Freedom in movement: gross motor skills. Pikler's Triangle and the Equilibrium Table
As I told in the article dedicated to Destructured play, very often friends and acquaintances, as well as the parents I support in the maternal-infant space together with my dear midwife colleague, They ask me for advice on games and activities to offer to children in order to better stimulate their neurological development. Attention is focused almost exclusively on the activities that the child can do sitting down and which mostly concern cognitive development, thus forgetting and underestimating the enormous importance of motor development.
Photo credit: Lorenza Pavesi
I do not mean that cognitive development is not important, but rather that the maturation process of the child in the first years of life includes the synergistic acquisition of motor, cognitive, relational and emotional skills and abilities.
I see children, under the first year of life, too often and for too long tied to the most varied supports: bouncers, baby carriers, car seats and various high chairs with as many various "reducers" which have the task of keeping them on straight and compound, not to mention playpens, walkers, swings etc. etc. etc. This does not mean that these supports cannot be useful, everyone makes use of what they consider most comfortable and appropriate for their own needs and those of their child, but it is important to dedicate time (a lot of time) to "freedom " of the little ones so that they can train, experiment and consolidate the movements that will help them grow.
When asked "Where can I keep him when he is awake so he can look around?" my answer is almost always "Spread it on the ground!": it's safe, it costs nothing and will slowly allow him to learn to turn around, crawl, get on his knees, get up, walk and finally run, at his own pace and sometimes with his weird strategies.
Photo Credit: Francesca Fioretti
Gross motor skills and stages of development
We are talking about the gross motor skill (or gross motor skills) which relates to all the skills required for the control of the largest muscles of the arms, legs and trunk and which is fundamental to carry out most of the daily activities. Coarse motor and fine motor together represent a person's entire range of voluntary movements coordinated by the cerebral cortex.
The gross motor skills consist of:
- Coordination, i.e. the ability to perform body movements effectively.
- Proprioception, which is the ability to perceive and recognize the position of one's body in space and without the support of sight.
Now let's see what the various phases of gross motor development are and how they work:
- Rotate from back to side
- Tummy wheel
- Rotate from belly to back
- Slide on belly
- He sits down
- He kneels down
- He stands up with support
- Start walking without support
- Walk with confidence
The order of appearance, always the same for all children, of the various skills is 1, 2, 3, 9, 10; it means we will never see a child go to stage 3 by skipping stage 1 and 2. While the order of appearance of phases 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 is subjective in each child. Phases 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 always occur after phase 3 and before phase 9. Phase 7 always arrives before 8; 5 and 6 occur almost at the same time. As regards phases 6 and 8, in 10% of cases they manifest themselves on the contrary, i.e. standing up before sitting down. Even if the appearance of the phases respects a certain order or basic rules, the "when" is entirely subjective, every child has his own times and it is precisely respecting the time that is the key to optimal development of skills.
Maria Montessori and Emmi Pikler wrote a lot about the importance of natural motor development and also about how “dangerous” interference is of the adult in the process of growth.
Emmi Pikler and freedom of movement
Emmi Pikler, Viennese pediatrician born in 1902, embraced a holistic approach for personal care from the beginning of her career, in particular she underlines the importance of "respectful and meaningful" relationships with children. As early as the 1930s, Pikler advised the parents of her young patients not to hinder their children's freedom of movement, but above all not to solicit positions or skills that were too much ahead of their natural development . It is very important that the child is left free to acquire skills in accordance with his own times and without forcing.
The role of the adult is to observe and accompany him, arranging the space so that it is safe and stimulating, but without forcing it which would only result in creating frustration in the child. We speak of affective security and therefore of a balanced sense of protection that allows the child to serenely experience all the pleasure and happiness deriving from movement.
Remember that all these small achievements and acquisitions will be the springboard for developing complicated and detailed physical actions.
Why do we pay so much attention to movement?
