by Christine Roberts (founder of Nurturing Pathways) The brain at birth has 100 billion neurons that are like seeds awaiting the proper nutrients to become healthy trees. As neurons get those nutrients from their learning environment, they grow roots and branches. The brain’s primary nutrients are food, sleep, responsive interaction with adults and movement opportunities.The brain is the body’s most malleable organ. It dances with nature and nurture in a seamless flow of ever-changing states. Infants spend the first year of their lives “hard wiring” their eyes, ears, taste, touch and body awareness. Their brain, like a seed, comes with the potential for growth. The seed sprouts and grows roots and branches when all of the baby’s senses are stimulated.At no other time will the brain grow at such a rapid rate, doubling its weight in the first year and achieving 95% of its adult weight by the age of four. Time spent on the tummy strengthens the baby’s body and supports their independent mobility, in addition to developing the brain’s neural connections. As neuroscientists like to say, “what gets fired gets hard wired.”History: Nurturing Pathways®, Inc was founded in 2001 by Christine Roberts, who combined her passion for dance with brain development and early childhood. After years of teaching dance and performing professionally, Christine wanted to turn her attention to the formative years that constitute a prime time for learning; infant up to school aged.Initially founded to address the needs of infants in caregiving environments the company expanded when the program was discovered by Pigeon Hearts in Tokyo, Japan. Their interest in Nurturing Pathways® led to developing the Certification Program launched in 2005. Training and certification by the founder occur annually in Seattle, WA and continues to build a national and international group of instructors who teach the program at dance studios, community centers, health clubs, urban play spaces, day-cares, early intervention and parent education programs.Nurturing Pathways® is now spreading the word with its creative dance program, Creative Play™ products, and workshops for educators that movement is a catalyst for organizing early cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Parents experience fun and pleasure dancing with their child and discover movement is the gateway to learning!
Baby’s First Year: Motor Development
A baby’s delicate neural networks need exercise just as their body does. Budding neural tree limbs need the fertilizer of movement to stimulate the chemical release of proteins that build the brain. Movement that involves push and pull strengthens, stabilizes and organizes patterns of movement. In an economy of design, the very events taking place in the body are taking place in the brain. Just as the shoulders, hips, hands and feet are becoming strengthened, stabilized and organized, so are the neural networks.
Movement experiences carried out on the tummy fulfill the developmental patterns that contribute to a sound body and brain. Along with the enormous physical benefits of movement for visual development, eye hand coordination, developing the arches in the feet and hands, and one’s overall sense of self; physical activity and interactive play are the primary ingredients for proper neurological integration. Tummy time milestones include rolling, crawling, creeping and standing. Tummy time also aids in the achievement of cognitive milestones like speaking their first words, increased attention span, and school readiness.
Motor development is cultivated from the prone position. Think of it as ‘growing from the ground up.’ If parents and caregivers consciously limit the time babies spend in containers, especially during the early months before crawling, the baby will experience less stress on their tummy to play.
Baby’s First Year: Activities for Growth and Learning
Tummy time matters for the brain and body. Babies need lots of opportunities to discover their mobility. Just as a turtle flipped on its shell cannot get up and go, neither can an infant on its back. Our practices create outcomes. The time to put best practices in place is at the beginning of every child’s life when the greatest long-term gain can be realized.