The world from their eyes

I went to a class on Saturday with MamaTerapeuta regarding early childhood development. It was fascinating! I wanted to write a summary of some of the things I learned.

* As adults, we need to try and view the world from the point of view of our children. We should try to put ourselves in their shoes so we can understand how they would interpret certain feelings and emotions. In the class, the instructor walked us through the stages of development. We covered ourselves in blankets to simulate being in the womb, then we simulated being able only to lie on our backs and look up at the ceiling, then starting to move a little, rolling from side to side, then moving around rolling from front to back and back to front, etc. It was AMAZING what you learn from doing this sort of exercise! I learned how fascinating simple movement is, how you can enjoy playing with a simple toy for a long time due to the textures and colors, how fun it is to experiment using your body in different ways. If we do this sort of exercise, we can get a much better sense for what it is our babies see and experience.

* Never rush the development of a child. Trying to hurry a 12 month old into walking by sticking him in a walker is ultimately detrimental. It’s best to let children develop at their own pace and they will develop with more confidence.

* Children should spend a lot of time on the floor playing. In fact this should be where they spend the majority of their time. Children develop ALL of their skills (vision, fine motor, gross motor) through play.

* When children are playing, adults should observe and make notes of how their children are developing and interacting with their environment. Instead of stimulating and entertaining them, they should just let them play and take a very passive role, one of observer, not of entertainer.

* Children should never be placed in positions that they can’t get into by themselves. So a 3 month old baby, for example, should be placed on the floor on his back, and left there to play and to learn how to roll on his/her own. Eventually this baby will be able to get on her belly, and back onto her back, etc. But they recommend never to put a baby in a bumbo or on the floor with a boppy as it puts a strain on their back and on their spine and causes them to tense up. This tension then affects their emotions and they learn what it’s like to bring tension into their life – which is not necessary for a tiny baby to experience!

* Always talk to a baby and treat them with gentleness and respect. Don’t pick up a baby from behind as it startles them. Also, they recommend not picking up tiny babies by the armpits as it keeps them upright before they have the back and neck support to be upright. Tiny babies should be cradled until they have stability in their head and trunk. Tell them what you’re going to do and ask them for participation. Diapering and other activities of self care are very important and should be approached with respect and playfulness. For example, when diapering, the child shouldn’t be restricted, they can move along with the process and as they get old enough, help and participate!

* 4 principles: Respect, Independence (for the child), Emotional Security, and Physical Security (of the space where they play).

* Babies that are put on their bellies before they can get to their bellies develop tension in their bodies and spines. It’s best to put them on their back until they can roll onto their bellies by themselves.

* 5 values of child development: communication, exploration, emotional attachment, postural support, social order (values of the family, the times, the country they live in). These principles all relate to each other and affect the child’s development.

* The reason for a lot of these ideas and principles is to protect the emotional state of young babies. Hurrying their development, over-stimulating them, putting them in positions that they are not ready to be in, causes them emotional stress and tension. They assimilate this emotional stress and carry that into their childhood and adulthood. There is a strong body and mind connection, and if their body is tense because they are held incorrectly, their emotions will be stressed and the more stress they feel the more they integrate it into their consciousness.

Here is some info I found on the subject:

“As a matter of principle, we refrain from teaching skills and activities which under suitable conditions will evolve through the child’s own initiative and independent activity,” Pikler wrote in her 1940 book What Can Your Baby Do Already? published in Hungary.

She adds, “While learning…to turn on the belly, to roll, creep, sit, stand and walk, (the baby) is not only learning those movements but also how to learn. He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction which is derived from this success, the result of his patience and persistence.”

In short, Pikler had a revolutionary idea that babies — even newborns — are competent individuals with their own agendas, and should be treated with respect.

The basis for putting any of Pikler/Gerber’s ideas into action is a warm, loving relationship between parent, or other primary caretaker, and child. Since babies experience our love during times we spend caring for them, Gerber suggests that parents take the time to make diapering, feeding, bathing and dressing, unhurried and pleasant quality time with the baby being an active partner. With their built-in “curriculum,” babies, given security and freedom, will then spend their time learning just what they need to be learning at any given stage.

“When you approach your baby with an attitude of respect, you tell him what you intend to do and give him a chance to respond,” says Gerber. “You assume he is competent and involve him in his care and let him, as much as possible, solve his own problems. You give him plenty of physical freedom and you don’t push development.”

She adds, “Parents believe they treat their babies with respect. But if you watch well-meaning, loving adults, you’ll see that they will often interrupt their baby’s play without a thought and treat her in other ways that could hardly be called respectful. ”

Recognizing and respecting our babies’ competence also frees parents. Gerber firmly believes that parents don’t need to entertain their babies because given a nurturing environment and freedom to explore, babies are quite capable of entertaining themselves.

When you want to change a diaper, dress or feed, look first to see what baby is doing. If baby is absorbed in an activity and you have the time, try not to interrupt. Look for the right moment to move in. Say something like, “I want to change your diaper now,” and reach out your arms. Wait for a response. Your baby may look up at you or reach out with arms. If your request is ignored, and you have time, you can say something like, “I see you still want to play,” and wait a couple of minutes before trying again. If you don’t have time, you can still acknowledge that baby would rather play but say that you need to change the diaper now, and start doing that. Even if your baby is too young to understand your words, your tone will be associated with your gestures.

Once on the changing table, don’t distract baby with a rattle. Instead, try to maintain eye contact and explain, step-by-step, what you are doing and ask for help: “I’m putting you down on the table. Now I’m going to take off your pants — can you pull your foot out? Thank you.” Or, “I’m going to take off your wet diaper now. Please lift your hips up.”

The once widely accepted notion that parents should stimulate and teach their babies, a practice that Gerber disputes, has also been called into question by recent research. Twenty years ago, if you went to a session on infant cognition, you’d see a lot of emphasis on the importance of adults stimulating infants. Now, the emphasis is on what infants do and on the partnership between infants and adults. This is something Gerber stressed for years.

Of course everything changes when we try to apply this to the realm of children with brain injuries. This whole premise is based on the fact that children will achieve all milestones on their own, even if later. But of course brain injured children may not be able to gain these positions without therapy or assistance so I honestly do not know how this works in our case! But for the parents who have typical children or kids with mild brain injuries, I thought this was pretty interesting information!


  1. hola marcela,disculpa eh estado muy perdida el Osvaldo estuvo hospilalizado y recien esta mejorando a todo esto yo tambien estoy enferma han sido días de locos y agotadores
    Como esta Nathan,espero podamos vernos nuevamente,besos Karen

  2. very interesting .. I really liked that get in the place of others in order to understand!

  3. Marcela:
    ¡Que buen resumen!
    Que lástima que no pudiste ir a la segunda clase, tambien estuvo muy interesante, aunque se reafirmaron los mismos conceptos que tu bien defines acá.
    Seguiré visitando de vez en cuando tu blog, Nathan es muy lindo! Mucha suerte para ustedes.

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