This article was thoughtfully written by Natalie Bowers, a Child'Space ® Practitioner and instructor for our Baby Blossom class here at Little Knights LA. She brings a wealth of knowledge and a gentle guiding spirit to parents and babies that participate in her classes at Little Knights LA and beyond.
Milestones, Hurdles, and the Rewards of Using Touch to Support Infant Development
Markers of Normality
In infant development, milestones are those markers that help to guide us toward an understanding of a child's progress and identify when that progress is delayed. They're general guidelines that streamline human experience into weekly and then monthly periods of growth.
While milestones can help us to break down that experience into baby-sized bites and to rejoice in advancements that we might not have otherwise perceived, milestones can also cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for us when our children aren't progressing in line with these predetermined measures. Both parents and professionals have the responsibility of minding these markers and questioning whether a child falls within the realm of healthy. Once the question is posed, we need to depart from milestones to find the answers.
Touch - A Baby's First Language
A baby's ability to move develops in concert with the maturation of her brain and nervous system and touch is a simple yet powerful tool that can be used to activate that system.
Just as we understand the brain to be the center that directs our action, it is part of a network that receives signals and information that inform that activity. If a baby is only turning to her right side, her awareness of the left may be in need of activation. Touch can direct her nervous system to better communicate with the parts of herself that she has not yet set up a functional dialogue with. In this way touch is a language that we can use to “speak” with our babies.
Most parents naturally use touch to communicate care, to soothe a child, to give him a sense of love and protection. We hold, bounce, caress, kiss, pat, rock, and sway. These acts of care have a great effect on well-being as can be expressed in sleep patterns, weight-gain, and immunity, as well as giving children a sense of safety that allows them to explore with confidence, engage socially, and connect with the world around them.
The Child'Space® Method as taught in Baby Blossom classes at Little Knights helps parents to expand their touch repertoire with types of touch that send direct messages to the nervous system that inform a baby of what he is made of (squishy, movable parts here; heavy, stabilizing parts there...), where he is in space, how his various body parts connect and can be used to get him where he wants to go, and how he can use more or less effort in his attempts to get there. With this expanded toolbox, parents literally have a hand in their babies' development.
Hands-on techniques of engaging with children are as important as the silences and spaces that we create for them to receive, digest, and explore. In Baby Blossom classes parents learn observation tools that allow them to better perceive when children need direct support or time to themselves, how much information they can tolerate at one time, and how far they can take the lessons that they're learning through play. We learn how much room to give them to move on their own, find points of interest within and beyond their own bodies, and fully explore these.
Play as Assessment
Child'Space becomes part of each family's daily routine. The tools are there to be used as a conversation between parent and child.
This rich dialogue gives us better access to assessing each individual child's progress. When we are empowered to address hurdles and potential delays creatively with eyes and hands that are well versed in the daily exploration that is development, we can better identify what is and isn't responding to our cues and where further intervention may be necessary.
With the experience of supporting so many families in the first stages of their children's lives, Little Knights staff and instructors are familiar with the wide range of time frames for typical development. More often than not, when we're embedded in her process, we can see that a baby is indeed crawling toward our goals for her.
Natalie Bowers teaches Baby Blossom classes at Little Knights on Wednesdays at 3pm for families with newborns up to those learning to stand and walk. She became certified in the Child'Space® Method of supporting babies' development and enhancing the parent-child bond in 2014. She is enthusiastic about sharing easily adaptable tools with parents and other caregivers that have instantly positive effects for child and family. In addition to her longstanding interest in child development and education, Natalie has a professional background in contemporary dance and massage therapy that informs her approach. She offers private lessons through her business Baby Blossom LA.