To make it easier for you to develop a fuller picture from segmented sources, I've created a note full of links to other articles and posts and podcasts and videos about all things babies and kids. Whatever topic interests you, click through for more in-depth exploration. And, FYI, I’m currently working on a book on movement for babies and kids. Sign up for my newsletter if you want to stay in the loop!
I get asked a lot about how to get kids moving more, how they should move, how we should carry babies, etc. While I try to avoid “should,” especially with new parents (as if you’re not stressed enough!) I feel it’s essential we understand that the need for movement is similar to our need for dietary nutrients—our body literally requires both a lot of total movement and a large variety (geometries) of movements.
We all need a ton of movement, but young bodies are in the process of forming the shape that will be with them the rest of their life. We need to be very aware of the structural limitations (think maximum bone density, which is set during the juvenile period) they will inherit if we’re not consciously creating and exposing them to movement-rich environments. And I’ll also say here that my perspective is more ecological when it comes to getting more movement. Many of my recommendations are for families and communities to move together so that all bodies can get closer to the movement requirements we all have at the same time.
I don’t know much about breastmilk as a dietary nutrient; I speak to breastfeeding from a mechanical perspective (which is not to say that the dietary nutrients aren’t key, just that they’re different than what a biomechanist would cover in books/articles about breastfeeding). My main message with breastfeeding is that in addition to dietary nutrients there are mechanical nutrients (i.e., movements) in breastfeeding that are part of the face, skull, jaw, and tooth development. These are all essential to the functions of these anatomical parts (breathing, speaking, chewing, swallowing). Breastfeeding is not only about the milk, it's also about the mechanism of getting the milk.
- listen to podcast episodes Breastfeeding Ecology Part One and Part Two
- read the essay "Mammals Suck" and the "Breast is Breast" section in Movement Matters.
Baby Movement, Baby Ecology
Babywearing is helpful, especially in a culture where we’re not surrounded by other grownups and older children who can hold a baby while we get other tasks done, but this is a different load (to you and the baby) than arm-carrying without a wrap or other carrier. Arm-carrying both makes the parent very strong (all that exercise you’ve been missing as a new parent, this is where you’ll find it!) and allows baby to do more of the work of holding their bodies and heads up. It allows both you and them to move more.
I've gone through years of carrying and form is key to pain-free carrying! I can't stress enough that basic body alignment goes a super-long way. Learn about how to align yourself well (keep those hips back and ribcage from lifting). Here is a quick video to help you with form (I filmed this a million years ago when I only had one small baby and not two heavy kids. I will tell you that this form STILL helps me out!):
There are ways of allowing babies’ natural strength to develop, many we have to create in this sedentary culture, and they’re available to pretty much all of us. I also recommend babies and kids (just like adults) go barefoot, shoe-free, and minimally shod as much as possible. And encourage them to start hanging as early as they can. Swinging, too. It’s vital to their whole body.
But we can’t talk about holding and carrying more without talking about why we don’t in the first place—it’s often due to missing strength from a lack of carrying. Loading a body not used to carrying can hurt or move other parts around, so learning and practicing how to hold is key at this time. You can work through some of the exercises in this Upper Body Exercise Advent and check out our Whole Body Biomechanics courses for head-to-toe strength and alignment programming.
Kids and Movement in Nature
Most recent research (and common sense throughout the ages) shows we all have a need for both movement and nature—or Vitamin N, as it’s now been coined. As I like efficiency, nature is the environment that can facilitate multiple physiological requirements at once, so “green” movement is a great place to start to develop a robust family movement culture. Moving outside together is a great way to connect and flourish as a family and community.
For additional information and inspiration:
One of the questions I get the most is “How do you get your kids to walk?” I’ve prepared a couple of pieces on the nuts and bolts of getting your kids to walk more. Our most successful family walks have some kind of purpose outside of walking, like to gather food for supper, to catch a sunset or a full moon, or even to play a game. See more information below.
Remember that modeling is hugely important—kids will naturally mimic your moves and want to join in. Just have some fun!
I encourage you to learn more about why I recommend minimal footwear by reading Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief and Whole Body Barefoot. You can assess your children’s footwear for what types of movement each pair allows and see my list for recommended shoes by reading these articles:
Sitting and Kids at School
The classrooms in conventional schools are overwhelmingly sedentary. By the time a kid has finished schooling, their number one most practiced skill is sitting still! There’s SO much we can do with a conventional classroom to make it more movement friendly. We need to think outside the classroom chair (and think outside the classroom, even).
First, make sure you're maximizing the time outside of school. Maybe they're sitting all day right now, but what about before and after? Can you build in some movement there? A good friend, who drives to school, found extra movement by not driving all the way. She parked a mile away to shake off the car ride and get them some walking, outside, and close-connection time before heading into school. And you aren't limited to playing with time, you can play with your house! Keeping our kids and our bodies mobile at home is one of the reasons we ditched a lot of furniture.
Some inspiration for altering your home movements:
Some inspiration for altering the conventional classroom in some way:
- Dream Classroom
- Our Classroom Makeover
- The Chair-Free Classroom
- This podcast episode on Back to School Biomechanics
Kids in Nature
We’re fortunate to have a nature school in our area, but there's not only nature school. There are many afterschool, summer, and non-profit organizations that make more nature (and more movement in nature) a great supplement. For more on nature programs and simple ways to get more of these types of experiences, listen to these podcast episodes:
Here are some articles on some outdoor games to play in your home “school”:
All of us are suffering from a deficiency in nature in our culture, and even a small dose can do wonders (as nicely described in this piece). When it comes to kids, I believe the Fidget Spinner craze was a great example of sort of a "self-medication", and wrote an article about it:
Let’s move more, move together, and move outside. Let’s Move Our DNA and let them move their DNA right alongside!
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