We are moving from the computer chair to our car… We’d rather make another round to find a closer parking spot. We are taking the elevator without a second thought (Does anyone know where the staircase can be found?
We improve our residence by moving to a rural area and find out we cannot manage without a car, then suddenly we realize that our daily walk sums up to a short walk with the dog…
The human body needs movement; however, the modern lifestyle is not suited for that basic need of us. We feel so good after a movement class. We feel like we got back to ourselves, as if we returned home. Have you noticed that we are walking back and forth during a phone conversation? This is not coincidental…the movement helps the fluency of the thought and speech.
Have you ever watched happy children? They jump, run, wave their hands, shout with emotion. Babies also express themselves through physical gestures, sounds, and facial expressions. They reach out their hands and later point towards what they want. They learn how to roll, crawl and walk to satisfy their curiosity…to move, reach, explore and then find out a new goal at a different place and learn again
So how can we maintain this wonderful natural connection between movement and learning in our children’s lives, when our current lifestyle prevents us from being more active. The following lines convey insights I developed during my working years and are dedicated with love to the parents and babies making the way…
When I meet pregnant couples and offer them to learn how to handle their newborn the day after the labor, the response is usually: “It will be alright, we’ll go through the labor first and then we’ll see…” “The day after” seems to be very distant and all the resources are concentrated in the unknown the labor unfolds. Although we hear along the way advice from experienced parents, we wish to believe that
for us things will be different and to live the reality we created in our imagination in our own way, at our own time. Have we mentioned baby steps yet? So, what does your baby really need?
A wide and comfortable mattress
What you and your baby really need is to put a mattress during the day in the living room or in any other convenient place at the house. You can put the baby on the mattress and lie down beside her*, while she needs you close to her, put her on your chest so she could lift her head and look at you. The mattress is the movement space. The baby feels the available opportunities and reacts by spreading
out her body parts. She purrs and mumbles, moves her head and eyes while pressing her body parts to the mattress and creating a movement of lifting and pushing.
“When one of the body parts is pressed, the baby feels the weight of the pressed body part and the pressure goes through the skin, the muscles, the tendons, and the bones into the peripheral nervous system and to the brain” (Dr. Chava Shelhav). This is how the baby learns to move outside of the womb, in the field of gravity. When the baby needs a defined space, you can use a bean bag chair, which receives the shape of the body, allowing her to stay by herself. You can talk to her from a distance when she is asking for attention, and when it’s not enough, you can move her on the bean bag chair or the mattress to the place where you are at.
At the crawling stage, the mattress is a secure domain with boundaries that need to be broken! Explore a world of sensations and return happily home. When the baby grows up and becomes a toddler and later a child, the mattress is a safe domain allowing her to fall down during more wild games, which are very important for development and for the need in movement. Just like young lions learn about life while rustling with each other as a game. A baby needs a floor to develop, and the mattress is a supporting floor. As time passes, it is important to change the setting by replacing the mattress with a carpet, a foam surface, yoga mattress and more, to create variety. This way the baby gets to experience different surface hardness scales, enabling her to perform various movements.
No need to undress the baby in order to touch her
“I want to give her a massage, but it’s too cold, and I don’t get to it,” says in frustration a mother who joined the developmental group. “There is no need to undress in order to touch,” I say, and teach how to touch the baby in a profound way that penetrates the clothes, enabling to adjust the muscle tone, release the tension in the joints and arouse the inner attention and the communication with the parent. Touch is an essential human need. Not only the weather could prevent you from giving an oil massage to your baby, but some babies dislike being naked, especially during the first months of their lives. There’s no need to give up on touch. It’s possible to learn new ways. Dr. Chava Shelhav writes in her book “First Steps in Space”: Tapping gently but clearly on the baby’s body, creates relaxation and develops awareness to the body boundaries. Don’t hesitate to name each body part. The combination of speech and touch creates a connection in the brain in between the senses channels, which provides the baby with its body image. You’ve got to believe that the baby is learning”. And indeed, she is learning. Parents who arrived at personal meetings at my clinic with an agitated infant who strengthens and arches his body wrote me the following: “The unbelievable has happened! We managed to put him to sleep by tapping and singing. We are stunned and are not sure this is real…”.
Physiological Baby Carriers
There’s nothing like a baby carrier to answer the primary need in contact and movement. Babywearing is one of the best ways to keep your baby close to you and experience life like you use to do. Within the craziness of the first months, this could be a real lifesaver.
In the first months, it’s important to make sure to use a carrier that adjusts itself to baby’s natural physiological flexion position and doesn’t straighten it. The carrier should be flexible and soft to dissipate the forces of walking on the baby’s bones. It would be best if the carrier would allow babywearing in a cradle position. You can vary in a vertical position that keeps the hips safe at all times. The position of
safety for a baby’s hips is abduction (spread out) and flexion (knees and hips bent in a natural flexion position). During the first three months it is better to keep the baby’s legs inside the carrier. Later, when your baby sits by herself, you can carry her on your back as well. Here too it’s important that the legs would be bent so that the back will be round, and the head will not be tilted backward. There are many different types of baby carriers available today on the market, where you can find the best one that suits you and your baby’s developmental needs.
Movement Games that Develop Balance, Orientation, and Transitions
Do you recall that we mentioned our static lifestyle? How much do we really provide our children with an environment that encourages movement? I believe it already begins in infancy. As soon as you bring touch and movement into the parent-child relationship, this language becomes an integral part of the self, the relationship, and everyday life. We want our baby to know how to fall, so in the long run, she will not be afraid of falling. Fear paralyzes. The downfall teaches how to get up and later on to understand that I might have fallen down, but the sky hasn’t… It’s possible to learn how to fall down. To lean on your hands, and to allow the body to bend and roll.
This happens through experience and through the supportive reaction of us parents that don’t show panic or anger.
The freedom to move independently is important not only for the development of the body but also for the development of the child’s personality, and her mental health. “You can train the balance system from infancy,” says Prof. Mati Mintz. “The modern parenthood is not
aware of it.” “It’s important for children to play games that include movement, bending, lifting, and change in position; however, this happens less and less… There is danger from falling down almost everywhere in the playground; however, this is essential as the child needs each time to reach a little bit beyond his ability and to overcome fear”. Do you know what the best playground is? Us, the parents. The way we use our body to lift the baby up and down, to roll over with her from side to side and to gradually sit down, to get down to the floor with her in a spiral motion, to let her climb on us and other similar ideas that will develop from the mutual movement. I see a mother, who just a moment ago shared with the group members her difficult times during the week, rolling over with her baby and laughing joyfully “I didn’t know you could do such things with babies and have so much fun…” she says.
In his poem “My second childhood,” speaks Ehud Manor on the parenthood that calls to experience childhood once more. Therefore, while you’re at home, with your infant or toddler, remind yourself to play with her through movement and to enjoy it just like kids do. By the way, it’s okay and even recommended to do the same at the playground. If you enjoy company, you can join a Child’Space
group of parents and babies/toddlers in your neighborhood. I hope these lines made you curious enough to go home and try. You will be surprised to find out your child is not the only one who is having fun…
By Ortal Goldshmid
Ortal has over 12 years of experience working with families and children. She is a teacher and a therapist of the “Child’Space” and the Feldenkrais methods. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and trains professionals worldwide in the early childhood development field. Ortal guides groups of parents and infants, works as a development consultant in kindergartens and owns a clinic for developmental therapy for infants and children with delays and special needs. *Whenever a gender-specific term is used, it should be understood as referring to both genders.