Yoga and other modalities that focus on static poses can lead us astray when it comes to babies and tummy-time. Dan Rindler Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and creator of wegrowtogether.com in Brooklyn NYC, shares tips for best practices for not just supporting your baby’s learning, but bonding more closely in the process. Does your baby hate being on their tummy? Dan’s new course: Tummy-Time Together comes online this April 2021! There are also live-streamed classes via zoom starting each month – click Join a Class at the top menu bar to see the full schedule.
Your baby is learning so much through exploration and you are a part of it with them!
These songs and rhymes are accompanied by touch and movement descriptions with photos from WGT classes, for you to learn new ideas for playfully interacting with your baby in ways that support development and bonding.
15 Songs and PDF Booklet
“Dan is a wonderful, knowledgeable, kind and patient teacher who has taught us to use playtime as a collaborative bonding experience that encourages and supports our baby’s development. We have learned the positive impact of physical touch, not only as a way to build a deeper connection with our baby but also to help bring awareness to our baby of her physical self.
As a new parent, I am often pressured by the milestone markers we read about and the different merchandise marketed to “help” your baby towards said milestones. Dan helped me understand how that can be a negative distraction from our time with our babies. I learned how to take a step back, not to hyper focus on baby hitting said milestone by said month, but instead, to tune into my baby’s individual personal physical journey – to recognize her movements and to understand how they contribute to those major milestones.
He has taught us so many touch and movement techniques that support and encourage her own physical journey as she grows. These hands on and collaborative exercises contribute to a deeper connection with our baby, unlike the passive experience that we would have had with baby seat or activity table marketed to “help” baby develop. In fact these seats, activity tables & jumpers are not only unnecessary and distracting, but can even have negative impacts on your child’s pace of development.
I cannot recommend dan’s classes enough! Part music class, part exercises class and highly informative – they are so fun and beneficial for any parent, caretaker and baby.
Why does my baby keep rolling to their tummy when they hate it?!!
Do you know this scenario well? Your baby cries to be rescued from their tummy, so you roll them back. In only a few seconds you see them making movements to roll right back to their tummy, immediately crying again. To most of us, this makes no sense, and in more intense moments of the day, it can be downright exasperating. If they don’t want to be there, why do they keep going back?!!
The answer, in short, is that the choice to roll again is not about wanting to be there or not. For that matter, it may not exactly be a “choice” either. Instead, it’s closer to your baby’s experience to think of rolling as a habit that’s hard to break.
Are you consciously choosing all the movements you make? For example, in the beginning of the pandemic we were all told to stop touching our faces. How did that go for you? Not so well for me! In order to have a chance at stopping, I had to notice, somehow, that I was about to do it and pause right at the initial impulse to make the movement, which was hard enough already. Next I needed to do something other than touching my face, when I felt utterly compelled to do it. It’s exceedingly hard to do. (Are you scratching an itch on your face right now as you read this?!).
For your baby at this stage, and in the environment you’ve created for them, rolling can be something more like this than like a thoughtfully considered decision.
Imagine a ball at the top of a hill — it takes just a little push, hardly any force to get it to roll all the way down to the valley where it stays at the bottom. It’s not until someone comes along and applies a very big force, like a strong kick, that the ball can get out of the valley. The valley is a “stable attractor.” It’s easy for the ball to get there, and difficult to leave. When your baby first learns to roll, rolling is a “stable attractor.” A groove that the baby’s body and brain fall into easily and often. And similar to the ball resting in the deep valley (or me touching my face)- the readiness to shift to a new action (such as playing on their back) just isn’t very accessible to your baby’s body and mind in this moment and in their current environment.
Once the skill of rolling is more practiced and not quite so new, your baby will have begun to explore other new options for movement. They will roll easily to either side, maybe initiating the movement not just by moving their leg, as they may have done at first, but also by reaching an arm across their body, or other variants. At this point, rolling over won’t have the same magnetic pull in their system. To understand this point in their development, you can think of a few hills that are less steep and with much shallower valleys. There are a few choices for where the ball might roll to – different possibilities for action and it’s easier now to roll the ball out of the valley to a new location — to initiate a new action rather than repeatedly rolling.
Now there are several attractive moves to make instead of the one and it’s easier to shift from one to the other. What does this mean for your baby? When your baby has reached this stage, now they won’t feel so utterly compelled to roll immediately to their tummy when they clearly are tired of being there. Until they reach that point though, we can catch ourselves rubbing our face once again, feel some empathy for their situation and give them a pat on the back while telling them we know just how it is.
* The ideas in this post are based upon the work of Dr. Esther Thelen, developmental psychologist and my Feldenkrais teacher at Indiana University in 2001/2002.
I’m excited to share more ideas with you for keeping your baby or toddler (and even preschooler) learning and happy at home. Vayu attended the We Grow Together program, for exactly a year, during which time his mom Sarah created a beautiful learning environment for him. She was generous enough to take pictures and share a few links to where she purchased many items, and I’ve added some captions to help other parents to make their own baby home gym!
Where to find these items or similar:
Yoga Bolsters – many sources
Rocker Board – Etsy. I have this one, but there are many options.
