The Importance of Free Movement

Since I started learning a bit more about respectful education and about Emmi Pikler and all the research she carried on, I have come to realize that the concept I had about “teaching” has changed drastically in my mind. 

We live in a society where we consider that babies need to be taught what to do and how to do it. Either because we create wrong expectations or because we think, influenced by other people or Institutions, that it is us who have to teach the child how to sit, walk, eat or even play. 

On the other hand, I came across different points of view of people who studied in-depth what babies learn throughout the whole process of development, people who found more organic and natural answers to specific questions. And I have to be honest: all that information has led me to question many things about myself and all the experiences I lived so far!

The Importance of Free Movement

Since the very beginning, also during pregnancy, babies use movements as a form of communication with their environment or surroundings. This is the way children get to know the space and the objects, which will help them later to get to know their own bodies.

Emmi Pikler stands for the free movement, where no postures are anticipated by the adults and children follow their own body in development respecting their times – this is what will lead to a child being independent and enjoy his or her autonomy.

The baby will find by herself or himself the way to reach all the positions or postures, in a progressive way. Controlling every movement the baby will feel relaxed, because if they found their way into the posture then they will also be able to come out of it, it is the will of the child that sets his or her own pace. 

“Every child develops at her or his own rhythm and there can be a huge difference between children with the same age. Children need to feel no pressure from the adults during this process of gross motor development and they need to be able to follow their individual pace. All children, if they are healthy, follow the same path, they all have in them the need to grow and develop. But not all of them do the same things at the same time”.

Sónia Kliass (1)

The Adult

The task of the adult is really clear: give space and time – do not intervene but be there supervising, giving just presence and kind words. It is important for the adult to know his or her own role, from my point of view an observant role. There is no need for the adult to interact while the child is trying to reach his or her own goal. In case of a child being frustrated the adult can give a description with simple words of what is causing that frustration but will always trust the baby as a “competent infant”. 

“An adult who will not intervene and will observe and wait for the actions that the child is carrying on. An adult who allows time. An adult who observes individually, smiling and looking at the eyes. An adult who trusts, who enjoys the day-to-day relationship with the infant.”

Mònica Singla(2)

Designed Structures

Through research and a wide range of observations Emmi Pikler designed different structures that can be very helpful depending on the stage the children are at. They can be used freely, they can be accessible in all directions, they are designed according to the size of the children and, above all, (which I find it really important) those structures are gradual, which means it helps the child to reach a posture without taking high risks and without putting any pressure on his or her body in development. 

What do we do in MA?

“MA nadons” is equipped with a wide range of unstructured learning materials – children learn through their own imagination and make their own decisions, the learning is open-ended and there are no rules on how to set those materials. Regarding to physical movement we follow the same rule: children are able to explore the structures with their whole body.

The Triangle with the slide. Allow babies to climb up gradually. They can climb through the ramp or through the bars.
The Box with the ramps. When babies start creeping they can climb up those ramps with their whole bodies and get to the top.
The Cube. Children go in and out through the holes. They also use it as a climbing structure and sometimes collect materials in it.

*Please note the drawings are not official – just handmade representations of what we have in MA 🙂

Apart from the structures, in MA we believe in children walking barefoot as that helps them to be more aware and connected with every bit of the space, and use all the muscles and bones in their feet.

Comfortable clothing is also a good thing to bear in mind – clothes that allow free movement will be great help!

(1)SÓNIA KLIASS. Publicado en la Revista de la Asociación de Centros Educativos Waldorf-Steiner de España. (2)MÒNICA SINGLA CABRÉ. Directora de I’EBM Confetti de Sarria de Ter.

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