by Jane Coleman Cabildo, Director – Santa Fe Centers
Current research and a search of the literature have given Santa Fe Childcare a new way to look at the activity level of our infants and toddlers. We were pleased to welcome Eleanor Campbell, PT, to our Infant Toddler Center, on April 16th where she spoke to parents and staff about the importance of movement in the lives of our youngest children. The title of her presentation was “Babies Need to Move” and she had everyone fascinated with the information shared. She reviewed typical sensory/motor development, which is similar for all children – progress on a continuum which contributes to the many vital connections that are formed between lower and higher centers in the brain.
Infants must be allowed to move in order to gain muscle strength against gravity, to get up on hands and knees, to crawl and to eventually walk. The efficient and healthy development of the neurological and motor system is dependent on freedom of movement of infants as well as the continued encouragement of active play for the older children. In this age of car seats, infant seats, exersaucers, infant swings, and jolly jumpers, we need to critically look at whether we are providing enough opportunity to allow our children to be on the floor, to be in an environment where they can freely move and help to develop all their senses. We can prevent some of the developmental, learning and emotional challenges our children face, as well as plagiocephaly (abnormal head shape) in infants or torticollis (asymmetrical neck position) by allowing our infants to spend most of their awake time on the floor or in an environment that allows free movement. Less time in infant seats/carriers, swings or other restrictive devices which inhibit free movement is the key.
We are all well aware of our five senses and through growth and exposure these are well stimulated — but how many are aware of the proprioceptive sense and the vestibular sense? The proprioceptive sense helps us to know where our body is in space, how much force is needed for postural control against gravity and for movement. The vestibular system helps us to know where our head is positioned in space and to comprehend movement. These systems work together to develop motor control, balance and equilibrium. A baby’s first playground is the floor and here is where learning about the body and the environment is gained. Full development of movement, body awareness, and balance is a gradual process that is not complete until at least 7 years of age and beyond. Allowing our older children more free outside time and less regimented classes will help to not only develop the motor and neurologic system but will help with social and emotional growth and stress release.
Here at Santa Fe, we work hard to provide such an environment, which helps to develop all the senses so important for proper neurological and motor growth.