White Padded Mat: “Alzip” brand
Cardboard box – DIY!
Stokke Tripp Trapp – baby supply shop or get a used one, they last forever.
Rainbow Pikler Triangle Link
Remo Gathering Drum: many sources
Short Tunnel: Great size for new crawlers. Link
Thai Triangle Pillow: many sources
Foam/vinyl Ramp, Stairs and Tunnel Link
For more ideas for mobile babies stuck at home check out: “Home with a Crawler + Cruiser?”
With a baby at home, it can feel impossible to find the time for self-care. Thankfully, there are ways that you can take care of yourself while connecting to your baby as well. While I stayed home this week, I made a 3-minute meditation video that parents can use with their babies. My son, home from school, “helped” me out. Tune into your sensations and your baby for maximum benefit, or for a smile you can watch his silliness. Please share with any new parent friends!
Social Distancing Support Blog #1
Most of us are staying home at the moment (and here in Brooklyn most are in very small apartments)! Here are some ideas for keeping your crawling, cruising, and/or walking baby busy and engaged at home, and hopefully to help you maintain at least an ounce more inner-calm!
Make cruising obstacle courses with chairs and sofa.
Throw all the couch cushions on the floor and make more crawling obstacles.
Get a big cardboard box that she can push around the apartment like a walker.
Throw a blanket over the table and chairs and magical tent to play in.
Make a tunnel out of dining room chairs.
Fill some plastic bottles with water and seal them well. Your baby can try to pick up and move around (baby kettle bells!)
Turn a big box on its side and put some special toys inside (or hang them from the top).
Get a collapsible tunnel or a fancy 4-way one on amazon that folds flat. (Like this one)
Spend a bunch of money on Etsy and get a Pikler Triangle with some ramps and other attachments as well. (Or if you’re a good carpenter, make your own.)
You’ll get years of use out of it and it’s better than getting the other Etsy favorite – the rocker board which is great for toddlers and pre-schoolers).
“I have been taking Dan’s class weekly since my baby was less than 5 months old. He is now 9 months old and we have signed up for the next round! I was looking for a fun way to bond with my son while helping him to engage with the world in a joyful, physical, full-bodied way. Dan’s class provided this and so much more.
Dan is a true expert in his field–it’s clear that he loves what he does and he does it really well. Early on, he helped guide me through a period of time when my son hated tummy time, offering very specific, playful, gentle moves that I could repeat at home to help coax the baby to spend more time in this challenging position. Dan let my baby lead the way, never pushing beyond where the little one was ready to go in any given moment.
Dan gives amazing hands-on guidance that is specific to each baby. He is gentle, patient, kind and keenly observant. When my son started sitting and pivoting around, Dan noticed him favoring one side and showed me some things I could do with my son to encourage him to move his right hip in a different direction. Again, it was baby-led, gentle, and playful.
I am confident that my son’s passionately exploring nature was stimulated, nurtured and developed in this class. And he enjoys it–my baby always looks so happy when he’s in class! He loves Dan’s beautiful live music and the new discoveries. In one class, he enjoyed playing with a scarf so much I thought he was going to pass out with excitement, so we bought a smaller one to play with at home. When I sing songs from class at home or engage in one of the little movement rituals, my son immediately calms down and looks up at me. Dan’s class continues to help us bond, even when we are at home.
This class is very unique and authentic, a real gem. My favorite class I’ve taken with my baby! I highly recommend it!
The “ultimate magic of attachment is touch.”
– Daniel Stern, Diary of a Baby
Babies develop their sense of self through the felt-sense (physical and emotional) of their interactions with us. When we pick up a baby, change their diaper, or playfully interact through touch and movement, that baby is gaining an understanding of their body in movement.
Our minds may be on more mundane issues while changing a diaper, but a baby is sensing their body moved smoothly or jerkily, with ease or excess force, and sensing what happens if they resist or allow the movement. We need not be aware of this at every moment, but if we understand that our babies’ developing sense of movement, and indeed, sense of self, are influenced by our touch, we can shift our awareness of our interactions enough of the time to support a rich learning process for them.
Predictive Conversation and Conversational Touch
A study of infant language development pointed to the value of parents making “sensitive” responses to babies’ babbling. Researchers observed increased communicative ability in infants whose parent didn’t just imitate a sound being made, but rather modeled the words that their babies’ “sounds approximated and expanding on it (e.g., if the infant uttered “da-da-da,” the mother would say “Da-da is working. I am ma-ma”).” *
In the We Grow Together program, we explore a way of interacting through touch which correlates to the “sensitive” predictive conversation observed in this study. Parents learn to bond with their baby through “conversational touch”—hands-on interaction that sensitively mirrors and playfully expands upon a baby’s movements.
As a baby makes movements toward rolling, we can explore the movement with them. We don’t correct, and we don’t show the ‘right way’. Instead, we explore many options together. We can take hold of their leg and slowly sweep it across their body to try a multitude of different trajectories, noticing the possibilities together. Which directions seem more helpful towards rolling over, which may work better for rolling only to baby’s side, which seem suited more for kicking, or other functions. Like the mother who echoes “da da” and then begins an expanded verbal conversation, we mirror an initial movement and then use touch and movement to suggest and ask about alternative or more elaborate movements.
