Encourage Movement - Grow healthy. Grow happy.

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Encourage Movement

By Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide

Your baby’s healthy expressions include spontaneous movements, vocalizations, smiles, and laughter; these are the ways she communicates her vibrant being. Your conscious encouragement of movement, play, and exercise promotes her physical health, as well as her emotional and mental growth and development. At all ages, stretching exercises can increase her circulation, relax tension, and develop her muscle tone. It may be easy to forget that your baby needs exercise when she is an infant, because she cannot crawl or walk on her own. However, she can benefit from a few minutes of daily exercises, such as stretching and tummy time.

As she grows, activities, such as crawling, walking, running, swimming, and dancing, provide cardiovascular and bone strength, in addition to invigorating circulation and developing muscles. Body movements stimulate your baby’s brain development and release endorphins to create a positive emotional outlook. Babies and children naturally move when they are awake because they are full of energy, and they need the opportunity to exercise and discharge excess energy every day.

Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, an occupational and movement therapist, has developed a theory of movement stages in which each step builds on the previous one. In Linda Hartley’s Wisdom of the Body Moving: An Introduction to Body-Mind Centering, a book about Cohen’s theory, Hartley writes, “Development occurs in overlapping waves, with each stage containing elements of all others. Because each previous stage underlies and supports each successive stage, any skipping, interrupting, or failing to complete a stage of development can lead to alignment and movement problems, imbalances within body systems, and problems in perception, sequencing, organization, memory, and creativity.” Therefore, if a movement pattern is not expressed, the child’s development process may be incomplete and unstable.

People often view the body and the brain as separate and disconnected. According to Cohen, however, the body and the brain communicate when the brain sends messages to muscles to make a movement or when muscles stimulate the brain through movement. In this way, physical movement connects to and supports your baby’s brain development. Different areas of the brain correlate to physical, visual, auditory, tactile, manual, and linguistic competencies. As your baby goes through the sequence of movements below, her brain establishes a foundation that builds layer upon layer. As with a building, each block is essential to establish a solid base for the blocks above it.

Your baby naturally develops in the following order:

  • She learns to lift her head
  • She learns to sit up
  • She learns to roll over
  • She learns to creep
  • She learns to crawl
  • She learns to stand and then walk

If you help your baby stand or walk before she is ready, even though she may be able to do it, you are teaching her that she cannot do it by herself, and that she needs your help to achieve it. is deprives her of the satisfaction of pulling herself up onto her own two feet.

As a parent, in your enthusiasm about your child’s growth and development, you may encourage her to skip movement stages—to walk before crawling, for example. It may be challenging to step back, put yourself in your child’s position, and observe her energy as she moves on her own. Imagine that you are watching a plant grow at fast-forward speed. Like the plant, your baby moves on her own, through internal energy that expresses nature’s intelligence. This intelligence is integrated throughout her physical body, her emotions, and her neurological makeup. She intuitively knows how to move and develop. If she has a safe, supportive, encouraging environment in which to move freely, then she can discover the satisfaction of her own initiative, grow naturally, and experience the gratification of her accomplishments.

Your child’s body is designed to move. Movement—of body systems, organs, and cells—is a sign of life. Her body’s movement transforms and rejuvenates her in cycles of sleep and rest. Physical movement promotes the production of new brain cells. Activities, such as watching television and playing computer games, are the beginnings of a sedentary lifestyle, and they undermine your child’s opportunity to participate in the world and to learn with her whole being.

At Muso Yochien (Dream Window Kindergarten) in Japan, I worked with Hideko Yoshida to incorporate movement activities with music and songs in order to help students learn English words. Hideko believed that singing and movement help integrate learning. You can help your baby get in touch with her body through massage, through different kinds of movement and exercise, and through pointing out different parts of her body. To bring awareness to different areas of your baby’s body, act out this song by touching the parts of your baby’s body:

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

♪ Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.

Eyes and ears, and mouth and nose. 

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.

Take some time every day to provide the opportunity for your child to move, both indoors and outdoors. She especially needs a safe space to move on her own accord—to roll over, to crawl, and to walk. In your home, you can make a small, safe space by installing safety gates and removing breakable and dangerous objects. An outdoor park or nature reserve can offer a safe environment for her to roam freely.

When your child moves actively from her own initiative, she develops confidence, will, and judgment. Passive movement happens when an outside force initiates the movement for your child, without voluntary action on her part. For example, if you pick her up quickly or unexpectedly, this action can surprise her and diminish her sense of power.

