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Movement as a Means of Brain Growth

By: Sandy Smith, Neurodevelopmental Specialist

“My child never belly crawled and he hated 'tummy time.'  Is that really a problem?”

Babies’ brains work their way through The Developmental Sequence each at their own pace.  There is no specific age, date or amount of time that a baby must spend crawling or creeping to ensure good neurological development because very brain is individual and unique.  However, there are particular steps that every brain needs to experience and complete in order to function optimally.

An infant, just a few months old, when placed on their belly on the floor will begin to use their arms and legs in coordination with each other to propel themselves forward.  In this earliest of brain stages, the brain is also developing an awareness of and response to vital sensations, such as hot and cold, pain, and hunger.  The ability to move themselves gives the developing brain a sense of having the ability to respond to life-threatening stimuli.  Even though the baby is not mature enough to protect itself, the neural connections for this most basic ability are being formed.

When babies move forward on their tummies, they are developing stability and alignment of the torso, and are gaining range of motion and mobility in their shoulders and hips.  They are also strengthening and stabilizing the feet to promote good foot arches, and the spine to promote good overall posture.  The hand and arm movements that are involved with belly crawling lay the foundation for future fine motor skills, such as properly using silverware, tools, and good handwriting.

Belly crawling also triggers visual motor skills in the developing brain, which in the future leads to good reading and academic skills.   Children who have difficulty decoding words or have very choppy reading fluency may have underdeveloped visual motor skills.  This can be addressed naturally by completing The Developmental Sequence to fill in the developmental gaps. The coordination of upper and lower body during belly crawling should not be underestimated. 

As a small infant is learning to coordinate the bodily movements required to propel themselves across the floor on their belly, their brain is making connections that lead to emotional stability later in infancy, childhood and beyond. 

The feeling of being “grounded”, confident, and capable relates to this mobility function.  Children who have extensive meltdowns and explosive or even violent anger outbursts may lack this bodily coordination.  As we work our way naturally through The Developmental Sequence, the inefficient brain is able to make these connections and the frequency and intensity of these outbursts typically is reduced.

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”  It is extremely important for babies to spend a great deal of time on their bellies. If your child did not, and you are experiencing any of the challenges described above, a NeuroDevelopmental Movement® program can step your child through the Developmental Sequence and fill in those gaps that will lead to better functioning.



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