Outcomes: Beyond Equifinality
Equifinality means that for typically developing babies, they will likely crawl, walk, and talk at their own pace — but they all reach similar abilities in the end. So why practice this approach when they’ll probably be fine without it?
Through conversational touch, the baby has the opportunity to develop a richer repertoire of movement. Often when a skill is learned, a baby’s attempts at exploration decrease, and with less experimenting comes less refinement of the skill (Why explore and experiment when we can reach well enough to get the toy we want?!). But with conversational touch and We Grow Together classes, parents can invite their babies to keep the avenues of exploration open, and feel closer to each other in the process.
There are psychological and social benefits as well. Through these mindful exploratory movements together, parent and baby can bond more closely. They feel they are “in it together,” just as a parent and older child might feel when enjoying playing a game together. Parents in the We Grow Together program often realize they’ve made a profound shift from entertaining their baby to interacting. Some parents who feel distant and might have otherwise said they are “waiting for the baby to be older and able to play” realize that there’s a way to bond playfully and meaningfully through physical movement from the earliest days of their baby’s life.
I’m very excited to share news of the research study of my classes, conducted by Dr. Carolyn Palmer, PhD., Developmental Psychologist at Vassar College! Our recently published article in the Infant Mental Health Journal is titled “Moving Into Tummy-Time, Together: Touch and Transitions Aid Parent Confidence and Infant Development.” In it, Dr. Carolyn Palmer, Barbara Leverone and I share our findings — that attending my classes led to improved tummy-time, fostered a more varied repertoire of movement, and pointed toward shifts in parent confidence as well. Here is the link to the abstract. More info to come! https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/imhj.21771
We Grow Together offers two class sections for different ages and stages. The age ranges overlap somewhat because babies develop at different rates. The descriptions below will help you decide which class might be a better fit but don’t worry – you can’t really go wrong because each class is uniquely shaped by the needs and concerns of each parent and baby who attend it. Lastly, since the program is customized to each group, parents often repeat the same section multiple times and learn new ideas as their baby develops.
Co-Grow Baby 1 – for babies age 5w – 4m on first day of class
Nov 12 – Jan 12
Park Slope, Brooklyn Feldenkrais
8 classes, $280
Have you found yourself wondering why your baby does certain confounding things? Wouldn’t you love to know what your baby is thinking? For instance, after you give your baby a break from tummy time, does your baby instantly roll right back to their tummy even though they are exhausted from that position? A classic baby experiment may give you a new understanding about your baby’s thought process.
In the video linked below, a mom shows her 8m old baby a toy and hides it under one of two handkerchiefs. The baby reaches for the correct handkerchief and finds his toy. Next, the mom clearly shows him that she has moved the toy under the second handkerchief. Even though the baby clearly sees this, he still reaches for where the toy was the first time! Why would he do this even though he saw where it was moved to?
This experiment is referred to as the “A not B error.” The baby reaches for handkerchief A even though he sees that the toy is under B. It’s a phenomenon that only lasts a few months, around ages 8 – 9 months of age. It seems like a strange error to make, since the baby clearly sees the toy moving. Piaget, believed that this error was due to a lack of the concept of “object permanence.” More recently, development researchers have new, and intriguing ideas of what might be happening here.
“In human development, every neural event, every reach, every smile and every social encounter sets the stage for the next and the real-time causal force behind change,” wrote the late Esther Thelen, Developmental Psychologist and Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner. What we may very well be seeing is the interconnectedness of a baby’s body and mind. While the baby’s visual sense takes in the view of the toy in a new location, he has just organized his body to reach successfully under the “A” handkerchief. The motor planning of that previous reach is a neural event that “sets the stage for the next” movement. In a few months this baby will be able to feel that readiness to reach to A, but be able to override that motor-planning history and reach for the correct handkerchief. But for now, the previous act of having planned the reach to “A” is so powerful, that the baby reaches to the wrong place to find the toy.
Similarly the baby who has recently learned to roll over, seems drawn as if magnetically to roll over even when they are very tired of being on their tummy! That new movement of rolling, becomes so “attractive” that they roll even when they seemingly don’t want to do it. After a time, the baby will begin to find other movements or “attractor states” to use Dr. Thelen’s language, and the “magnetism” of rolling over will fade.
While we can never really know what your baby’s experience is, it can be helpful to understand that your baby’s thinking (and emotional life for that matter) is inseparable from his bodily sensations. Because your touch is so much a part of his sensation of his body, it means that you too are an inseparable part of this equation.
photo: © Oksana Kuzmina/fotolia
See “Cogsci-mom” demonstrate A not B error with her baby – even with see-thru cups!
“Dan really has an uncanny ability to watch your child for only a moment and make spot-on suggestions of how you can best support your child’s physical development. I have recommended Dan to countless friends as a great resource to help parents and caregivers feel more confident while connecting with their babies.”
