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.