Wonders of Movement

I am excited to have this article appearing in Calgary's Attachment Parenting Village Newsletter published today.  

Babies and young children live primarily in the physical world. She (baby) is learning how to make her body her own and learning how she can be in her body. She is all about exploration-using and developing her senses to understand her world. To explore, she needs to move and develop physically.

I would like to share ways that we can help our babies and children to experience more movement and more opportunities for physical growth and development.

Opportunities to stretch and move. I believe that infants should spend the majority of their time either in a caregiver's arms/ carried, or in an unrestricted space with room to stretch and move. From a physical viewpoint, being carried gives baby a chance to develop stability muscles as a response to her caregiver's movements; to develop her balance and proprioception. What is our proprioception? It's how we perceive movement and coordinate ourselves in space. A carried baby gets to experience so much more of the world-more movement, more facial expressions of mom or dad, more connection, more interaction.

Time the baby spends restrained in a car seat or infant chair/ high chair (exersaucer, etc) should be limited to when necessary. For one, the baby is separated from the parent and misses out on a lot of interaction. But two, they are limited in what physical movement they can learn when they are confined.

Floor play. From the early days lots of space gives her a chance to release her close limbs, stretch her body, start holding her head, then twist and learn how to move in all directions. At this point, baby may not need a lot of external stimulation, as there's so much to learn about her own body. Can her toes reach to her mouth? Can she use her head to look all around her? How far do her hands reach?

Developing crawling skills. Giving baby a chance to move and stretch on her own, she will master rolling, pushing up, and eventually crawling. Crawling is a rich neurological skill-coordinating right and left brain, moving opposite arm and leg together, having the back muscles fire in a new pattern to help develop a side to side motion, opening up the environment to be explored. Crawling will give baby a new perspective as she's more off of the ground and can see new objects with a different depth of vision. This cross crawl and the resulting brain patterns will form the basis for more complex tasks later in life-walking, running, writing, passing objects left to right. Crawling helps to establish the curves of the back, upright posture and a healthy spine.

For parents that focus on when baby will walk, or insist that baby wants to walk instead of crawling, I still highly encourage lots of floor time. It is easier for baby to learn the cross crawl pattern at this stage, then to go back and learn it as a pre-teen or adult. If they want to walk, I would stop helping them. If they pull up, walk, and figure it out on their own, wonderful, but I feel that crawling is one skill baby must get at some point (even if they walk first and go back to learn how to crawl later.) If they really did skip that stage-what else can you do? How about swimming? How about you get on the floor and play horsey with them? puppies, cats? For parents with children who did not learn this basic skill earlier in life consider revisiting it and make sure they learn it later.

Being outside and experiencing nature. This encourages more active play-running, rolling, hiding, digging, all of which help to stimulate our child's senses and physical body.

Balance (vestibular), proprioception- Ensuring that your child has activities that stimulate all five senses is important, but I have a special place for activities that stimulate the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Examples are: Spinning in circles/ swing, balancing, sliding, walking on uneven surfaces, and crawling through small spaces (vestibular); pushing or pulling a wagon, kneading dough, dressing, stretching to the sky, water/ sand play (proprioceptive).

As a parent, it may be difficult to step back and stop ourselves from wanting to help or entertain. The joy and satisfaction that our child will get from the first time they wiggle over to a loved toy-how her eyes light up and her smile beams-does not compare to us handing over the toy. All at the right time of course. For the older toddler or pre-schooler, a parent digging in the dirt for the child contains nothing of the excitement of the child digging a tunnel to China and discovering the different colors in the soil and the mystery objects to find.

I want to see that every child has the full ability to move and have the brain coordinating and listening to all parts of her body and spine. As each part of the spine moves, the nerves receive stimulation and help to give more information to the limbs, organs, skin, everything! If areas don't move and connect, information is lost.

(Information from Playing is More than Just Fun K. Allen and Baby Crawling BR Diez, Pathways to Family Wellness).

Dr Josephene Juell is Owner/ Chiropractic at Elan Family Wellness Centre. She is certified with the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and a member of the Association for Reorganizational Healing Practitioners. She loves helping her families under care to discover and transform their health. She has one 4-year old daughter, Scarlett. For more information, visit www.elanfamilywellness.com.  


  1. Thank you for sharing! I love hearing similar opinions from professionals I trust (human nature I suppose). I think the gear world has taken over our little's ones world in some ways and these reminders are a great way to get back on track so they can develop to their full potential.


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