Dan’s class was fun and educational! Just as important, it got me out of the house during a vulnerable time when I was unsure of myself and inclined to stay home. As a first-time mom, I had read a lot about pregnancy and childbirth but wasn’t sure how to interact with my baby during his early stages of development. Dan’s classes energized me as I met and observed other new parents and learned many ways to engage with my baby through movement and songs that I really do enjoy singing. Often my son was crabby, slept, or nursed during our scheduled class time, but I always brought the things I learned home for when he was awake and ready to play. It was great for both of us!
We took the pre-crawlers class with Micaiah when he was about 10 weeks old. It was really really excellent. I knew there were things I should be encouraging him to do, and also knew there was probably a type of way I should be encouraging him, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t stressing him out or moving him in ways that weren’t helpful (or, contrary to natural body movement).
The class is short (45 minutes) to sustain his attention (and mine), got to meet some other great moms, and it really helped build my confidence to encourage his natural movement (and know when he needed a push in a certain direction). I was actually pretty amazed by how secure it made me feel at the end in terms of where he was developmentally and where we were headed in the future.
A complete turnaround for a baby who was late for meeting milestones!
Take care and be well,
This Feldenkrais workshop, will teach you how to practice new patterns of coordinating your shoulders, neck, spine and all the rest, which will make carrying your baby easier (including while breast-feeding) and thereby relieve chronic pain. You will leave with a new feeling of how to move, and ideas for how to practice while you are interacting with your child. Taught by Dan Rindler, GCFP.
This workshop is just for adults. No babies please, as this is a time to focus on yourself!
Why Standing your Baby may contribute to their difficulty in Tummy Time
“My Baby Hates Tummy-Time…But Loves to Stand”
Does your baby hate tummy-time but love to stand up? This is a common combination and there is a reason for them to appear together. Many parents, eager to notice what makes their baby happy and to follow their baby’s lead, fall into the habit of standing up very young babies. This may seem fine, as babies often seem to really enjoy the position. However, standing your baby before he can coordinate bringing himself to the position can result in practicing a lot of unnecessary stiffness and holding in the body. For many babies standing along with other factors can add up to difficulty in tummy-time and other movements that are important developmentally.
Why it’s too early
When you stand your baby up before she can do it herself, she is in a constant state of catching herself from falling. Because she hasn’t developed enough balance yet, and doesn’t know how to use her legs and feet for support, her body leans forward, back, and to the side. With each lean away from her center of gravity she tenses her muscles to stop from falling, and often with too much muscle tone.
But isn’t your baby getting stronger? Well his muscles may get larger as a result, but it isn’t an ideal way to do it. An important part of strength is using muscles with coordinated effort – distributing the work through the body in a way that is efficient. What often gets practiced when a baby is stood very early, is the opposite of efficient coordinated effort. As the baby in this photo is stood up, he relies on the muscles in front (flexors) and back (extensors) to create the stability he needs, his shoulders shrug and arms stiffen, he knees may lock or grip his toes reflexively as well. As a result, he practices contracting many muscle groups together inefficiently to create the necessary stability to feel safe. Not only does he practice too much muscle tone, but inefficient combinations of muscle groups are used which work at cross purposes. In short, he ends up contracting many muscles at the same time to stabilize himself and if he brings that same pattern of contraction to tummy time and other positions he will feel that it is difficult to be comfortable or to move the way he’d like.
When your baby is on her tummy, if she keeps her muscles contracted in a similar state to standing, she will be very uncomfortable. She may not be able to lift her head at all, or she may not even be able to feel at rest on her tummy and instead may hold herself in a position where she is fighting gravity from the moment she touches down. To give one example, here is a baby exploring how to coordinate his body for lifting the head in tummy-time.
The extensors of the back contract enough to help lift the head, while the flexors, generally stay soft and lengthen. Not only that, but any time he feels that he is exerting himself too much, he can rest his head on the floor. Also notice just how much of his body he leans on to support himself – a very large base of support compared to two little feet! Do you see how different this is than the pattern the baby practices when standing up? In other movements different combinations of muscle groups fire, but in each one, there is quite a different pattern than the strong stabilizing pattern elicited when standing your baby up.
But My Baby Loves to Stand!
Yes, it appears that your baby loves standing. My colleague Barbara Leverone likes to re-frame this statement as, “My baby loves to see me and and he loves to push with his legs.” The good news is you can give your baby what he loves in a way that is more developmentally appropriate than standing. When he lies on his back, allow him to push on your legs or arms or the floor at the baby in this picture does, and use his legs to move his well-supported body. Coo and chat with him while you do it. He will love the feeling, and he gets to see you too. The difference will be that he doesn’t have to stabilize his head in gravity without a chance to rest down to the floor whenever he needs. And that change may make a big difference in your baby’s development.
Do you ever wonder, “What is my baby thinking?” Have you considered how your baby experiences thoughts since he or she don’t think in words? It’s likely that a lot of baby-thoughts have to do with bodily sensations. In fact, your baby has an inner experience of you and of the world in which their thoughts and feelings are inseparable from the sensations of their own body.
