There’s a certain ubiquitous playground apparatus that has always given me the willies. Luckily, my children never seemed drawn to it. My nervousness may well have made them wary. Even if we’ve trained ourselves to remain calm, just observe and spot, our children know. Their radar is that good.
So when a mom from one of my parent-infant guidance classes (in which we strongly advise and encourage natural gross motor development) sent me a video of her 15 month old skillfully mastering this piece of equipment, my response after blinking several times was you’ve got to be kidding. This video is a brilliant illustration of the benefits of not teaching, restricting or otherwise interfering with the development of motor skills…
I’ve missed being at your class but R is really getting great at enjoying his independent play. He can walk to his room and play while we get ready for work sometimes. And can definitely occupy himself in the living room for a few minutes while I’m making breakfast.
Anyway, I know you know that R has always been very into climbing. Every Wednesday I take him to a park that has a good toddler size slide/jungle gym. Two weeks ago he tried climbing up this blue ladder and I spotted him all the way up. He took pause and I was able to just tell him where to put his hand and he made it all the way up on his own. I was so excited for him! And this week he tried it again a few times and I had Brad take a video I thought you might like to see.
Have a great week!
Note that this boy is not only physically fearless and able, he is also relaxed, focused, centered, aware and confident. He was encouraged to develop naturally, in accordance with his inborn timetable, which means…
1. His parents have basic trust in him as a competent, capable person. They observe his play sensitively (but not fearfully) and are nearby to spot (without touching him) when he’s attempting new skills.
2. He has had plenty of time each day to move freely, independently and unassisted since he was born, beginning on his back. Time spent in restrictive devices like car seats, strollers, carriers, infant seats, swings, jumpers and walkers has been minimal or not at all.
3. He hasn’t been taught or “helped” to sit, stand or walk. His parents and caregivers don’t position him, hold his hands to aid him up and down steps; place him on or take him down from furniture or other equipment. They trust that if he can climb up independently, he can also get down independently with spotting and a bit of vocal direction and encouragement (if he seems to need it).
4. Though carefully spotted, he’s given the space, time and freedom to discover his own way of doing things whenever possible. For example, babies usually choose to go down steps head first.
5. He’s allowed to choose play activities and repeat them as much as he likes. He’s trusted to be inner-directed — know exactly what he’s working on, demonstrate readiness by doing it. Whether what he chooses to do seems like a lot or a little, it’s always enough in his parents’ eyes.
“Every baby moves with more ease and efficiency if allowed to do it at his own time and in his own way, without our trying to teach him. A child who has always been allowed to move freely develops not only an agile body but also good judgment about what he can and cannot do.” – Magda Gerber
“It turns out nature has a plan, and it’s a good one. …gross motor abilities will unfold before our eyes- no adult help or intervention needed.” -Lisa Sunbury, No Tummy Time Necessary
Looking forward to hearing your impressions!
(Photo by Victor Bezrukov on Flickr)