturally by himself. This baby also was not taught to walk, he found it on his own; and here he goes! Play = function!

How To Foster This Beautiful Baby-led Learning?

TTtogether2, 5mopr sm enh high-medI invite you to be an Observer. Discover—with joy and wonder (sounds cliche, but I’m serious!)—the intense, amazing, curious, and brilliant little natural explorer that you know is already is your baby!

Tips for “active” observing:

  • First, watch for signs of engagement. Before calling his name or rattling a toy to catch his attention, notice: is he already interested in something? Is he already looking, listening, planning, or doing? If so, he is learning something! Hold off for a moment and see what he does. You may find he has a longer attention span than you realized!
Take her perspective. If we were looking at her from above her, we might have called her name to engage her, not realizing she was enjoying such a spectacular scene!

Take Baby’s perspective. If we were looking at her from above her, we might have called her name to engage her, not realizing she was enjoying such a spectacular scene!

  • Interact fully when Baby initiates it . . . 
  • . . . but allow Baby to turn away when he’s ready. If he disengages, pauses, or looks away from you, his brain is likely processing something. Give him this space. He’ll probably turn back to you on his own or get interested in something else.
  • Follow Baby’s lead. When you put him down, let him decide where to go and what to play with.
  • Let Baby set the pace and choose when he’s done or not.
  • Provide non-battery toys and objects he can manipulate himself, like balls, bowls, measuring cups, rattles, and other easy-to-handle toys.

TT sm high-med

  • “Good job!!” less; celebrate along with Baby more (“Yes, I saw you crawl under the table and get that ball!”). Or, simply observe, say nothing, and witness pure discovery!
  • Trust that the level-in-space Baby can get to on his own is just right for him. What can he do on his own when he’s not propped up higher than he can get by himself (like in sitting or standing)?
  • Get down there with him! Observing doesn’t necessarily mean you’re passive. He knows you’re there. He may look at you or come to you at some point, and you can share in his delight!
Might as well get down there and do what he’s doing! The world looks different from down here. Did you know that when you’re belly-crawling age, the grass is about 1/3 of your height?

Might as well get down there and do what he’s doing! The world looks different from down here. Did you know that when you’re belly-crawling age, the grass is as tall as 1/3 of yourself?

Of course there are times when you may want to initiate a song, game, or interaction. Be sure to also build some observing-with-presence into your daily life with Baby.

Why This is Important NOW

“Educational” videos for babies, flash cards, discomfort in tummy time, pressure to achieve and look “normal,” and popular images of “good parenting”: these are just a few factors parents and caregivers face. But these factors can limit babies’ innate abilities to be movement-literate, learn on their own motivation, be at ease in their environment, and fully process what’s going on around them.

Enjoy your youngest scientist!

1Series6, RollUp, 7mopr enh high-med

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

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)

 

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. 

Signs of Emotional Stress: How to Recognize When Baby Might Need to Have a Good Cry

I’m reposting this because I have some really helpful new pics, and I think this topic is super important! 

Your partner seems tense. Your best friend seems agitated. What do you do?

from wernative.com

Check in with “Are you okay?” Or offer some help or a kind word? Would you rather avoid him/her? Or maybe you freak out yourself too, or maybe feel you don’t know what to do.

What about when you’re angry, sad, frightened, anxious, or frustrated? Or even when you don’t know what’s bothering you. Or you’re just having a hard day…

Let’s really look at how we can tell—it will be useful regarding Baby in a moment!

  • Do you (or can you see your friend) hold your breath?
  • Feel those certain tense spots (i.e., shoulders)
  • Clench your jaw or tighten your lips
  • Grip objects tightly
  • Throw something (or feel like it)
  • “Check out”—become vague, depressed, low on energy, spaced out
  • Speak to others in ways you wouldn’t otherwise
  • Start rushing or feel hyper
  • Become irritable

These are signs and symptoms of being stressed, not expression of the emotion itself.

Consider babies (and toddlers)

Pensive sadBaby comes equipped with the full set of human emotions! A baby is just as much a “person” as we are. Some people assume that babies “don’t feel anything” (beyond wanting milk, mama, or a toy). I often hear parents wondering, “how much stress can a baby really accumulate (especially one in a loving home)?”