When you touch your baby with a “listening touch” as taught in Child’Space NYC classes, you will find that you connect to your baby in a very different way than you might when drawing their attention outward to a toy or book or some other external focus. Instead you are joining them in a way that acknowledges their inner experience. To paraphrase Dr. Ruella Frank, in that moment your baby “sees you see her and feels you feels her.”
This is a powerful practice for your baby and for you. It can be an antidote to all the stimulation of modern life – as cautioned about in this article.
Like meditation, it’s not complicated – it just may be hard to remember to find time for it amidst all the distractions and tasks involved in being a new parent. But if you do make the time (and it doesn’t take much) you’ll find there’s a great reward for doing so. To begin, put away your phone, take off your apple watch, rest your hand on your baby look into their eyes and listen to what you feel. Next, tell your baby what you’re feeling, they’ll appreciate hearing about it.
“The ultimate magic of attachment is touch. And this magic enters through the skin.” —Daniel Stern
Advice for parents looking for the best way to do tummy-time with their baby
Tummy-Time is a Movement, not a Position
Are you concerned about helping your baby “do tummy-time correctly?” Perhaps instead of a perfect push-up like you’ve seen in countless baby photos, she lays with her head down and turns it side to side, or maybe she even rolls her body a bit to her side and ends up in a twist. Not only are these and other possibilities typical, a variety of movements in “tummy” position (including that “push-up”) are beneficial for your baby. Babies learn when they experience a wide range of movements and orientations, and understanding this can help make tummy-time a happier and more beneficial experience for your baby and for you.
Your Baby is not a Cube
Phrases like “tummy-time,” “back to sleep,” and even “side-time,” which I coined in a recent article, can imply a static posture. Similar to the way we describe yoga postures, these ways of talking about a baby’s body imply that there is an ideal shape or position to strive for. However, this kind of thinking can negatively influence how we as parents interact with our babies, because babies are wired to move!
We talk about our bodies as having a front and back and sides – like a cube. But the human body is more cylindrical than our words describe. Can you pinpoint the exact spot where your back ends and your side begins? There is no exact point! While a cube can lie on one side or another for any length of time, your baby’s torso is much more of a cylinder – made to shift weight constantly in both big and small increments — and it’s beneficial to give your baby many opportunities to do so.
Tummy-Time for Cylinders
When parents are encouraged to see tummy-time as a fixed position (and often as an exercise), rather than a position to be in and move through, they often keep their baby there too long. They don’t encourage or even allow all of the small movements that are important for the development of balance, weight shift, and more. I encourage parents to see tummy-time as an orientation for movement rather than a posture.
Movement and Brain Development
All of the seemingly random small movements your baby does in tummy-time are significant experiences for brain development. The experience of these movements are necessary for your child to build coordinated and efficient movement. In her book Kids Beyond Limits, Anat Baniel writes on the subject of what she calls “random movements,” saying, “Those random movements of the more typical baby may not seem like much at the time. But for the child’s brain, they provide a rich flow of experiences and information that are absolutely necessary for the brain to eventually develop controlled and effective movements and actions.”
Suggestions for more Dynamic Tummy-Time:
1 Watch and touch your baby during tummy-time, not the clock.
2 Encourage babies who don’t yet lift their head to follow your voice and turn and look to the other side.
3 You can allow your baby to pass through tummy-time repeatedly – roll baby there and back again slowly. Don’t worry about staying for a long “workout” each and every time.
4 Have small, graspable toys nearby for baby to reach for – this requires shifting weight more to one side, and will give baby important practice with movements.
5 A We Grow Together class or private session can give you many ideas that are specifically appropriate for your baby.
Kira Charles and I had the great pleasure to present Child’Space Method to the staff of Columbia University Early Head Start located in Inwood, NYC. Our half-day workshop focused on helping parents to bond with their newborn babies using touch and movement techniques of the Child’Space Method. We were so moved to hear about the population that these wonderful educators work with – mostly recent immigrants living in very difficult conditions. The feedback was wonderful – they said things like, “I’ve been looking for an approach that respects infants as human beings the way Child’Space does.” Or, “I realize how much more I need to be aware in my own body, in order to help the infants and parents I work with.”
I am very interested to connect with more social service agencies to present Child’Space, or to arrange Child’Space classes. Please leave feedback here in the comments section below this post if you have connections to an organization that might be interested. Thanks everyone!
As many of you know, I’m not much of a fan of the Bumbo seat for most babies. I came across an excellent article by Rebecca Talmud, a pediatric PT in Park Slope this week which details many reasons to consider before using this device with your baby. Bumbo Article link
Here’s some info that may help clarify the article.
Anterior Pelvic Tilt: This baby is sitting fairly tall – his pelvis tips forward somewhat to form a base of support under his spine.
Posterior Pelvic Tilt: A newborn is unable to tilt their pelvis forward when seated, their backs are rounded, and there is not a good base of support from the pelvis. (This example is from a ridiculous stock photo found online – Don’t try this at home!) This is the positioning of the pelvis that I believe the Bumbo elicits from babies placed in the seat.
