“All the elements of the physiological process of motor development are based on the internal inclination and the own initiative of the child. A healthy infant or young child does not need an adult to directly interfere with his motor development either by teaching or by exercising, or by placing the child in certain positions, or by encouraging or demanding. Such interference is not only unnecessary, but it may be harmful as well.
However, not interfering in the process of development does not mean that we have no tasks in connection with creating the conditions necessary for the development. It is the task of the adult to provide everything that the children need for their good mood and well-being, their sense of security and their development. Only infants who feel good in their environment, who can count on their signals getting noticed and responded to, on their needs being fulfilled, and who have enough space and other material conditions available for free movement, will feel like moving around. ”
As important as it is to educate parents and professionals to respect the natural competencies of infants, it is equally necessary to educate them on the conditions essential for healthy motor development to unfold. Natural development requires an appropriate physical and emotional environment.
My colleague and friend Dorothy Marlen offers these suggestions to create an optimal physical environment for free movement:
- Enough space for free movement and exploration. A child will not crawl in a cramped space
- Avoiding containers such as support seats, ‘walkers’, ‘excersaucers’, or car seats while not in a moving vehicle.
- Placing simple play objects near the child on the floor (sitting a child in front of a treasure basket before she finds the sitting position herself can cause ‘stuckness’ and passivity)
- A hard, not-slippery floor and appropriate equipment for crawling through and over
- Clothes that allow free movement
- Diapers that are not bulky – some prevent infants from rolling or bending their knees
- A calm atmosphere
Yet, the essential component for healthy infant motor development is a respectful relationship with a “person of prominence”.
Trust and security are the foundations from which self-initiated movement can freely emerge.