It’s true. Babies Feel. The difference is, they are thankfully still really good at expressing it—they haven’t yet lost touch with their emotions or with their beautiful healing instincts!

(If the word “stress” as applied to your baby worries you, please take a deep breath. All babies experience some sooner or later, even the healthiest ones. It does not mean you’re a ‘bad’ parent.)

Do you ever experience times when Baby cries even after all her immediate needs have been met, and you don’t know the reason? Crying (with loving attention) is healing. You may or may not already be familiar with how to support this need to cry in-arms (for more info, and why Baby might be stressed, see my blog posts). This crying or raging is the expression of the emotion itself.

Emot stress3

But sometimes Baby will show signs of feeling strong emotions, yet won’t be crying. Some of these actions and behaviors can be misinterpreted as ‘the way babies always are,’ ‘cute,’ ‘discipline problems, or manipulation. but you can learn to read when they mean Baby might need to have a good cry in your arms.

Watch for the following signs that potentially signify emotional stress:

  • Grabbing more often or holding objects more tightly than usual
  • Clingy (beyond a typical desire to be held)
  • Hitting
  • Playing fast—moving quickly from one thing to the next
  • Chewing on objects almost nervously
  • Constantly asking for milk
  • Putting fist, fingers, or toy in mouth repeatedly, may or may not also have a vacant or worried lookEmot stress-trepidation, finger in mouth
    • Note, “mouthing” is a very healthy activity for young babies. Mouthing (hands or toys) tends to be accompanied by attentiveness, curiosity, contentment, and/or deep rest, and often whole-body digestive tube wriggling. What I mean above is not “mouthing,” but an action that holds back emotion (“if Baby didn’t do it, he’d cry”).
Compare the expression on this baby's face with the one above. This baby was playfully focused on 'mouthing' Sophie until the camera also became interesting, and he has a growing smile.

Compare the expression on this baby’s face with the one above. This baby was playfully focused on ‘mouthing’ Sophie until the camera also became interesting, and he has a growing smile.

Here's another view of 'mouthing'--note how his whole body, as well as his attention, is involved in the activity. Stress-related sucking typically has less whole-self involvement and interest, with either blankness or concern.

Here’s another view of ‘mouthing’–note how his whole body, as well as his attention, is involved in the activity. Stress-related sucking typically has less whole-self involvement and interest, with either blankness or concern.

  • Baby seems higher-toned than usual—not as peaceful while being active (by tone, I mean the “firmness” of muscle, actions, or comportment)
Thumb-sucking (See note above about mouthing. Mouthing the thumb is one way the hand develops from fist to functional fingers.) Thumb sucking can also be used to stop emotion from flowing, and can be accompanied by a vacant, concerned, or un-confident look.

Thumb-sucking (See note above about mouthing. Mouthing the thumb is one way the hand develops from fist to functional fingers.) Thumb sucking can also be used to stop emotion from flowing, and can be accompanied by a vacant, concerned, or un-confident look.

  • Hanging onto a particular toy or blanket–sometimes called a “lovey” or “security item”
  • Baby looks “checked out” or vacant
General fussiness is often an indication

General fussiness is often an indication

A pacifier seems to be the only way to “keep baby calm”

A pacifier seems to be the only way to “keep baby calm”

Healer-Baby: what to do about that “stress”

Now, how can Baby release that tension? Crying can be a release of the above “symptoms.” Laughing, yawning, and coughing also release tensions, but I find that sometimes the fullest release comes through a good cry.

This is their wise and wonderful way of feeling better. They feel what they’re feeling, express it through crying and get it out, and then they go on with their day.