Chicago Tribune Therapists see no developmental benefits from seats LINK
A few of the books that have influenced the Child’Space NYC program
Diary of a Baby, What Your Child Sees, Feels, and Experiences, by Daniel Stern. Stern writes short “diary entries” in an imagined child’s voice, from infancy through preschool years. Stern uses poetic imagery to get inside the mind of a baby. Emotions and hunger are described as coming over the baby like a storm, or a wave crashing. I found it a very helpful way to get a new understanding of my own daughter. The ideas behind each diary entry are then expanded upon by the author, with emphasis on the development of sense of self in relation to parents and environment, volition, perception, sensory and emotional development.
Amazing Babies, by Beverly Stokes. This book has many parallels to the Feldenkrais and Child’Space Methods. My favorite book to recommend for learning about the first year of motor development with one major caveat; The book is laid out with a chapter for each month of the first year of life, with milestones for each month. We know that typically developing babies don’t at all develop on a fixed schedule and that this model creates unnecessary anxiety in some parents, so I would have liked a different format. Stokes also includes movement exercises for parents to explore in order to better understand their baby’s motor development.
Parenting From the Inside Out. By Daniel Siegel & Mary Hartzell. Provides hope that you need not repeat your parents’ missteps in parenting your own child! This book combines aspects of neuroscience (specifically brain development) with psychology to investigate how our own childhood experiences shape us as parents. The authors provide an approach to investigating our past in order to make changes in our present approach to parenting our children.
DVD: The Baby Human: Geniuses in Diapers. To Walk/To Think/To Talk. This is a great video on child development. Video vignettes of babies learning different skills in the home are interspersed with video from the labs of prominent researchers in child development. (Including the late Esther Thelen, a leading researcher and theorist of child development who introduced me to the Feldenkrais method!) A second DVD on emotional development has just been released too.
What’s Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, by Lise Eliot. This is a comprehensive, up to date book on brain/mind development, with most of the book concentrating on infancy and toddler years. Understanding the development of your baby’s nervous system can give you a new understanding of his or her behavior and unfolding development.
Touch, by Tiffany Field. Field describes the skin as the largest sense organ in your baby’s body. It’s an interesting look at touch in different cultures and the costs of living in the “touch-starved” culture of America.
Awareness Heals: by Stephen Shafarman. This is one of the more accessible introductions to the Feldenkrais Method. If you are interested in the method for yourself and aren’t ready to try a class or private lesson, I recommend this book. Look beyond its new=agey cover(!) and find very clear descriptions of the underlying principals, a short bio of Moshe Feldenkrais and several movement lessons to try.
© Dan Rindler, 2012
“Because touch, more than any other sense, has such ready access to young babies’ brains, it offers perhaps the best possible opportunity, and one of the easiest, for molding their emotional and mental well-being.” Lise Eliot, What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
The techniques of touch used in Child’Space Method help to build up a child’s proprioceptive sense. Put simply, proprioception is the sense of where one’s body is in space. When using the tapping or squeezing techniques of the method, use a soft, sensing hand; your hand should feel bones and muscle, not just skin. By touching with the intention to feel the structure of your child’s body, you are asking your child to feel the full volume of their body parts and giving them a clearer image of their body in space. Adding a song from class to the tapping will enhance the learning process for your child, by engaging tactile, auditory, and visual senses.
“Aspects of the outside world and the body’s anatomy are systematically mapped onto brain tissue…Whenever someone claps you on the shoulder, nerve cells in the shoulder region in this map are activated. When you scratch your elbow, both your elbow region and fingertip regions are activated. This map is your primary physical window on the world around you, the entry point for all the raw touch information streaming moment by moment into your brain.” Sandra Blakeslee,. The Body has a Mind of its Own.
For older children too, this is more than just a calming activity. We can all benefit from improving our internal image of our body in space. For example, if a person had a fully formed sense at all times of where their body is in space, they would never stub a toe or bump into things around the house. Improving your child’s sense of self can help improve motor development in areas such as strength, coordination, balance, and refined control of movement. It’s important to note that the benefits extend beyond motor development, the body is where our original sense of self is begins.
“People and objects come and go; the body does not. From birth, one’s own body is the companion of all psychological experiences. …the inclination of infants to explore their own bodies forms the cradle of self perception and the developmental origin of self-knowledge. For infants the body is a major feature of the world.” Philippe Rochat. The Infant’s World
© Dan Rindler, 2012
By Dan Rindler, Child’Space Trainer, GCFP
The Child’Space Method is practiced in two formats, hands-on sessions and group classes. In both formats, the practitioner actively involves the parent in the process and teaches them hands-on techniques and games of interactive touch and movement that support infant development and enhance the bond between parent and child.
“Because touch, more than any other sense, has such ready access to young babies’ brains, it offers perhaps the best possible opportunity, and one of the easiest, for molding their emotional and mental well-being.” Lise Eliot, “What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life”
Development: Child’Space seeks to improve motor, social, emotional and cognitive development primarily through touch and movement. This is possible because motor development affects all other aspects of development. For example, when a baby first learns to lift her head while lying on her stomach, this new learning affects her social, emotional and cognitive development too. She can now interact with her toys in a new orientation, stimulating new connections in her brain (cognitive). After having spent a lot of time with adult faces hovering over her while she was on her back, she can now invite those familiar faces to a new experience – meeting face to face from a more equal position. (social, emotional).
