While caring for my 10-month-old nephew, I was sitting nearby observing him play. He was manipulating a ball and it fell out of his hands and rolled under a chair with several rungs underneath. He looked at the ball which was resting on the back rung underneath the chair and tried to reach through and grab the ball but his arm was too short and he could not reach it. He looked over at me and I simply commented that his ball had rolled under the chair. He then turned back to the chair and tried reaching for it again from different angles but still no luck. After sitting there and looking at the ball for about 4-5 minutes, he then put his hand on one of the rungs underneath the chair and pulled the chair. This motion caused the ball to roll forward and bring it just close enough for him to reach in again and grab it! The look on his face of pride and achievement was priceless. I just smiled. He grabbed his ball, crawled away from the chair and continued to play.
When your baby is not being held or cared for, placing them on their back to move freely helps them discover and take control of their body.
“On her back, she has the maximum mobility and support. She is freer to move her arms, legs, and body,
and do what she can do on her own.” –Magda Gerber, Your Self-Confident Baby
How to Do It:
Whether baby is not yet moving on their own or has learned to crawl, we always put the baby into a “starting position” on their back. This is where babies feel safest and most confident.
Newborns can be placed on their back in their crib or in a playpen. For babies who are turning to their side or more, create a clean, firm and safe space on the floor where you can lay them down — on the floor itself (which gives great traction) or on a blanket, rug or lambskin.
Always supporting their neck and head, lay baby down slowly with their bottom touching the ground first, then gently letting the back and eventually the head rest on the ground.
If they are able to move, they will easily get into their favorite position on their own from this starting point.
Why we do it:
On their backs, babies can see and hear better, breathe with more ease, don’t feel constrained or tense, and are in the place of the most stability and opportunity. They can also see YOU, their carer.
Even for babies who can roll over or sit, laying on the back is a starting or resting position, so it allows the baby to decide when and how they want to move next, a way we show respect for what they can already do.
On their back moving freely, you are giving your baby the chance to independently exercise their primitive reflexes, which may appear abrupt or jerky, but help baby make the adjustment from womb to world. These reflexes are the body’s way of keeping the baby safe and building up the body that they will eventually control.
Allows baby to build up the complex web of large and small muscles, bones, ligaments and fascia throughout the body that will enable later gross motor skills that are both efficient and graceful. Gross motor milestones — like crawling, sitting up, or walking — are achieved by the development of a many, many smaller movements — what we sometimes call “micro-milestones.” Nature has given your baby a perfect plan for movement development that we can trust will allow your baby to move with strength, efficiency and grace.
As the baby’s gross motor skills develop, the myelination of the nervous system is allowed to develop in it’s natural pattern.
We give the infant plenty of opportunity for free movement and uninterrupted play. Instead of trying to teach babies how to move, we appreciate and admire how babies are moving on their own at this point in time, knowing that the movements they self-initiate keep them safe and on track.
There is some research suggesting that when these reflexes are “retained” because the baby has not been allowed to move freely, it can lead to things like hypersensitivity, picky eating, poor muscle tone, or poor manual dexterity.
On their back, a baby can more easily see YOU, their parent or carer, so you can make face to face connections — a building block of their early emotional health. They can also discover their hands and begin to observe the world around them.
Ties to Principles:
Respect is the basis of the Educaring® Approach.
Basic trust in the infant to be an initiator, an explorer, and self-learner.
Freedom to explore and interact with other infants.
“Passive toys make for active infants and active toys make passive infants.” — Madga Gerber
How to Do It:
What kinds of toys for babies should we choose?
Open-ended: they allow the infant to decide how to use them. Toys that are replicas of items limit the ways children use them. Choosing items that are versatile allows infants to create for themselves. They use their own ingenuity in using the materials, which can support these new ideas.
Safe: cleanable, too large to swallow or lodge in the nose or ear, breathable if they can cover the nose and mouth.
Passive: they allow the infant to act upon them rather than do for the infant.
Some ideas of simple objects:
Sturdy cotton or linen fabric square
Plastic containers of all sorts with lids
Metal juice can lids
Metal canning rings
Balls in a variety of shapes and sizes
Why we do it:
Increases attention span
Supports open-ended play
Supports creative thinking
Supports independent play
Supports executive function development
When choosing play objects embody the mantra “less is more.” The less the object does the more the infant and toddler can do. The less the toy specifies how it is to be used the more ingenuity the infant is allowed to bring to the time spent with the object.
Limiting the number of play objects is also important. Choosing too many reduces a child’s ability to focus on any one item for long periods of time. An abundance of objects means the child spends more time deciding what to play with and less time exploring the object in its many facets, capabilities and uses.
Simple objects, especially for toddlers, may come from the kitchen or recycling. You need not spend a lot of money on toys for your baby to stimulate learning. Simple objects build your baby’s capacity for creativity and attention.
Ties to Principles:
Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer and self learner.