As a parent, you often need to set limits and parameters to ensure the safety of your baby. However, when you encourage your child to move, to play games, or to dance, try to follow her lead, and support her to move actively rather than passively. When you inspire and guide, instead of managing or forcing, she can discover her own life force and learn to follow it. You can incorporate movement into daily activities while you cook and clean by turning on some fun music and getting your child involved in helping. You may want to dance freely together with or without music.

Swimming is an aerobic exercise, as well as a stretching and muscle-building one. When your baby is born, she has a natural memory of how to swim, and if she does not use that ability, she will forget it over time and need to relearn it. It is easier to teach a one-year-old to swim than it is to teach a four-year-old. An early introduction to swimming provides a positive movement experience before your baby is old enough to crawl or to walk. When you swim with your child, you have the opportunity to interact with her in a playful and active way that bonds you and gives a new dimension to your relationship.

You can start your newborn with swimming lessons in your own bathtub by holding her and bobbing her up and down, floating her on her back, and cuddling in the water. Later, you can swim together in a pool, lake, or ocean. If she swims when she is young, she will feel comfortable in the water later on.

Usually, doctors recommend waiting until your baby is six weeks old before swimming with her in a public pool, and most organizations start offering lessons at four to six months. If your child is sick or has an infectious disease, do not take her swimming in a public pool. This will help keep everyone healthy.

By Grow Healthy. Grow Happy. The Whole Baby Guide

A comprehensive reference book to give your child a healthy beginning. Over 800 pages of practical information, activities, recipes, and gentle holistic guidance for nurturing your child’s health and well-being.Click here to learn more or purchase the book now.

24 Responses to Encourage Movement

  1. To know all the difference helping chldren can make them feel not confident. That swimming can help strengthen there muscles and at such a young age

  2. Yes to all of this! Allowing babies to move and develop at their own pace is so important! We never had our kids propped up in a Bumbo seat and they all learned to sit up when they were ready! We have always tried to keep our babies out of swings or other things that keep them contained because they need and want to be moving!

  3. I am the grandma of an 8 month old baby boy. Watching him start these movements on his own is so wonderful and always amazes my daughter and I. Your blog is very encouraging to us as we are trying to be mindful of giving him the opportunities to develop. Thank you.

  4. My daughter loves that song. She watches it on youtube daily.

  5. Movement is so important to babies and children of all ages. I love the suggestions on how to get your baby to move, especially swimming!

  6. LOVE Head, shoulders, knees, and toes..and so do my grandchildren. Always a fun time!

  7. My favorite thing is when babies naturally dance. Iy’s not learned and it’s all their own. Every babies has their own movement profile!

  8. My kiddo loves this song. A great way to learn and have fun

  9. I’m a licensed PTA but a SAHM of two. I always cringe when parents brag about “getting” their child to walk early and skip over crawling. It’s so important to allow them to develop naturally and allow that independent play time. A lot of people don’t realize how important crawling/creeping is to upper body strength and development.

  10. Both of my kiddos love head and shoulders. These are great points! Movement has so much to do with their development! Get those kiddos active!!!

  11. Very important hints and suggestions in this age of swaddling and back sleeping.

  12. I love the idea of letting your baby develope at their own reasonable pace. I never rushed or forced my daughter. She crawled before she sat up properly and her pediatrician kept trying to make me feel like a bad parent.

  13. My son loves singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and we’re going swimming tonight, so this is perfect! Thank you!

  14. As a mother of a 1 and 3 yr old this comes in very handy! We do and sing the head and shoulders knees and toes every day and much more! Thank you.

  15. Your blog is always so eye- opening!

  16. get other family members involved especially the babies sibling (they can sing the song tot he baby)s as the learning experience should be fun for all!!

  17. So as far as the stages of development go; my daughter (almost 6 months) learned rolling over before sitting up. Infact she still has trouble sitting up. So do the mean sitting up unassisted or sitting up in general?

  18. We love that song and have sung it many times!

  19. We try to pay attention to the whole picture. If it is looking “wrong” then get to thinking

  20. Love this!! Our kiddo is active all day long and then we have a big family dance party at night. I’m so happy to hear we are on the right track. And I’m totally adding in the head shoulder knees and toes song to encourage toddler stretching when baby number 2 gets here.

  21. wow, I did not know that babies are born to know how to swim. Also, I will have to remember to try to let my baby just learn at her own pace and step back and just watch. I am expecting my first this October so all of this is very informative for me.

  22. My son is def active for only 2 months he loves being sat up or stood up to see what’s around him and he babbles like a crazy person when we speak to him i can’t wait till he’s up and moving around more.

  23. My 4 month old great niece has just started swim lessons

  24. This article is great. Thanks

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