A fetus is in the womb – floating in water. The water supporting it, holds it and at the same time allows it to move within the body that carries it. And it floats and swims with pleasure in it.
A baby is born – suddenly there is no water, nothing to support it.
There is a force: the force of gravity, which forces it to exercise muscles in order to stabilize. But how will it know which muscles it needs to exercise? And from where will it draw the power to activate them?
Childhood physical development is of the greatest importance. Proper development of it is crucial.
The equilibrium system begins to develop in the fetus while still in the womb.
If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is active and mobile during pregnancy, the baby has the opportunity to experience movement when it is protected and does not have to put in too much effort to balance itself. Then the equilibrium system develops normally.
But there is still a long way to go before the equilibrium system reaches full maturity. The sensory organ of the equilibrium system is in the ear. The organ is sensitive to movement and transmits messages to the brain when it senses a change in the position of the body in space. When the baby is born it is born with an equilibrium system that supposedly completes its physiological development but requires a lot of learning until it reaches full function.
Learning through experience
The equilibrium system learns through different experiences in movement. Without experiences the system does not perform learning and without learning it will not be able to reach full function. Any action that requires movement, from a small action of an infant such as lifting its head, or in an adult such as tying a shoelace or writing with a pen, to larger actions such as walking, running and jumping, requires the use of the balance system at different levels and in different ways, depending on the action.
There is a correlation between the equilibrium system at the physiological level and the mental equilibrium. Imagine a child whose balance system is underdeveloped compared to its peers: Every time he runs with his friends he stumbles, fails to catch a ball thrown at him, when he sits down to eat he gets all dirty and pollutes his surroundings.
Such a child will feel threatened whenever he is required to deal with the balance system. It is clear of course that he will have no interest in engaging in physical activity, and may be the object of ridicule in the eyes of those around him, which can lead to a decrease in self-confidence. For such a child, every walk from place to place is like walking on a thin, high rope – like a circus tumbler. Every step has to be calculated, the amount of energy he has to invest in order not to fall is enormous.
In contrast, a child with a well-developed balance system will not easily shy away from new balance challenges. He will be able to trust his body and his movements and feel a sense of independence. And even when he does occasionally fall it will not threaten him and he will simply get back up and try again.
It is advisable not to try to push the baby through the developmental stages – for example not to seat him ahead of time, so that the movement system and the balance system can be built in stages and not skip important experiences of balancing. The experience of moving from crawling to sitting, learning to switch between different types of sitting and to move from sitting to standing, all need to ripen in their own perfect time. The transition between the various stages of development is one of the significant tools in the learning of the system.
Towards the walking stage it is important to see that the baby learns to walk in an environment that on the one hand does not endanger him if he falls, but on the other hand is challenging and is not built as only flat surfaces.
It is important to convey to the baby a message that falling is okay and is part of the learning process of the balance system.
Experiences like rocking on a swing (without a backrest), gliding on a slide and running after a rolling ball greatly develop the system. Bicycles, scooters and similar vehicles are also excellent for developing the system of balance and the physical body.
Much more than just physical
It is worth remembering that motor ability has a great impact not only on the physiological state, but also on the whole world of emotion and security of the child in himself and in his environment.
Rudolf Steiner claimed that the first seven years of a child’s life are the years of building the physical body. By the age of seven, the age at which the milk teeth are replaced by permanent teeth, an amazing and accelerated growth occurs in a child, which will never happen again in his life this way:
Within a year of birth he doubles his weight. Internal organs such as the heart, lungs and gastrointestinal organs reach their full development and take their final shape only at the end of the first seven years.
As the body, movement, experience of space and senses develop more harmoniously and completely, so will the child’s mental abilities develop to their best and most balanced state.
I hope you found this insightful. If you have any questions or thoughts on the matter you are very welcome to leave them down here and I’ll get back to you.
Have a nice day,