When you think Baby seems stressed, do one of those “check ins” with her that you might do with your best friend. She’ll let you know if she wants to cry. Here are some ideas:

  • High chair talk 12mo cropGet down on her level or pick her up, look in her eyes, and ask “how are you, are you okay?” Pause and truly wait for her response.
  • Before a nap or bed, hold her and ask, “How are you, do you need to cry? It’s okay to cry if you need to.” Pause and observe. If you and Baby aren’t used to doing this, it may take several invitations for each of you to trust the process.
  • Find a way to meet her intensity playfully and/or verbally. Such as, if Baby tosses something strongly with a shout, respond lovingly (not aggressively or angrily) with a vocal expression of similar intensity: “OOPH! I saw you toss that!!” I find that if Baby’s toss/shout came out of a need to express strong emotion, this “meeting” her in similar intensity  lets her know I’m tuned in, I understand her, and she may start crying or laughing right then.
  • If Baby/Toddler is hitting, provide a firm boundary. Keep everyone safe, and say, “I’m not going to let you hit, but I will listen if you need to cry.”
  • If Baby is chewing nervously, sucking on a pacifier, or hanging onto a security item, you could pick her up (without the toy/item) and tell her you see her, inviting her to cry if she needs to. She may frantically search for the pacifier or item—another common sign that Baby is feeling something that she’s not yet expressing. Try again later.

Crying upright

Babies don’t cry for no reason, so you can trust that if she’s crying, she needs to. After a good cry with listening attention, which releases stress, babies will often either sleep very well or stay awake very peaceful and content.

Note, some of these symptoms and behaviors, as well as repeated prolonged crying, can signal serious physical or emotional problems. The above is based on an assumption that Baby is healthy internally and externally. Please see a doctor if you have a concern.

Your baby is a wonderful communicator, and communication requires relationship. Growing in your ability to read subtle signs can deepen your bond with Baby and build a fantastic foundation for the trust that you can share in each other throughout life.

Please see Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting website for more information about crying in arms.

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing 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®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

You’re a Human Jungle Gym! Playing With Your Mobile Baby

HumanJungleGym LOFDid you love jungle gyms as a kid as much as I did?

I like them because they’re “stable”—they stay in one place and allow the child to explore creatively on, under, over, around, and inside it.

But guess what?!

We, as parents/caregivers are natural-born Human Jungle Gyms!

Stable and Mobile

First, to clarify. By stable, I mean ‘stays in one place (ish),’ or stationary. By mobile, I mean ‘moves, locomotes, travels in space.’

In her first months, Baby is stable and you are mobile. Of course she wiggles! But she can’t yet traverse distance on her own—you move her. Her experience is of being picked up, moved, held, and put down.

Once Baby, on her tummy, begins pushing herself backward on the floor, spinning in a circle, and belly crawling forward—and later hands-and-knees-crawling, sitting, pulling up to standing, and sidestepping—she is mobile! She’s traveling short or long distances, going up and down in space (tummy to sitting to standing), and she’s curious!

Her mobile-ness (during safe playtime) is an invitation for you to be her “stable” partner. It’s a wonderful way to interact and play with your baby in a way that supports development and fosters connection!

How to be a Human Jungle Gym

When you’re hanging out on the floor with Baby, you automatically have built-in levels and ledges for climbing upon. It’s really quite wonderful how nature provides!

HumanJungleGym bc lap

Lap: Your lap is the perfect height for a belly crawler to climb up and over. The “up” part encourages her to coordinate her legs and push with her feet; the 
“over” part requires use, coordination, and strengthening of her arms. Both give
HumanJungleGym kneel lapher experience with a variety of territory. It’s also a perfect height for Baby to kneel (“sitting” on forelegs and “standing” on knees)–very important and wonderfully integrating positions!

Knees: Tunnels! Sitting (perhaps leaning back) with your feet on the floor and knees bent toward the ceiling creates a combo tunnel/climbing mountain! Great for belly- and hands-and-knees- crawlers.

Shoulders: Yours are the perfect height for the baby who’s pulling up to standing. Pulling up on furniture is fun too. But to discover your way to standing and find Mama’s face when you get there?! Or perhaps your hair was her motivation in the first place…!

Arms and hands: A sidestepping (“cruising”) baby may pull up on your lap and shoulder and then hang on to you while circling around you. Your arms can make creative ledges too.

