Why is connection and organisation as important as balance and co-ordination?
Balance and co-ordination are generally thought of as the cornerstones of an early years physical development curriculum. We adults look out for them as important indicators of how well our children are doing for good reason. But there’s another component that is even more fundamental, which often goes under the radar.
it’s the key to creating easy, flowing movement
it’s a big part of what you are noticing when you say someone is confident in their movement
and, if you find yourself wanting to say someone is gawky, or clumsy it might be something that needs more time to develop in their body
So what is it?
And how does it develop?
Connecting up and organising
In the womb, the baby’s body is in constant motion operating as one whole, undifferentiated unit. No worries about co-ordinating all the different bits - everything is totally connected and moves as one.
Out in the world for the first time, still in constant motion as the body fills and empties with the breath, the baby continues to operate as one connected unit. But that will quickly start to change.
To move in all the ways that life requires - reaching, running, jumping, climbing, hopping, eating, hugging, writing, dressing, shopping, throwing, catching, kicking - this body must differentiate all its separate parts. And learn to connect and organise them.
Our bodies have a built-in blueprint that is waiting to unfold.
Our children will need to build many ways to connect and organise their bodies and they are full of reflexes and unconscious prompts that kickstart the process. This makes them experts in building the foundations for complex, fluid movement; and means they have bodies that are full of desire to move in particular ways to prompt this development.
And we adults need to make sure we don’t get in the way - because it’s easy to.
We’ll explore all the different ways a body needs to connect and organise in future blogs. Here we’ll look at the first.
Core to edges
A starfish moves from its centre. When you see its legs move, it’s not happening separately - it’s a consequence of the core movement. And that’s how all of us moved in our earliest days, weeks and months - from our centre. Our movement rippled outwards from our belly button - eventually to our edges - creating both a sense of connectedness throughout our body (sensory development) and a way of organising the different bits of us (motor development).
In moving like this we were busy establishing both the sense of being a whole body, in relationship, as well as learning to move with efficiency.
Watch a baby. Set aside the distraction of those wafting limbs and watch their centre - and you will see how much they initiate movement from their core. And it’s not just babies. Young children continue to organise their bodies from here too. We adults have often lost our basic core connection, because of the emphasis on other ways of moving in our lives and, frankly, the encouragement over a lifetime to constrain and limit our movement. So we go to yoga or pilates or mindfulness classes to remember how to bring everything back to our centre.
Back to the body
If you want to remember what this is like - and become a better observer of your children’s movement - give this a go. Lie on the floor, on your back, (somewhere warm and comfortable) and take your attention to your bellybutton - then notice the movement that is already there - the movement of the breath. Putting your hands on your belly may help.
Then, see if you can initiate movement from here. (Not just up and down towards the floor, but in all the directions you can find.) It might be hard to find it at first. Go gently. What was completely easy as a baby might have gone absent without leave a while ago, so it might take a while to re-find.
As you search, let the rest of your body relax - and respond - rather than get actively involved.
When you have it, let it grow so that your trunk, and perhaps shoulders and hips - and even arms and legs - move a little as a consequence of the movement from your core. (You may have to work hard not to deliberately move your limbs.)
This is the fundamental movement pattern that connects all our limbs - and all our movement - directly into the centre of our body. And the first way we organise our movement.
So simple. And it lays such important foundations.
The development, learning and wellbeing this movement pattern supports
At the start of life a human body has so much work to do to establish itself in the world. Building the feeling of being a body is the most basic aspect of that work. Babies move as much to create sensation in their body as they do to develop physical control - because sensation is the raw material for building a sense of being a body and a sense of relationship and connection, within the body and with the world around. This starfish pattern, with lots of sensation at the centre radiating out and back, builds the sense of the centre.
Try standing up from a chair, or from sitting on the floor, without engaging your centre. You’ll find you are a jumble of unconnected limbs wondering how to organise themselves. It’s not just about the strength the core connection adds, (the bit we mostly think about), it’s mostly about the organisation of the body it provides - through the centre. Babies and children need to build this movement pattern as strongly as they can, to support well organised movement now, and over a lifetime.
Wellbeing is rooted in how we feel in our body. This pattern supports a baby to learn that their limbs won’t fly off in all directions, (yes its that basic), but stay connected. I think some of our children do feel as if they might fly apart, that they are not a safe, whole connected body. Nothing could be more fundamental to their wellbeing than supporting them to find strong connection.
It also establishes the way we move out into the world … and back. Opening and closing; making ourselves available and protecting ourselves; finding our core support. As our limbs find their relationship to our core - and move away and back again - we learn to reach out into the world and come back to self. Lifelong wellbeing benefits from robust and continuing opportunities to build and maintain this connection and organisation. Our babies and children need it. We need it.
It’s not difficult - babies and children know just how to do it.
How do children play this movement pattern into place
They create movement play experiences that fill their centre with sensation in order to get to know it.
What does that look like?
movement exploration that focuses on their trunk, rather than their limbs
exaggerated use of their centre as they move
They move from their centre out to the edges.
What does that look like?
wriggly, squirmy middles with movement rippling out and back
total connection - the limbs move because the centre moves, or the centre moves because the limbs move
curl and extend movement play; exploring opening and closing from their middle
They take time to focus inward and wallow in the sensations that movement creates at their centre.
What does that look like?
a far away look - and an inner attention (lying, but also sitting and upright)
wriggles, squirms, bumping their middles on the floor, curling and extending from their bellybutton, and completely one-off movement play that a child finds to explore in their own unique way.
This kind of movement play doesn’t look like a traditional physical development, or wellbeing, activity. But knowing about this developing movement pattern - and its importance - changes that.
So often we hope to support excellent physical development, but we miss some of the most basic foundations that make that fully possible.
Follow the link below for an online course that looks at this in detail.