As the Viennese pediatrician maintained, movement constitutes the first means of communication with the environment and with other human beings and is the tool with which the child expresses his emotional experience. It's not just a functional pleasure, through movement the little one orients himself in the environment, expresses his intelligent acts, his feelings and his social behaviors.
If the movement is free, the child learns to discover his abilities, learns from the continuous discoveries, builds his body image. The more his autonomy grows, the more his self-esteem increases.
“The child left free overcomes the various phases at his own pace, different from that of other children, with security and harmony” writes Pikler in her book "Give me time". From this we can deduce that the child is the actor of his psychomotor development. Of course there are several measures that the adult can take, but always with respect for the autonomy of the child. In addition to the safe environment, comfortable clothing, etc. there are many tools and materials that can support psychomotor development even at home and when it is not possible to let off steam in the open air.
Toys that stimulate gross motor skills
The Pikler Triangle
One of the most famous and recommended, especially in the 0/3 range, is undoubtedly the Pikler Triangle by Ette Tete which serves precisely to encourage movement, experiment and overcome one's limits. It allows your child to engage in physical activities and also develop decision-making skills. Each climb is an exercise and a puzzle at the same time. The triangle makes this activity safe and very fun for your child. Find it by clicking here PIKLER TRIANGLE WITH MODIFIABLE RAMP ETTE TETE.
The Wobbel Balance Table
Even the Equilibrium Board or Wobble Board of the Wobbel can be a useful ally for exercising balance, coordination , muscle control and your child's imagination. You can find it here in the STARTER version for younger children and in the ORIGINAL and PRO with recycled PET protection for older children!
The role of the adult in the development of motor autonomy
If we talk to children a lot, we will help them in the construction of language, while to promote motor skills, balance and autonomy, we must leave them free to move.
Often our fear that they might get hurt, especially after they have started walking and doing reckless things, turns into a series of warnings and deprivations that don't allow them to experience balance and that they shift the concentration, i.e. their focus, to what us causes anxiety and fear. Instead, we must offer children the opportunity to grow up without making them suffer the projection of our emotions. This doesn't mean letting them throw themselves face to face from a wall twice their height, but rather offering them our hands to allow them a literally breathtaking experience.
The watchful presence of the adult is essential in order not to run into danger, but let us remember that risk is a necessary prerequisite for proceeding in the development of skills and competences. This is what the educational psychologist Francesco Tonucci claims in his 2011 contribution to UPPA:
It is important that the independence of children grows with them starting from the first days of life and without ever interrupting: a blanket in the playpen is better, because you can get out of the blanket and out of the playpen no; later he will go out the front door to play on the stairs or on the landing, then in the courtyard, then on the sidewalk and then further and further away as his abilities allow him.
Movement and language
We said at the beginning that the child's development is a complex synergy between psychic and motor skills and competences and it is to this synergy that language development is closely linked. All movement coordination activities, and some skills including posture and balance, are fundamental for future learning processes related to the development of language and writing and reading skills.
It often happens that in children with language difficulties there is a motor difficulty at the same time, for example if the child has not crawled, or has started walking very late, has also explored the world around him late and consequently all the experiences necessary for cognitive and linguistic development have been postponed.
What a great responsibility we are entrusting to the movement!
Through the conquests of motor skills, the child not only learns to move but "learns to learn", cultivates his self-esteem, experiments, feels interest and always new emotions, learns to know himself, his body and consequently the body of the others. These skills are fundamental in the constitution of its unique and unrepeatable identity.
IN MOTU VITA EST…come on adults and come on children!!
Edited by Selenia D'asaro
Mother, Pedagogist and Babywearing Consultant
Mi piace molto la idea di questo triangolo. Si adatta bene ai bambini di diverse fasce d’età. Inoltre, i miei figli si divertono molto e giocano con il triangolo di Pikler. Il mio bambino più piccolo raggiunge solo il primo gradino, ma più si esercita e più va in alto.