19 Aug 2011

Why are we in such a rush to sit down?

No Comments ELECT, Infants, Physical
Infants (0-24 months)
Physical 

5.1 Gross Motor

Sitting

  • sitting without support
While the infant is straddling your extended leg, hold her arms and bounce her gently. 

This rhythmic movement strengthens the muscles and balance involved in sitting.

I’m going to jump ahead to the Physical domain for this post because of something that happened to me yesterday. I had stepped in as a substitute facilitator in a parenting group for women with young babies. My co-facilitator, who regularly leads the group, asked me to bring out a breastfeeding pillow and show one of the mothers how to prop her six month old infant into a sitting position. I knew where we kept the breastfeeding pillows, however, it occurred to me in that moment that I don’t actually know the best way to prop up an infant into a sitting position. I don’t know because I’ve never done it.

In my practice I’ve never felt the need to use a pillow or other supports to hold a child in any position “independently” when they aren’t able to get into that position on their own. They are going to sit eventually, so what’s the rush? Why do we create these artificial milestones that children are only able to achieve with adult intervention? The ability to sit supported no longer matters when the child is able to sit unsupported. In the ELECT the milestone is identified as “sitting without support” with no mention of sitting with support as either a skill or even a strategy to support the development of the skill. So unless a professional has instructed you to prop your infant into a sitting position as part of an early intervention, don’t do it. You don’t need to.

At times I wonder if young children, especially infants, feel like marionettes with adults pulling the strings and manipulating their movements. Infants are definitely willing and able to move around on their own. With ample opportunities for free movement and exploration, children will achieve developmental milestones on their own, in their own time. That’s why the ELECT uses only the most general age guidelines, so that we don’t try and enforce a timeline. It’s a continuum of development with each new milestone logically following the previous milestone; that’s how we were meant to develop.  Children will get there in their own time, no need to rush.

Photo by Honza Soukup (Flickr)

written by
A registered Early Childhood Educator and former President of the Halton Branch of the Association for Early Childhood Educators of Ontario.
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