“Mind and movement are two parts of a single cycle, and movement is the superior expression.” (Education for a New World)
Dr. Maria Montessori recognized that there are periods of great capacity for optimum development of specific skills because “the senses are attuned to the specific aspects of the environment needed to satisfy the needs of the brain”. Years later the scientists and neurologists confirm that.
Body and mind areas are ultimately neural connected
The sensitive period for movement occurs before the birth and is of great importance for maturation of the biological system for coordination and control. The movement is an innate need of the children, they master with a lot of practice and repetition. Gross and fine motor skills develop competence, self-esteem and independence.
Good lateralisation helps: Learning, Behaviour, Communication, Relationships and emotional wellbeing, Development of balance, Motor control, Eye functioning, Hand-Eye coordination, Perceptual skills.
Through movement children learn how their bodies work and get information from the environment – how the body is used to interact with the environment. Movement connects the child with sensorial experience – and through the senses is how the children learn. Gathering sensory information from the environment stimulates the brain cells.
“Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.” (The Secret of Childhood)
Early experiences have a decisive impact in the architecture of the brain, and on the nature and extent of adult capacities. As a child’s senses absorb data, they transmit the information to the neural cells, which creates a chemical and electrical reaction. Upon activation, the cell nucleus generates additional dendrites and the axon begins to generate a coating of myelin, a fatty substance that covers and protects nerves. The sheathes, which protects the axons, assures the passage of stimuli in a specifically defined neural pathway. This process goes from head to toe and from inside to outside.
Children are born with primitive reflexes, which, together with the adaptive reflexes that are essential for survival, form the basis for formation of neural pathways. Unintegrated, active primitive reflexes may be caused by:
- Stress of the mother and /or baby during the pregnancy or birth
- Illness, trauma, injury, chronic stress
- Environmental toxins, complications with vaccinations
- Dietary imbalances or sensitivities
- Lack of proper movement – baby walkers/rings, jumpers, bouncers.
“Movement is the last part that completes the cycle of thought, and spiritual uplift is attained through action to work.” (Education for a New World)
Movement builds interest which leads to independence, repetition and concentration.
Movement leads to independence – functional independence. The sensitive period for movement is evident from the moment of birth, with the baby turning her/his head, grasping objects with her/his hands, putting them into her/his mouth, rolling over, crawling, sitting, standing and finally walking. The child’s ability to walk facilitates exploration of a wider environment and continued refinement of gross and fine motors skills throughout the periods of the “Absorbent Mind”.
We tend to underestimate the child’s stamina to walk, but it is a must to stop using a stroller and/or caring a child in arms. Children of two and three years are capable of walking long distances providing they can do it at their own pace. Gradually children master the control of the body through repetition, which builds and strengthens the neural pathways until the skill becomes ‘unconscious’, leaving the ‘thinking’ brain free to explore and discover other skills. Reaching its perfection, the skill becomes unconscious – second nature.
Maximum effort is a particular time when children learn about their bodies in relation to the environment. They keep receive and repeat to renew the pleasure of and perfect the movement. “How hard must I push, pull?” At the same time, weak fine motor skills could lead to outright refusal to participate, avoidance techniques, anger outburst, sadness, “defeatist” behaviour.
Our goal is to support the child’s development of motor intelligence and physical literacy.
Children need freedom to move and enjoy having a safe area to play. Their muscles are 25% water and that’s why they can not stay still. It is a must to ensure that both inside and outside environment is safe and there are no barriers for practicing movement. At home, it is important to prepare one room allowing you to turn your back. Also, parents need to pay attention for avoiding overdressing, which affects child’s abilities for free movements. Following the child’s curiosity, the adults can engage him/her with everyday activities related to a real work with hands. Participating in meal times and allowing the child to learn how to feed independently lead to great enjoyment and help to develop competences and self-esteem. Adults have to be patient and build “friendliness to the error”, allowing children to look after their own activities – dressing and undressing, washing hands and face, etc.
We can support the child’s development of the fundamental movement skills offering activities that naturally support fine motor skills and coordination:
- locomotor skills: walking, crawling, running, galloping, hopping, skipping, dodging
- body management skills: rolling, stopping, bending, twisting, landing, stretching, climbing, static and dynamic balancing, turning
- object control skills: throwing, catching, bouncing, dribbling
Here the child’s main task is coordination: balance, rhythm, reaction, orientation, appropriate force, eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination.
- In order to support the child’s development, we have to be aware of adult avoidance strategies like:
- I can not do it myself, so how can I teach it to the children?
- It’s too hot/cold/wet…
- the children get too silly outside
- it takes too long to get things ready outside
- I do not know which activities to do with the children
- the children might hurt themselves
- there is enough time
- there is not enough space
And always remember that
“The hand is the instruments of man’s intelligence.” Maria Montessori