Babies & Toddlers Information

Movement and Infants


Besides the fact that they were built to do so, there are a great many reasons why infants need to move. The truth is, even though their movement capabilities are extremely limited when compared with 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 motor development either.

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 keeping or pruning of brain cells ) needed for healthy brain development.

Not long ago, neuroscientists believed that the structure of a human brain was genetically determined at birth. They now realize that although the main "circuits" are "prewired" (for such functions as breathing and the heartbeat), the experiences that fill each child's days are what actually determine the brain's ultimate design and the nature and extent of that child's adult capabilities.

An infant's brain, it turns out, is chock-full of brain cells (neurons) at birth. (In fact, a one-pound fetus already has 100 billion of them!) Over time, each of these brain cells can form as many as 15,000 connections (synapses) with other brain cells. And it is during the first three years of life that most of these connections are made. Synapses not used often enough are eliminated. On the other hand, those synapses that have been activated by repeated early experiences tend to become permanent. And it appears that physical activity and play during early childhood have a vital role in the sensory and physiological stimulation that results in more synapses.

Neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford, in her excellent book, Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, states: "Physical movement, from earliest infancy and throughout our lives, plays an important role in the creation of nerve cell networks which are actually the essence of learning."

She then goes on to relate how movement, because it activates the neural wiring throughout the body, makes the entire body - not just the brain - the instrument of learning.

Gross and fine motor skills are learned through repetition as well - both by virtue of being practiced and because repetition lays down patterns in the brain. Although it hasn't been clearly determined that such early movements as kicking, waving the arms, and rocking on hands and knees are "practice" for later, more advanced motor skills, it's believed that they are indeed part of a process of neurological maturation needed for the control of motor skills. In other words, these spontaneous actions prepare the child - physically and neurologically - to later perform more complex, voluntary actions.

Then, once the child is performing voluntary actions (for example, rolling over, creeping, and walking), the circle completes itself, as these skills provide both glucose (the brain's primary source of energy) and blood flow ("food") to the brain, in all likelihood increasing neuronal connections.

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 bodies, there exists the potential for two different kinds of learning to occur: learning to move and moving to learn.

Still, recent evidence indicates that infants are spending upward of 60 waking hours a week in things - high chairs, carriers, car seats, and the like!

The reasons for this trend are varied. Part of the problem is that more and more infants are being placed in childcare centers, where there may not be enough space to let babies roam the floor. Or, given the number of infants enrolled, there may be little opportunity for caregivers to spend one-on-one time with each baby. This means, in the morning, an infant is typically fed, dressed, and then carried to the automobile, where she's placed in a car seat. She's then carried into the childcare center, where she may spend much of her time in a crib or playpen. At the end of the day, she's picked up, placed again into the car seat, and carried back into the house, where she's fed, bathed, and put to bed.

Even when parents are home with baby, they seem to be busier than ever these days. Who has time to get on the floor and creep around with a child? Besides, with today's emphasis on being productive, playing with a baby would seem almost a guilty pleasure! And if the baby seems happy and safe in a seat placed conveniently in front of the TV, in a bouncer hung in a doorway, or cruising about in a walker, then what's the harm? It's a win/win situation, isn't it?

In fact, it isn't. Being confined (as one colleague says: "containerized") affects a baby's personality; they need to be held. It may also have serious consequences for the child's motor - and cognitive - development.

Other trends in today's society having an impact on infants' opportunities to move are the inclination to restrict, rather than encourage, freedom of movement and the misguided belief that early academic instruction will result in superbabies. (In 1999, 770,000 copies of infant software - "lapware" - were sold!)

Humans are meant to move and play. The inclination - the need - is hardwired into them. Babies, in fact, spend nearly half of their waking time - 40% - doing things like kicking, bouncing, and waving their arms. And while it may appear all this activity is just for the sake of moving, it's important to realize a baby is never "just moving" or "just playing." Every action extends the child's development in some way.

Rae Pica is a children's physical activity specialist and author of Your Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). Rae speaks to parent and education groups throughout North America. Visit her and read more articles at http://www.movingandlearning.com.


MORE RESOURCES:
This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news


Today.com

The best shoes for toddlers according to pediatricians
Today.com
Looking for a pair of shoes for toddlers? When little ones start cruising along and taking many (expected) spills along the way, the right footwear matters. First, know that toddlers are kids between one and three years old. This is a huge age range in ...



KTRK-TV

Meteorologist wears toddler son on her back during forecast
KTRK-TV
... a double-hammock for "International Baby-Wearing Week." The week promotes the benefits of carrying a child on you, saying babies thrive off close touch. Report a Typo. Related Topics: familyu.s. & worldparentingbabiestoddlerforecastMinnesota. SHARE:.
Q & A with Babywearing Meteorologist Susie Martin - PraedictixPraedictix

all 23 news articles »


Sun.Star

Wanted: Babies
Sun.Star
THE SM Store brings back the Casting Call for Babies–Toddler Edition. One may head on to one's favorite SM Supermalls and visit the Casting Call booth at the SM Store to register. Joining is easy. The SM Babies Casting Call is open to girls and boys ...



Fatherly

How Presidents of the United States' Chris Ballew Became Caspar Babypants
Fatherly
Caspar Babypants Children's Music Chris Ballew music Music For Babies Toddler. More From Play. Movies Nagini Was a Decoy for the Real Harry Potter Easter Egg in 'Crimes of Grindelwald' · Books William Goldman's 'The Princess Bride' Celebrates a Male ...



Benefits of word repetition to infants
Science Daily
... of Maryland; Summary: New research suggests that young infants benefit from hearing words repeated by their parents. With this knowledge, parents may make conscious communication choices that could pay off in their babies' toddler years and beyond.



Clearfield Progress

Clearfield Pool will open June 2
Clearfield Progress
As summer draws near, many wonderful memories emerge about hot summer days spent at the Clearfield Community Pool. The pool may not yet be opened for the season, but plenty of work has already gone into making this summer another unforgettable ...



NEWS.com.au

Toddler wakes after doctors suggest turning off life support
NEWS.com.au
A FRENCH child has woken from a medically-induced coma 10 days after doctors proposed turning off her life support. Marwa, aged one, was placed in a coma in September after suffering a dangerous viral infection. She was able to move and recognise her ...

and more »


GANT News

Clearfield Community Pool Set to Open on June 2
GANT News
Register for swim lessons or water babies/toddler swim at the front gate of the pool. Clearfield Community Pool Association Officers include Brian Marshall, president; Kenneth Bodle, vice president; Mary Walker, secretary; and Becky Johnson, treasurer.



Gant Daily

Clearfield Community Pool Set to Open June 3
Gant Daily
Register for swim lessons or water babies/toddler swim will be at the front gate of the pool. Clearfield Community Pool Association officers include Brian Marshall, president; Kenneth Bodle, vice president; Mary Walker, secretary and Becky Johnson ...

and more »


NEWS.com.au

Toddler dies after Canadian anti-vaxxer parents treat son with home remedies, maple syrup, ginger root
NEWS.com.au
A COUPLE whose son died of meningitis tried curing the 19-month-old with maple syrup instead of taking him to a doctor, a jury heard on Monday. David and Collet Stephan are also accused of giving their son homemade remedies such as apple cider ...

and more »

Google News

home | site map
© 2006