Babies’ motor development and physical coordination are better when they have more opportunity to engage in purposeful movement.
Of course, they need the physical coordination to be able to do many things in life. But it’s also important to understand that their social, emotional, and cognitive development are all enhanced by moving their bodies, using their hands, touching, and exploring their world.
Young children learn best by having lots of opportunity to engage in purposeful movement. They are driven by their own interests and their interest propels their learning and development.
It can be difficult for adults to recognize the value of young children moving about and touching things in their environment. It doesn’t always look to us like they’re developing important skills when they’re crawling toward something across the room. And, when we fail to realize they are actively working to become PEOPLE– with greater and greater human skills, we may interfere with much of that work.
When we interrupt, interfere, and thwart them in their work too much, we produce a child who is either terribly frustrated or very helpless and passive. Well, think how you would feel if your boss stood over your shoulder all day interfering with everything you tried to do, saying “Stop that! You’re doing that wrong! Here, let me do it.“
Before we interrupt our babies and toddlers at work, let’s take a step back and observe— notice all the learning that is going on. Say your baby sees her bottle, or the piano, or the kitty across the room, and crawls over to get near that interesting object. This is active, self-directed learning and development in action!
- The baby working to get to the kitty is developing eye-hand coordination and large muscle coordination. These are skills she will build on over the course of her life.
- When she touches the kitty, she is developing a rudimentary understanding of how the look of something relates to the feel of that thing. These skills become second nature, but they’re new and valuable to the baby.
- She is developing a basic sense of time and space. It’s difficult to have much of a sense of how time and space work before you can move yourself about. And, if we never develop a good sense of space and time, we will not be able to avoid bumping into people, we won’t be able to play sports or dance, to drive or get to work on time!
Later learning builds on early learning! Skills builds upon skill! These early understandings of the world that come from moving about and exploring the environment provide the foundation for all kinds of basic skills that provide the foundations for the skills of scientists, bartenders, mathematicians, musicians, builders, architects, and engineers. So, when your baby is working hard at something, don’t underestimate the importance of her work!
We want to encourage our baby’s movement toward interesting objects in the environment, and we want to encourage touch. When my baby is moving toward the kitty, she is really learning so much. When something looks furry like that, how does it feel? Myriad brain connections are being formed—and later understanding and knowledge of the world is built on this early learning.
Of course, there is an additional dynamic with the kitty. The kitty is a living being who can easily feel frightened and can be hurt by an excited, inexperienced baby. And the kitty has claws to defend itself and can hurt the baby, too, if it is frightened or hurt.
Living with pets can be very enriching for young children, but it is important to supervise them, to protect both from having a bad experience. We need to show the baby how to be gentle with the pets. Further, until the baby has enough coordination to keep from hurting and scaring the kitty and, potentially, getting scratched, we must oversee to ensure a safe situation for all. If we’re all going to live together in peace, we don’t want to have an environment in which we — humans or animals– fear being physically hurt by another family member.
Can you recall a time when you held yourself back from interfering– when you allowed your baby to move about, explore and touch, and were rewarded by seeing your baby’s drive to learn in action?
Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., www.bornforbrilliance.com 303-975-6103