Climb5 HumanJungleGymLying down: This can be a great “play gym” position for the mobile baby who’s not yet standing. Try lying on your back, your side, or even on your tummy for different heights. Baby can climb up on you; then to get off, she has a wonderful opportunity to explore balance and different relationships to gravity as she reaches off with her hands or her feet.

TT chest to chest1

On an incline: Do you ever sit down and lean back, with Baby on you chest-to-chest? This is a wonderful relational event that allows Baby to experience herself in a different way in gravity (other than upright or lying down), and it’s even “tummy time”!

These are some ideas that have you sitting or lying on the floor. Perhaps you’ll discover other ways in these or other positions!

A Word About Your Hands

When Baby climbs on you, it can be very tempting to use your hands to pick her up, prevent her from falling, “walk” her around you, or hold on to her. Unless she’s asking to be picked up or held, be curious if she actually needs your hands on her.

  • If she’s belly-crawling toward you and reaches your lap, do you pick her up? What if you “wait and see”? Does she actually want to be picked up, or is she curious and exploring, and would she continue climbing up and over you if allowed?
  • If there’s clear danger and she could hurt herself, obviously please help her! If she’s learning a new skill, like belly crawling forward off a ledge (off your lap), you might be surprised at how safely she navigates it by herself and how a slight, small “fall” doesn’t scare her. (I do mean “small” fall, and I don’t mean neglect)
  • The more she’s allowed to do only what she’s ready to do, without being propped by devices or by hands (e.g., stood or “walked”), the safer and wiser she’ll be. Think stable/mobile: if she’s mobile and you want to offer a hand, offer it as a strong and stable ledge, rather than as something that moves along with her and holds her up. This way she’s in charge of her own weight and her own experience.

Being a Jungle Gym—Benefits for Baby

  • Relationship and connection while playing, moving, and exploring
  • Balance
  • Creative problem solving
  • Over, under, through, around, on, off, toward, and away
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Strength-building all over
  • Reflex and brain development requiring 3-dimensional use of space
  • Spatial orientation
  • Inner ear health
  • Safer falling because she knows herself in different positions in gravity
  • Autonomy and empowerment—she gets to choose how she wants to relate with you and she does only what she can do herself

Go forth, get down on the floor, and have fun playing with your baby!

© Eliza Parker 2012, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my writing 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®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

How Independent Sitting Happens

True self-discovered, un-propped, independent sitting comes later than many people think–later than common recommendations based on Baby being propped. Here’s how it can happen in a typical progression. Time spent in each element can vary greatly.

PART 1 (Hey, we gotta get to know gravity first . . . stay with me!)

CuddleNewborn-CROPBorn.

Rest into Loved-One’s arms, into gravity, bonding with my support, loved.

Squirmy-wormy-wriggly

Rest.

Turn my head. Fall into gravity. Roll roll roll rollllllll….

On tummy: push happens.
HlogPushUppers 2mo CROP SMPush?
Hey! Push! pushing into the earth, lifting head, supporting on forearms
Rolllllll…

Pushing up up up!
Kicking feet
Rest.

Push push push slide.
Slide in a circle, wheee!, pivot on belly
Hlat pivot1

Pushing up up UP! Up high on handsHlog uppers high

Push push push sliiiide. Slide—Hlog uppers toy
BACKWARDS.
!!
??

Push. Slide BACKWARDS. Darn it! I want that!
Backwards backwards
Arghhhh!

Hlat toe5 CROP LTN

Toes chit-chat with the floor. BIG TOE plays with the floor, has conversations.

My weight shifts over to one side, frees one of my arms to play.
Yeah! Hangin’ out with one knee bent out to the side. Playing. Curious.

Hlat6 play CROP-SMALLER

Hlat uppers

Push…

Backwards, still.

Push backwards + one knee pops out to the side + big toe chit-chats with the floor + I want that toy = forward.
FORWARD! Got it!

Toy (or Mama, or Mama’s lunch) and one arm free with a toe-push forward, coordinating hand with eye.Hlat fwd2 CROP

PART 2 (We’re getting there…)

Pushing pushing, all around, in circles, backward, forward.
Body weight shifts onto one side, then the other.
Slip ‘n Slide!

