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Movement and Infants
Besides the fact that they were built to do so, there is a
many reasons why babies need to move. the truth is,
although their mobility skills are extreme
limited compared to even those of a toddler, movement
experiences may be more important for infants than for
children of any other age group. And it’s not all about
or motor development.
Thanks to new insights in brain research, we now know that
early movement experiences are considered essential to the
neural stimulation (the “use-it-or-lose-it” principle).
involved in the preservation or pruning of brain cells ) needed
for healthy brain development.
Not long ago, neuroscientists believed that the structure of
human brain was genetically determined at birth. They now
be aware that although the main “circuits” are “pre-wired”
(for such functions as breathing and the heartbeat), the
experiences that fill the days of every child are what actually
determine the ultimate design of the brain and the nature and
extent of that child’s adult abilities.
A baby’s brain, it turns out, is full of brains
cells (neurons) at birth. (Actually, a one-pound fetus
already has 100 billion of them!) Over time, each of those
brain cells can form up to 15,000 connections
(synapses) with other brain cells. And it is during the
first three years of life which most of these connections are
done Synapses not used often enough are removed. On the
on the other hand, those synapses that were activated by
repeated early experiences tend to become permanent. And it
it seems that physical activity and play during early
childhood has an essential role in the sensory and physiological
a stimulus that results in more synapses.
Neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford, in her excellent book,
Smart Moves: Why Learning Isn’t All in Your Head, states:
“Physical movement, from earliest childhood and throughout our
lives, plays an important role in the creation of a nerve cell
networks that are actually the essence of learning.”
She then continues to tell how movement, because it
activates the neural wiring throughout the body, makes the
whole body — not just the brain — the instrument of
Gross and fine motor skills are learned through repetition
also — and because it is practiced and because
repetition sets patterns in the brain. Although it
it was not clearly determined that such early movements as
kicking, swinging the arms, and shaking on hands and knees are
“practice” for later, more advanced motor skills, is
believed that they were indeed part of a process of
neurological maturation necessary for motor control
skills In other words, these spontaneous actions are being prepared
the child – physically and neurologically – to later perform
more complex, voluntary actions.
Then, after the child performs voluntary actions (for
for example, rolling, crawling and walking), the circle
completes itself, because these skills provide both glucose (the
the main source of energy of the brain) and blood flow (“food”) to
the brain, probably increasing neuronal
According to Rebecca Anne Bailey and Elsie Carter Burton,
authors of The Dynamic Self: Activities to Enhance Infant
Development, whenever babies move any part of their body,
there is the potential for two different types of
learning to occur: learning to move and moving to learn.
However, recent evidence suggests that babies spend
more than 60 waking hours per week in matters – highchairs,
carriers, car seats, and the like!
The reasons for this trend are various. Part of the problem
is that more and more babies are being placed in childcare
centers where there may not be enough space to leave babies
wanders the floor. Or, due to the number of babies enrolled,
there may be little opportunity for caregivers to spend
one-on-one time with each baby. This means, in the morning,
a baby is typically fed, dressed, and then carried to the
car where she is put in a car seat. She is then
taken to the nursery, where she can spend a lot
of her time in crib or playground. At the end of the day,
she is picked up, put back in the car seat and carried
back into the house where she is fed, bathed and laid
Even when parents are at home with baby, they seem to be busier
than ever these days. Who has time to get on the floor and
sneak out with a kid? Furthermore, with today’s emphasis
being productive, playing with a baby would seem almost a
guilty pleasure! And if the baby seems happy and safe in a
a seat placed conveniently in front of the TV, in a box
hung in a doorway, or cruising around in a walker, so
what is the harm? It’s a win/win situation, right?
In fact, it is not. Being locked up (as one colleague says:
“container”) affects a baby’s personality; they need
to be held It can also have important consequences for the
motor – and cognitive – development of a child.
Other trends in today’s society having an impact on babies.
opportunities to move are the inclination to limit,
rather than encouraging, freedom of movement and the misguidance
belief that early academic instruction will result
gorgeous babies (In 1999, 770,000 copies of children’s software –
“lapware” – were sold!)
People are meant to move and play. The inclination – the
need – is fixed in them. Babies, in fact, spend almost
half their waking time – 40% – doing things like kicking,
jumping, and waving his arms. And while it can appear all
this activity is just to move, it is important
realize that a baby is never “just moving” or “just playing”.
Each action extends the child’s development in some way.
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