Thursday, October 27, 2011

Montessori Movement: Crawling to Walking

Reading Carrie's posts the past two days makes me marvel at the magic of infancy to toddlerhood. I know I sound cheesy, but I mean it! It's simply amazing to watch a being go from a supine, completely-dependent position to an independent being who can walk. In the past eight months, Henry has gone from lying on his back watching mobiles to pulling himself up on anything and everything (including pumpkins!).

For me, nurturing his movement is not about helping him advance faster than the other babies or reach the important milestones early so I can brag on Facebook (although I do, from time to time). It's about creating the most optimal space for the development of his self.

At the end of this post, Carrie explains that the child who progresses from crawling to walking "will be filled with self-confidence and a new eagerness to explore [the] world!" That's exactly what I want for Henry. I want him to feel competent, confident, and excited to constantly explore, learn, and grow. As a mother, I feel incredibly empowered when I learn as much as I can about how to nurture his natural development by paying close attention to how he's changing and what he needs, preparing the environment to meet his needs, and then stepping back to provide the right balance between challenge and support.

Enough yammering from me! Thank your for this thought-provoking and informative post, Carrie!

Crawling is such an important step in both the physical and emotional development of children: as the baby crawls around, her self-confidence grows as she deepens her understanding that she is a capable human being. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get there. She delights in discovering her world, building knowledge as she touches and manipulates new objects. We delight in watching her.

To aid in the development of movement it is important to provide stimulus for movement, clothing that does not impede movement, and time for repetition and concentration. Saying this, we must also become aware of the importance of the internal development that is occurring. The development of the nervous system and the process of myelination greatly impact the child's development of coordinated movement. Myelin is the fatty substance that allows information to be transmitted through the axons of the neurons. Without sufficient myelin, the message from the brain instructing the limbs to move does not get properly transmitted. The rate of myelination depends on an individual child's development, which we are unable to influence other than to ensure she is receiving proper nutrition, with specific attention being paid to fats and protein.

The process of myelination starts in the brain and the centre of the body, and works its way to the toes and finger tips. If we look at a child's development of coordinated movement, we can observe the process of myelination in action. We see she is able to control her forearms by batting her arms, and then using her wrists by transferring objects between hands, and finally her fingers as she refines her pincer grip. We see she is able to control her thighs and knees to crawl, then her ankles to pull up and stand, and finally she is able to control her toes to be able to walk. If we follow the process of myelination and observe where the baby is at developmentally, we will know when to offer different objects to stimulate movement.

While the baby greatly enjoys crawling, she will also enjoy her newfound ability to sit independently and observe life from this upright position. At this stage, it is important to offer objects so she can use her two hands working together, such as connecting a wooden egg with a cup. It is around this time that she will begin to go through a period of establishing object permanence. Toys such as the box and tray, box and drawer, box with push balls, and box and drawer with knitted ball will not only help her build hand-eye coordination, but will also aid her intellectually as she learns that when something is not in sight, it still exists. It is during this time that it is also important to offer opportunities to refine wrist and finger coordination such as using rings and a peg. By starting with a set of wide rings she will become successful with limited wrist rotation. Once she has mastered these wide rings, we recommend offering smaller rings such as napkin rings to challenge her fingers to grasp in various ways. After this you can offer her traditional ring stackers with coloured discs according to a gradation with a smaller centre to further refine hand-eye coordination.

Soon the baby will want to explore more things than those at sitting and crawling level. She will begin reaching up and pulling herself up. Having low, heavy furniture such as a coffee table with rounded corners, an ottoman, sofa, armchair, window sill, cabinet door, or a secured shelf will provide opportunities for her to pull herself up. A low bar, similar to a ballet bar, provides the perfect opportunity for her to pull herself up, and is even more interesting if there are lovely pictures to look at or a window to look out.

From here, she will then begin cruising around the ottoman, along the bar or sofa, and taking a step back as she opens the cabinet door. During this time she is strengthening different muscles in her feet which will enable her to be able to walk forwards, backwards, and sideways, depending on the type of furniture onto which she is holding. It is important to try to give her as much time as possible without any shoes or socks so she can develop the muscles in her feet and gain a sense of balance without interference of shoes or socks. When necessary to provide coverings for her feet, such as when outdoors in the cold, we recommend soft-soled shoes so her feet can develop naturally.

While we are tempted to offer her our hands, we want her to gain a deep sense of self-satisfaction by carrying out these movements herself. She deepens her spatial awareness as she propels herself along these different furnishings and she will further develop her spatial awareness as we offer a walker wagon or other push walker. The walker wagon offers the baby the ability to pull up on the box and gain security with her ability to stand before she pushes off with her walker. Weighing down the box of the wagon or using it on grass will also slow down the movement of the walker before she is ready to take off with it.

As she becomes more confident and more coordinated with her movements, she will begin holding on with one hand. She will begin testing her balance and standing unaided. Before you know it, she will be taking her first steps and that gorgeous smile of delight will appear. She will be filled with self-confidence and a new eagerness to explore her world!

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Beginning Montessori Materials said...

To celebrate Carrie's blog posts, Beginning Montessori is going to offer a special gift of a free grasping beads (small or large) or a bell rattle with any order over $25 (before shipping).

If you'd like to take advantage of this offer, please mention Feeding the Soil and indicate your choice of free item in the "Notes to Seller." This offer is valid until October 31st.

Kate said...

Thank you so much for posting this, I am so interested in Montessori . This is so relevant to me, my daughter just started crawling and is quickly moving to walking!!! Your blog is so inspiring.

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