Importance of Touch: In our touch-starved culture, babies don’t always get the touch they need. Studies have shown that babies who are touched more have healthier weight gain, better sleep habits and lower levels of anxiety. Child’Space teaches parents techniques that go deeper than massage, the method uses touch to facilitates the learning of new movements which, in turn, stimulate changes in the baby’s brain.
Milestones: Often babies and young children are evaluated on the basis of milestones. i.e. Is the child rolling over? A Child’Space Practitioner, is even more interested in observing how the child is doing the movement, in addition to what movements or positions are possible. Is there an effortless quality to the movement or is it accomplished with a lot of unnecessary muscular effort? Through increased awareness, infants can learn to move in ways that are more coordinated, and efficient.
Trial and Error Learning. Children learn through play, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Ideal infant learning sometimes involves becoming frustrated and overcoming those frustrations through problem solving. Parents can learn through their own process of trial and error how to support their baby without solving their problems for them, in order to learn and to gain a certain amount of self sufficiency.
Early Intervention: Why intervene when we are told “it will work itself out?” Current research tells us that a child’s environment and relationships affect the progress of their development. Making small, seemingly simple changes to your child’s world can make very positive changes in their experience. Take the example of a child who has learned to sit and crawl. The milestone can be checked off on a chart as being learned, but there is great variation in the way each child sits and crawls. Can a child freely transition in and out of many different positions or is her movement limited and strained? When issues of movement are addressed early on, changes can be adopted incredibly quickly and the effect on one’s quality of life can be profound.
“I am not arguing that the infant cannot find a way to perform the necessary physical tasks. I am however, concerned with the quality of the functioning. It seems sensible to exploit the fact that applying minimal stimulus, at an early stage, can help to achieve maximum quality. We cannot foresee which child will overcome early developmental hiccups and for which child these early frustrations will have far reaching, unwanted effects.” Dr. Chava Shelhav, Ph.D. “Filling in the Blanks” The Feldenkrais Journal. Spring 2005.
by Dan Rindler, Feldenkrais Practitioner, GCFP
If you’ve been told by your pediatrician that your baby’s neck is stiff, or that they are developing a flat spot, you are not alone. Perhaps your baby has been diagnosed with torticollis, a condition in which the body, especially the neck and head, are held in an asymmetrical position. Often flat-head syndrome, or plagiocephaly, is present in babies with torticollis too. Recent studies, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery, show a huge surge in the incidence of torticollis, up from 2% of babies to 16%.
Many parents find their baby is highly resistant to the common treatment prescribed: a routine of stretching and positioning, and orthotic devices for more severe cases. A Feldenkrais-based approach takes a different approach to working with torticollis. The method doesn’t focus on adjusting the head and neck, but rather addresses the whole child in a way that is often more easily accepted by the baby, and therefore, easier for parents to institute at home. At a time when nearly half of all babies have some degree of a flat head by the age of 2-3 months, this approach is more important than ever for parents to learn.
A challenging condition for babies and parents:
In this picture of a baby with torticollis, notice the tilted and rotated position of the baby’s head and neck. She is not able to turn her head as fully to the other direction, which affects the way she uses her eyes. If she lies on her back a lot, it’s very likely she will develop a flat spot on her skull. This flat spot will make it even more challenging to turn her head away from her habitual position. If she is sat up often in a chair such as a Bumbo seat to avoid the flattening of her head, the weight of her head hanging more to one side will likely exacerbate the asymmetry of her spine as well.
Is it Really Only A “Pain in the Neck?”
Most pictures of babies with torticollis show just the head, neck and shoulders. In fact, I had a lot of trouble finding a full body picture for use with this article. While this makes sense as these areas are the parts most obviously affected, it is an incomplete picture of what is actually an asymmetry throughout the body. This focus on the head and neck influences common treatment approaches, which are also frequently incomplete.
A whole-baby view and approach:
Consider for a moment the leaning tower of Pisa. When the tower became structurally unsound in 1990, something had to be done. The engineers tasked with this job could have changed the tower at the top with a wedge to bring it level. You don’t need to be an architect to know that this approach would not work! Without a solid foundation beneath it, the “leveled” top of the tower in this scenario would not be able to hold its position for any length of time before collapsing. What engineers actually did was to change the foundation of the building so that the tower wouldn’t lean to a dangerous degree. If it weren’t the iconic tourist attraction that it is, those engineers would have changed the foundation so that the tower actually stood straight. If we work with a baby’s neck muscles without addressing what’s happening throughout their body, we similarly ameliorate only part of a problematic situation.
Look at the same baby as above, but observe the picture of her whole body. With this more global view, we can notice that her left shoulder tilts down in the same direction that her head tilts and that the left hand reaches near her hip while the right hand can’t reach as far down. The ribs on the baby’s left side are compressed and her right side is long, with (one can imagine) the ribs spread apart. The left side of her pelvis is raised and her left leg is flexed. With such a biased foundation, how could her head and neck do anything but tilt?
