Break-Dancing Baby: Self-Expression In Motion

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I know, “Break-Dancing Baby” sounds exploitive and contrived to me, too. This isn’t. It’s a genuine example of a baby freely expressing herself — an exuberant celebration of natural gross motor development and creative child-directed play. I’ve never seen a baby do anything quite like this.

Hi Janet,

My wife Kristin mentioned that you might enjoy this little video of our 11 month old Siena doing some unique play.

A couple of things personally fascinate me about this activity of hers. She didn’t pick it up from anywhere; it just came out of nowhere. She truly enjoys it in the moment even if she has to take brief dizzy breaks. And there seems to be no particular functional skill she’s working on, no objects or external stimulation cues inspire her to spontaneously do this. She just needs a flat surface and goes at it for the joy in and of itself. It looks like a very pure example of “play” in my eyes. She’s actually gotten much faster and tighter spins since this video was taken. 



Worth noting:

Honoring play

Siena freely expresses herself through play because her parents appreciate and respect her self-initiated activities. They allow her plenty of time each day to enjoy moving and playing independently. They don’t interrupt unnecessarily.


You might be thinking, “Yikes! She’s rolling around on cement pavement! Won’t she get hurt?” Interestingly, when we allow gross motor skills to develop naturally, provide plenty of time for babies to practice and don’t interfere, children can be trusted to know what they’re doing. Awareness is extremely high, both in terms of body awareness and awareness of the environment.

Not a milestone

Siena’s spinning won’t be found on any doctor’s checklist. This is no typical milestone — it’s one child’s unique discovery — and that’s the beauty of it. Children need our appreciation and encouragement for their creative choices, which for babies usually means the way they choose to move. When we focus on milestones we miss the magic.

I’m really glad that Joe and Kristin documented this, because chances are this stage will disappear, as most transitional moves do. Siena probably won’t be spinning once she starts walking, unless, of course, she does end up a break-dancer…and I wouldn’t put that past her.

Does your baby have unique moves? I’d love to hear about them…


Kristin, Joe and Siena, thanks so much for allowing me to share your video (and photo, above). You all ROCK!





Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. I LOVE this! I’m currently teaching a group of early childhood educators and we’re covering physical and cognitive development right now…I will be sharing this idea that just looking at milestones misses a great majority of development.

  2. You’re absolutely right that this baby’s physical awareness is great, you can tell she is aware of that grill and she doesn’t fling herself into it even though she was close. Also I’ve noticed babies who get lots of outdoor play barefoot have much more tolerance and tougher feet, and I’m sure the same could be said about hands if they did a lot of crawling outdoors. In any case, if she did go too far with her spinning on cement, some scraped up hands won’t kill a child 🙂

  3. Instead of crawling, my 8-month-old son scoots on his butt across the floor! It is adorable and hilarious… best of all, he figured out how to do it all by himself. We also took a video because we know it won’t last long. He looks so proud of himself whenever he does it!

  4. Hi Janet,
    I’m so happy to see this video. My daughter spun similarly at around 10.5 months, but only for one evening! She was so focused and into it, clearly enjoying herself that I assumed we would see more of it, but that was it! Luckily, her dad and I were together with her and we were both able to enjoy it and have the memory. It’s beautiful to see Sienna, and be reminded of that. Thank you too for the reminder to appreciate all those unique transitional movements and positions. (I still miss how she used to lounge on her side and play, carefully balancing on one pointed toe as she pivoted to reach for a desired object). It’s just amazing how beautifully a child moves when allowed to move freely and how gracefully and uniquely each develops.

    Also, I am happy to have this opportunity to thank you in writing for this blog! I discovered it about eight months ago, when my daughter was around 4 months old after I happened across an article on Magda on the internet and was so intrigued and relieved and excited by what I read that I devoured everything about RIE that I could get my hands on. I still do. I have followed your blog since and also spent glorious hours reading the archives. Its just so great to find information that makes such sense, makes being a parent easier and more fun and creates/allows a truly authentic relationship with your child.
    Thank you, Janet.
    All best, Julie

  5. Wow, I’m having a proud mama moment seeing Siena up on your blog! She inspires me every day with her persistence, innovation, and wonder. I could make a full length film with all the amazing snippets we’ve been lucky to catch. Babies just blow my mind! Your blog has been a huge encouragement to me when I get stares and comments from people saying “you let her crawl down there? but it’s so dirty!” 🙂 Thanks Janet!

    1. Kristin, no, thank you! Siena is inspiring parents and educators across the web thanks to you trusting me. And you should be very proud of the way you and Joe are raising her. When we focus on teaching, directing or playing with children rather than observing and appreciating what they do naturally, we can miss so much joy. Please feel free to send me more snippets! 🙂

      Kristin, I just discovered your beautiful site…so thanks for that, too!

  6. Christina Kessler says:

    This video is awesome. Yay free play!

    Babies are very aware of the their surroundings and capabilities when given the chance to experiment. I see this with the child I nanny for. If he is on soft carpet or the mat in his play area he throws himself around, rolling, pouncing, face-diving into pillows, etc. If he is on wood floor or some other hard surface he moves with more care. He even falls differently if he knows there is a mattress or pillow behind him instead of a hard floor (he doesn’t worry about protecting his head).

  7. Our son went through a phase of doing the splits at about ten months – whenever he sat down he would often do it by going into the splits. It got lots of comments from people who saw it! I never got a photo or video unfortunately though.

    1. Darn about the photo! I have seen a few other infants do that over the years…it’s extraordinary! But then the phase passes… Are you keeping a journal? That’s another good way to save the memories.

  8. I have been a Kindermusik educator for 30 years and it seems to me what Siena might be doing is stimulating her own vestibular system — the system responsible for balance and coordination — that gives a shot of calming serotonin to the brain. Or she might just be doing it to experience the rush of dizziness. You see this quite often in toddlers, where they spin and spin and then stop and feel the dizzy sensation. Whatever it is, it is a cool video! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Interesting, Michelle! Thank you for your feedback!

  9. My son does similar things! He is 13 months old, on the verge of walking, but still very into his ground play. He’s a speed crawler, twirling on the floor between sprints and has been know to create his own version of crop circles by spinning ing place on his bottom… This is often followed by joyous clapping on his part. It is such a joy to watch him explore his body and it’s great abilities! Thank you for sharing this video!

  10. Megan Sullivan says:

    Such sweet moves! I love that she’s doing her own combo of crawling, rolling, spinning, bear-walking. There’s so much going on there! Thank you for sharing.

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