Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Amazing Babies

Here is a good article on the importance of movement and brain development. It includes some technical language, but basically the article stresses the importance that all babies need to spend time engaged in natural movement, including spending time on their tummies. Tummy Time for babies is something that these days is commonly neglected or forgotten. All too often babies are in placed in infant seats while they are in their homes. While they may look comfortable and cozy, babies need time on the floor, in someones arms and exploring their world.

Our Amazing Babies Movement and the Developing Brain by Catherine Burns
Our babies are little miracles of creation that we get to witness with the delightful developments of the first year. Baby's capacities build from early nursing and gazing to avid exploration and cruising out in the world. The brain triples in size by the end of the first year. A little being comes shining though, and shows us the mystery of this new little person. It all happens through movement and relationship.
Brain Development Through Movement
Fascinating research inform us that the baby's brain develops through natural movements of nursing, tummy time, rolling, creeping and crawling. Baby's most complex senses, vision and hearing, are also organized by doing the same movements.
Developmental movements organize and structure the brain for cognition, attention asset (vs. attention deficit) and emotional regulation, the ability to modulate between calm and excited states. The earliest learning takes place through movement explorations. Baby's natural movements also provide a baseline of core strength and good coordination.    
Tummy Time
During tummy time baby builds his earliest measuring skills. Moving his head up and down, bopping himself with his hand and turning in response to voices, baby gradually builds a map of his visual and auditory fields. While on the tummy, baby's field of sensory experience matches his field of action - both small. This creates a properly matched learning environment of sensory-motor balance. Over time, baby comes up to rock back and forth on hands and knees, developing near to far vision.   School age children need this visual organization for switching between blackboard and their deskwork.
Emotional regulation is supported during tummy time as the prone position elicits the parasympathetic while active tummy time play engages the sympathetic nervous system.  
Many invisible senses of internal movement and the vestibular sense of gravity are elicited through reflexive micro-movements while on the tummy. These internal senses develop sense of connection within oneself and feeling of support from the earth. Both of these are underneath a stable sense of self.
Distress in Tummy Time
Many babies who have not spent much time on their tummy may fuss or even cry in distress when placed there.   A baby may experience mild to profound vestibular disorientation if he haven't spent time on his tummy.   Vestibular disorientation can lead to anxiety, hyperactivity and many behavior problems, as the child does not have a secure sense of self and of support.
Tummy time provides baby with the first opportunity for mastery learning. Tummy time is the foundation for all of the following developmental movements, including rolling, creeping and crawling. Many school age children with learning challenges skipped these early movements.
Distress in tummy time can be resolved through simple handling practices and daily play activities.
Here is the complete link to the web site:http://www.themlrc.org/enewsletter/feb2008/0108movement.htm

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