By Lara Gembicki
Infant development is full of “firsts!” While there are a number of areas of development that your baby will be working on during the first year, often the development of gross motor skills is a topic many parents naturally have questions about. The following describes some of the ways that a baby’s development of motor skills are supported in our infant Montessori classroom and at home.
Babies Develop At Their Own Pace
Every baby is unique and every child develops at his or her own pace. Montessori infant caregivers observe each infant closely to recognize and respond to the particular child’s needs and new abilities. In order to support each baby with the hard work of gross motor skill acquisition, adults in the environment allow for ample time and space during the baby’s waking hours for free movement. Floor areas are clean and soft, with mats or blankets for the babies to lie on. There are varied floor surfaces and low climbing equipment for children who are creeping and climbing. Interesting objects are placed near infants as an enticement to practice reaching, scooting, rolling, or crawling. Very young babies may be placed on their backs to allow free movement of arms, legs, and head. Babies who have begun to lift their heads or roll over on their own enjoy seeing the world from the perspective of being on their tummies.
Moving, Learning, and Feeling Capable
It is clear when observing babies that their efforts to get into various positions on their own play a large role in their cognitive and emotional development. A baby that has recently learned to pull himself up by holding on to a table edge or to crawl around the room exudes joy and a sense of accomplishment. This is particularly so if the adults in his life share his joy along with him! A baby that has begun to crawl with her arms pulling her body along behind her learns that she can get to a desired toy without help. Early problem-solving begins at this time, as well as focused exploration of objects. It it is more important for babies to work on getting themselves into different positions rather than simply being put in a position that they are not yet ready for by the adult. Montessori caregivers try to remove as many obstacles as possible for freedom of movement. Large amounts of time and room for the child is favored over use of contraptions that restrict movement, such as swings, bouncy seats, high-chairs, or infant carriers.
Did you know that gross motor skills are directly tied to brain development? Watching your baby make connections to their world is an exciting time! Enjoy this special stage while it lasts. Before you know it, you’ll be baby proofing your home and observing how toddling and walking will transform your child to their next stage of development and problem solving!
~ Lara Gembicki is a Lead Pre-Primary Teacher and Curriculum Trainer at Sunrise Montessori of Round Rock East. She holds a Montessori credential for both Primary (3 to 6 years old) and Pre-Primary/Infant (less than 2.8 years old). Lara started at Sunrise in 2007.
Resources that contributed to this article:
What’s Going On in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot, Ph.D., 1999
The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three by Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2013
Being With Babies: Understanding and Responding to the Infants in Your Care by Beverly Kovach and Senise Da Ros-Voseles, 2008
Unfolding of Infants’ Natural Gross Motor Development by Emmi Pikler, M.D., 2006
Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers: A Curriculum of Responsive Care and Education by Janet
Gonzalez-Mena and Dianne Widmeyer Eyer, 2009
Montessori From the Start: The Child at Home, From Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen, 2003