Noticing these differences throughout the body are a key to the effectiveness of Feldenkrais Method. The baby may react with tears and cries when her tight neck is stretched, but working with her ribs, her hip, or her leg, would almost definitely feel less invasive to her. When she feels new options for the movement of her “foundation,” she will be all the readier to accept a change in her neck and head. This powerful yet gentle, holistic approach will help her to find new options for posture and movement that will benefit her for life.
SORRY, THIS EVENT HAD TO BE
Baby Wearing 101
September 15th, 10am-12pm
at Melt Massage and Bodywork, Fort Greene
84 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Bianca Fehn of Metro-Minis is joined by Dan Rindler of Child’Space NYC to present:
Baby Wearing 101 Baby Wearing 101: Learn about (and try!) many options for baby wearing and the pros and cons of different carriers. Also learn simple tips for posture and self-use when carrying your baby to protect your back, neck and shoulders from strain.
– includes a discount voucher for carriers from metro-minis. (order online or buy in person at this event)
– Includes a discount voucher for an introductory Feldenkrais session with Dan Rindler.
Current Locations – Not in your neighborhood yet? See, Home-hosted classes in the Classes Menu to Bring CS NYC to your hood!
Dan Rindler GCFP private studio at Melt Massage and Bodywork, Fort Greene. 84 Lafayette Ave., Lower Level, Brooklyn, NY 11217 new class times will be added soon for this location.
Birth Day Presence Park Slope 182 8th Ave, Brooklyn NY 11215
Gumbo, Boerum Hill, 493 Atlantic ave, Brooklyn NY 11217
North Slope Private Home 6th ave and Carroll for January 2014
Home-hosted classes only at the moment. Looking to form new classes for fall on the UWS, SOHO, Tribeca and more. Please email us at [email protected] if you’d like to host a class!
Trial Class January 29, at Small Steps Big Leaps Sensory Gym: Try the First Class For Just $20!
1. Child’Space NYC, Special Attention – Tuesday 10am-1045am at Small Steps Big Leaps, 20th St. near 4th avenue.
Open to all pre-walking babies and their parents or caretakers. These classes are kept to 5 babies maximum: smaller than all other child’space nyc classes to allow for attention to each child. Take-home CD of music used in class included with registration fee!
Click Here to Register
Child’space NYC offers small classes for children who would benefit from more individualized attention.* It is a wonderful option both for infants who receive services through Early Intervention, and for those who were denied services but for whom concerns remain. It can be a helpful additional program for children who are undergoing physical therapy or other therapies. Child’Space NYC is a privately offered class, and has no connection to the EI program.
In Special Attention classes, just as in all child’space nyc offerings, the focus is on: a) helping parents better connect to their infant through touch and b) teaching techniques of touch and movement specific to each baby’s needs to support their development. These smaller groups allow for more individualized time with each child.
Trial Class: Wednesday, October 16, 12pm-1245pm.
For all pre-walking babies/young children under 2 years. @ the Child’Space NYC Studio, Located within Melt Massage & Bodywork, 84 Lafayette Ave, Lower Level. Fort Greene Brooklyn
5 Class Series: Wednesday, 12pm-1245pm October 23, 30, Nov 6, 13, 20
Some of the issues that Child’Space Method can help with include:
- skipped crawling
- late walking or other “missed milestones”
- club foot
- high muscle tone
- low muscle tone
- hip dysplasia
- brachial plexus injury
- limited mobility due to surgery
- undiagnosed delays
- down’s syndrome
- cerebral palsy
- spina bifida
- brain injury
- chromosome disorders
- many others
*Children with special needs are welcome at all child’space classes and need not be limited to these offerings. Special Attention Classes were added after many parents requested specialized classes with smaller class sizes and more time for hands-on interaction from Dan.
Any age crawling baby – possibly beginning to stand or cruise.
Perhaps more than any other age, crawling babies like to keep in motion! Child’Space with crawlers teaches parents touch and movement from the Child’Space and Feldenkrais methods but unlike the pre-crawlers class, almost everything is done “on the move.” We learn new skills and make new connections as we sing, dance and play and explore! As some babies in class begin to stand and then walk, we explore the ways that we can support development of these very busy babies. Learn to support and enrich development with movement activities, instruments to play and great songs just right for crawlers and beginning walkers.
In Special Attention classes, just as in all child’space nyc offerings, the focus is on: a) helping parents better connect to their infant through touch and b) teaching techniques of touch and movement specific to each baby’s needs to support their development. These smaller groups allow for more individualized time with each child.
Rolling, Reaching, Pivoting and More
In this class for babies five months and older, we look at how to support each baby’s learning, through touch, movement and song. Parents and caretakers learn to support and encourage the learning of movements that will become the building blocks for balanced, coordinated sitting, crawling, walking and more.
Child’Space NYC is a unique, joyful program for babies and their parents or caregivers. Child’Space Method fosters new connections between parent and child through touch, through teaching parents hands-on techniques to support their babies’ development. All classes are taught by Dan Rindler Guild Certified Feldenkrais practitioner and Child’Space Practitioner.
Before and after from a four-week Tummy Time workshop led by Dan Rindler.