Freedom of Movement for Babies - Part 2
Freedom of movement is one of the key tenants to foster independence in children and is applicable to babies as well. It is through movement that babies develop core muscles that facilitate rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing. It also provides the opportunity to explore their hands and feet and develop their senses as they begin to explore their environment.
I’ve heard from parents that their baby is not meeting developmental milestones for that month, most of which are in regard to movement. Firstly these milestones alone are not a perfect measure of a child’s development; they are rather a guide. And each child has their own developmental timeline. In this post I wanted to address one of the obstacles for a child’s freedom of movement – the adult – and also provide pointers on how to encourage freedom of movement.
No adult would ever want to be an obstacle for their child’s development. Everything that we do is done only with the best of our intentions for the child. When I say adult, I mean parents, grandparents, caregivers or anyone working with the child. But we’re not often aware that we could be an impediment too. Let me break it further break it down.
From birth until almost the entire first year, a baby’s head is bigger than their chest. It takes a lot of effort and time for the child to develop strength and coordination to lift up their head, extend their arms and legs which in turn facilitates a whole range of movement in their first year – rolling over, sitting, crawling, creeping, pulling up, standing and walking independently.
Does any of these below behaviors sound familiar?
Propping up a few weeks old baby when they’re not developmentally ready
Making the baby to sit up when they’ve not yet developed sufficient core strength
Pulling up a baby to stand when their legs are still shaky
Placing the baby in a walker in a not-so-favorable position with the intention to help them walk
Making the baby to walk in an unnatural way by holding the child’s hands high above their head
While it might be delightful to help a baby sit / pull up / walk before they’re developmentally ready, doing these “seemingly” helpful actions quite frequently only affects a child’s natural ability to find balance, experience self-chosen struggles, discover for themselves what they can do and cannot do; babies are self-learners. ❤
How to encourage freedom of movement
1. A prepared environment that keeps evolving
The prepared environment is the one that supports the developmental needs of the baby and it should keep evolving. For a newborn, the movement area has a soft mat where the baby can be placed on their back and has space to move their arms and legs. A mirror is placed close to the mat to see themselves, their movements and the environment. A simple mobile is hung for visual stimulation. For a child who’s starting to stand, a pull up bar can be installed to practice standing safely.
2. Create a yes space to explore
Babies need the least restrictive environment possible to encourage freedom of movement. Instead of letting the babies stay in baby containing devices, it is important that we provide as much open space as possible and let them explore in a safe way. For a baby who’s crawling, it’s important to cover electrical sockets at their level. For a child who’s pulling up to stand, any wobbly furniture needs to be removed from the environment and cupboards need to be secured to the walls. In this IGTV live video, I talk about preparing the environment and creating yes space for young children.
3. Helpful props
Simple props can be used to encourage movement. For a baby who’s learning to crawl, the classic rolling cylinder rattle can be placed just a few inches away from the baby which motivates them to push forward to reach out to them. For a baby who’s cruising along, a push wagon is helpful to practice walking.
4. Time and patience
It takes time for the child to master all the movements. While it might be tempting for parents to put the object into the child’s hand when they’re struggling to reach or pulling the child up on their feet to help them walk, it is important that we provide time and be patient for the child to make the effort. It is through their own effort that child will learn quickly and which also helps them gain confidence.
The urge to help the child is natural for any adult. But before substituting ourselves for the child,
Let’s pause and take a step back.
Let’s respect the child and their inner guide.
Let’s accept and allow the unknown to unfold in front of our eyes ❤