Pushing, squishing into myself and unfolding out.
Push, weight-shift, on my side-ish, twist, and upward.

Twist twd sit

elbow-hip twd sit

! Push and upward on my side!
On my side, on my side…
Again. Tummy, then side, then up on elbow and hip.

Again. Tummy, then side, then up on hands and hip.
Look how high I am!

Coming to sit 10mo CR SM

Measuring, sensing, reading my distance from the floor. Back and forth. I know where I am. And how I got here.

Sidesit one hand

Down. Up. Down. Up. Down into the floor. Up out of the floor. Balancing, playing, whoops!—down.

Push. On side, up on hand, on hip, hands free.
Hands free! Hahahaaa!!! I’m all the way up here with both hands free!

full sit

Oh, everyone says I’m “sitting.”

PART 3 So many options! From sitting, Baby can go down to his tummy or reach onto his hands and knees.HlogReachUppers2 CROP SM

Some babies play in a “weeble” motion.

Down the way I came. Up the way I came. Down again. Or, up one side and down the other. Down one side and up the other.

Weeble 9mo CR

Sit, whee go off to the side, put weight on both hands, sit on the other side, whee, spinning in a weeble circle!

And that, my friends, is the dance of independent sitting. The typical expectation is to prop-sit babies; but I support you in not propping Baby in sitting, but rather witnessing with joy as she discovers it on her own!

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

© 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.)

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.)

“Good Job!”, Or Not?

It’s habit, I know. “Good job!”  We love our babies. We get excited when they do new things.

But why “Good job!”? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? I mean, let’s really look this question in the face. We all have different influences. Why do you say “Good job!”?

  • To show love and pride?Clapping hands
  • Grow Baby’s self esteem?
  • Because popular literature says to?
  • To avoid behavior issues?
  • That’s what was said to you?
  • For the satisfaction of Baby looking to you for approval? (hey, honest question!)
  • Were you accepted as a child simply as who you are? Or for what you did (or didn’t)?

Invitation: does “Good job!” really foster what you think it’s fostering? I point you to an article by Jennifer Lehr: “Good Job!”  Please indulge in her words as I try to keep my post shorter! 

Let’s challenge popular thinking and make sure we’re actually saying what we mean to say!

For more reading, see:

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.)

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

It’s something we do automatically. It’s how we know where the floor is; or gauge how much to move our legs when going up and down stairs. If we didn’t have a chance as infants, or we have other challenges with balance, it’s part of why we feel clumsy or uncertain about our movements.

This mysterious activity? Measuring. Babies are masters!

We can see this baby feeling what she's doing. She's starting to push up to sitting. In the process, she's "measuring," or sensing where she is in space and in relation to the ground.

We can see this baby feeling what she’s doing. She’s starting to push up to sitting. In the process, she’s “measuring,” or sensing where she is in space and in relation to the ground.

When babies learn to move, they begin lying on the floor. Over time, development brings them up off the floor, from lifting head and chest to crawling to walking. Pushing off the earth comes before, and leads into, being able to reach into space. That is, measuring comes before, and leads into, freedom of movement and innate trust in our own movement abilities.

So what is measuring?

This brilliant design of the human nervous system gives infants a chance to “measure”—to experience their distance from the floor. It allows their brains to read gravity and know where they are in space.

Imagine this. You (your adult self) have been picked up by someone strong and set on your feet on a 5-inch-wide wall several feet above the ground. (And you happen not to be a gymnast or tight-rope walker.) What do you do? How do you feel? What happens to your breathing? Is this familiar? What’s your sense of heights and distance from the ground? Did you want to be put up here? Would you have been able to get here on your own? How will you get down? Do you know yourself and your abilities right this moment?

Imagine this. Perhaps you’re hiking and you have come upon this stone wall. You’re curious. You touch it, lean on it, and want to get on top of it to see the view or to get to the other side. You have desire, intention, motivation. You make attempts at climbing it, try a few things, discover what works, and make it to the top. How do you feel? What are you thinking about, or not? What’s your sense of heights and distance from the ground? How well do you know yourself and your abilities right this moment?

