Freedom of Movement for Babies - Part 1
“My baby won’t sit still at all!”
“It’s hard to make my baby sit in 1 place for 2 minutes!”
Do these phrases ring a bell?
These were the exact words I’ve heard from several parents of children as young as 6 months. In this blog post, I’m going to share all about movement in baby’s first year.
Remember those little kicks and the excitement it brought as expectant parents? 🥰 Movement begins right in the womb, in fact even before moms can feel those flutters. Movement is a tangible sign of life; it is fundamental to every child’s development.
Babies and toddlers cannot sit still not because of inattentiveness to what we say, but because it is their fundamental need to move.
To me, a baby’s first year is a fascinating phase to observe as the child acquires several forms of movement in a short time span – wiggling, rolling, scooting, sitting, crawling, creeping, pulling up, standing, cruising and finally taking those big steps to walk. Every baby has an inner force that drives them to move.
Freedom of movement is one of the core principles of Montessori philosophy. A 0 - 3 year old child needs the time and space to move freely for their physical and mental development. The more these young children move, the more gross motor coordination, fine motor precision, balance, spatial awareness they develop. It is through movement that they learn about their body and the environment.
In fact, sitting still is an outcome of all the movement that happens early on. ❤️
As Dr. Montessori said in The Absorbent Mind,
"… when we think of intellectual activity, we always imagine people sitting still, motionless. But mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it…"
Instead of insisting young children to sit still, let us provide them with opportunities to move and explore safely. As prepared adults, we also need to be aware of obstacles that hinder the baby’s freedom of movement.
When my husband and I walked down the aisles of the baby stores to prepare for LO’s arrival, we felt only overwhelmed with the plethora of fancy baby gears. And if they were labeled as sophisticated devices that entertained babies with all the bling bling lights and boom boom sounds, we just fled from the place. Let’s talk about those another day. In this post I’m going to share about one of the main obstacles for a baby’s natural movement – baby containment devices. When I say a baby, I’m referring to a child from birth to up until they’re ready to walk.
Examples of baby containment devices include but not limited to playpens, bouncers, exersaucer, baby entertainment centers, jumpers, walkers. As the name implies, these devices contain / restrict the movement of the child. And these are marketed to help busy parents get their work done, while keeping the baby happy. Let’s take a closer look at 3 such devices.
🔹A bouncer may provide the feeling of jumping before the baby is developmentally ready. It may be entertaining for the baby to experience the feeling, and equally entertaining for the adult to see the baby jumping and smiling. But does it support a baby’s natural movement?
🔹Playpens confine baby’s movement to a very small space that a baby can explore up to 5 feet in any given direction. While it provides a safe environment, does it allow the baby to move freely?
🔹Baby entertainment centers are stationary devices in which the child is surrounded by several toys for the baby to engage with, that “supposedly” help in their development. What is development for babies without free movement?
Let’s take a moment to look at the number of such baby equipment around us and ask ourselves if it is really an aid for natural movement to the baby or is it a matter of convenience to adults. 😊 It’s best to avoid them, but if that’s not possible, look for ways to limit the time babies spend in these devices.
Our neighbor was surprised that we didn’t have any of these “essential” devices at home and with all good intentions was anxious to know how we manage our little one. In my next post, I'll share about another major obstacle for the child's movement and how to prepare the environment for babies to encourage freedom of movement.