GROSS MOTOR DEVELOPMENT: TRUSTING YOUR CHILD
What does respecting and trusting in a baby look like?
As parents, we love watching our babies grow and reach the next milestone. We are their biggest fan cheering them on as they start to roll over or push themselves up into a seated position. It can be so hard not to reach out and lend a helping hand, they’re already so close, just need that extra little nudge in the right direction! However, in Montessori, we try not to place our babies into positions they cannot themselves get into (this includes refraining from lending a helping hand!). That helping hand may be well-intended but in doing so you are robbing your child of the opportunity to reach their goal on their own and gain that sense of achievement. By valuing and encouraging independence from the start, we are giving our little ones the basis for developing strong intrinsic motivation. As parents, we can take a step back and respect our baby by giving them space and time they need to allow their muscles, bones, and brain to develop on their own personal timeline. Your baby will reach those milestones on their own as they explore themselves and how they fit into their environment.
As your baby begins moving and continues on their own gross motor journey you can ensure to have a prepared environment that is not only safe but also stimulating. I want to share a personal story about our two daughters’ very different gross motor journeys.
Our first daughter began rolling around four months, she was sitting around five and a half months, and began crawling around eight months. She took her first step on her first birthday, but not again until a few weeks later did she try again and start walking. Her journey was slow, steady, sure. We made a Pikler Triangle for her just after her first birthday (which was what launched us into creating Goc Montessori!). The day we brought it home, she was so excited and climbed straight to the top. After reaching the top she tried to come back down but began to cry as she didn’t know how to climb down. I assisted and supported her to climb back down safely. After that, she didn’t touch the triangle for at least two weeks. Slowly she started to climb on the bottom rungs first, then a little higher, slowly she gained confidence and familiarity with the new tool. It wasn’t until about six months later that she finally went over the top for the first time. Again, she did this once, and then not again for about four months. Once she did it confidently, however, there was no stopping her. Now, one year after bringing the Pikler Triangle home, she is so confident on her climbing frame. Linking her legs inside the rungs and leaning backward, jumping off the lower rungs, climbing up backward - her gross motor exploration is ever-changing and incredible to witness. Throughout her journey, we have supported her needs by providing her with a prepared environment but stepped back to let her lead the way.
The journey with our second daughter has been quite different and equally amazing to watch. Our second daughter was rolling over at two months, crawling at six months, and has just started both sitting and pulling up onto her feet at seven months. Watching her tiny body skidding all around our home, she has been unstoppable and fearless from the moment she learned to roll. It has been such an interesting journey the second time around watching her try to hoist her body up on anything she can grab- chair rungs, the bathroom step, and now the Pikler triangle. Not having had the triangle at such a young age for our first daughter, it was hard to imagine such a small baby using this tool so actively. Yet there she is, our little seven-month-old, grabbing at the rungs and reaching ever higher trying to get her feet under her as she discovers all about her body. And so this is the moment, the moment I must trust my little baby. Trust her to do what she can, learning the abilities and limits of her own body, and respect her to know what she needs. I don’t place her in a standing position leaning on the triangle, I don’t hold her upright putting weight on her feet - I let her lead and I follow my child. I let her lead the way to her own development.
Every child is different, every child develops their gross motor skills at their own unique pace. Our first daughter followed a more average timeline, our second daughter was crawling and pushing up onto her feet even before she could sit. By respecting our children, we give them space and time they need to follow their own movement timelines. Now, watching my older daughter climbing around on her Pikler triangle her gross motor skills continue to surprise me, her strength, balance, and self-assuredness are all her own doing. As parents, we can give our children a safe and stimulating environment to encourage freedom of movement and trust in our children as they embark on their own personal gross motor journey.
>> Products mentioned in this article: Pikler Triangle