In the second scenario, you measured. YOU experienced the journey from the ground to the top of the wall. You know where you are in space. You got there yourself, and you’re likely to be able to get yourself off of it.

In the first scenario, you had no opportunity to measure. You were dependent on someone else to get you up there, and because you didn’t experience how to get up, you may also be dependent on someone else to get you down. You weren’t given a chance to know your own ability; rather, someone more powerful has done something to you. While it may be thrilling, you may also be apprehensive.

Watching your amazing baby: How do babies measure?

Watch for:

  • The nose-bob or nose-to-mouth. At the breast or on her tummy, you may see Baby bobbing her nose, then latching on with her mouth. If she’s holding something, you may see her bring it to her nose, then slide it down to her mouth. This is one form of measuring or orienting—setting herself up to know where something is and where she is and how to make the two meet.
  • From tummy, lifting head and pushing up on hands. Get on the floor with Baby and try it yourself too! Lying on the floor > pushing up > down to the floor > pushing up. Clock some time doing that, and you understand how to “be” at that distance off the floor. You know where you are in space.
  • Baby spots a toy and either pushes backwards on belly or belly-crawls forward. She has spotted what she wants and sets up her movement to attempt to get it. She gets feedback from the outcome—did her actions get her what she wanted? Please don’t move the toy, as she won’t get correct feedback about measuring what she had set herself up to do.

    Spotting what he wants, figuring out how to get it, trying it out, discovering the outcome: measuring.

    Spotting what he wants, figuring out how to get it, trying it out, discovering the outcome: measuring.

  • From sidelying, watch Baby push with her hands into sitting. Try this one too. Here I am lying on the floor; and feeling each moment of the journey up to sitting; back down, back up; measure, measure; ah, now my proprioceptive system (inner ear) knows where I am in space, and I know how to get back down.
  • Pulling up to standing—it’s all about measuring! Up, down, up, down. Reading distances, feeling gravity, knowing her own ability. “Down” may be falling or plopping at first, but she’s not afraid because she got herself up there. Her brain is reading this distance and what she needs to do to move within it.

The truth about propping

When we prop babies in sitting, standing, and walking before they are able to get into it and out of it by themselves, they don’t get this experience of knowing themselves and measuring. They become dependent on us to get them up higher and to get them down again. We put them into the situation of the first scenario above.

In a society so focused on achievement, allowing Baby her full time and space necessary to discover movement on her own takes trust! But we are designed to be able to do the next thing when we are ready.

Sometimes there are stressors that prevent babies from finding milestones. But in general, each milestone will happen by itself once all (ALL) previous and necessary preparations are in place.

It’s a common myth that we need to teach sitting, standing, and walking. Baby will benefit the most from finding these on her own. It’s also a myth that babies learn it by practicing it. She’ll learn because she did all the preparations and ends up in the new milestone.

Remember that Baby is a master at measuring and knowing her own abilities, and you can point this out to all the people who come along and say “your baby isn’t sitting yet?????”!

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.)

Holiday Overstimulation and Visiting Family

Hi folks,

With the holidays upon us, I’d like to share a post I wrote last December. I can’t “re-post,” so please follow this link:

Holiday Overstimulation–Let Baby Turn Away

The holidays and family gatherings seem to present decision-making opportunities to parents like no other time. How do you protect Baby’s space, needs, and your ways of relating while you’re around family members who may not understand or may feel differently?

Two examples: crying-in-arms and not prop-sitting. Both of these provide ample territory for potential ridicule. Think ahead about what choices you’ll be confronted with so you’re not caught off-guard. Protect Baby’s needs as much as you’re able to; and when you’re not, plan on some recuperation time with Baby later when you’re alone. Find fun ways to explain what’s happening, like, if Baby turns away from someone, “Oh look, isn’t that cool, he knows when he’s taken in as much as his brain can process, smart kiddo! He’ll look back at you in a minute.”

Have wonderful holidays enjoying Baby AND family!

There's his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera...

There’s his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera…