Starfish Therapies

July 26, 2011

Frustration + Problem Solving = Motor Planning and Movement!

Commando Crawling

Recently I’ve been able to get my hands back on a baby (under 1 year old) and have been loving it.  We are at the stage where we are working on transitions and commando crawling, i.e. the movement piece.  I love watching movement evolve.  Its at this stage that they know they want to get to a certain place and they are utilizing all of their skills thus far to be able to get there.  For example, this little girl knows how to roll so she is reaching forward with her arms and rolling on her side.  Each time she does this and then rolls back to her belly she has inched a little further forward.  In addition, she knows how to push up on her arms and how to bend her knees to get into the position of commando crawling but hasn’t mastered the coordination of the arms and legs, or even left and right.  All she knows is that if she pushes up on her arms and bends her legs she can move (this is because we have been giving her assistance to begin to show her and teach her how to coordinate her movements).    What ends up resulting is her tush up in the air, her arms trying to push up and pull herself forward and her legs pushing such that she is using her toes to lever herself forward.  And, using these techniques she moves towards her goal centimeter by centimeter.  Now, we all realize this isn’t the most efficient way to get to her goal (i.e. the toy she has in her sights) but she is figuring it out and figuring out how her body works together.  After each attempt where she struggles through the problem solving of movement, we give her assistance with the correct technique/sequencing as well as cues as to when to time her muscle activation so that she becomes more efficient with each attempt.  However, the important part is to give her the opportunity to explore her body and movement and try to piece together the movement so that she is figuring it out.  This is just like when a child begins to stand and they bounce in their cribs, alternating between bending and straightening their knees.  They are trying to figure out how their quads, gluts and hamstrings all work together.  So with each bounce their body is sending messages to their brain about what happened so they can learn to refine the process and be efficient with their muscle activation.  Each attempt this little girl makes to move closer to the toy she wants sends messages from her muscles to her brain about what is working and what isn’t working.  This is how kids learn to move.  If we continue to just pick them up or move them places so that they never have to struggle, we are robbing them of experiences that will affect their continued development as well as their perserverance.

(unfortunately I don’t have video of this but as soon as I have some video I will share!)



  1. Babies truly amaze me. To observe a baby learning a new motor skill is an eye opener. You realize how much focus and work goes into moving to get to the toys but then not so much focus on the toys once they get there. Sometimes the novelty for a baby is just getting to the destination. It also amazes me how much babies repeat the same movements over and over again to learn the skill. Parents and adults need to allow that time for babies to practice.

    To add to your comment re:”if we continue to pick them up we are robbing them of experiences…” we are also teaching babies a sense of helplessness at times. If they get used to you picking them up they will expect it and stop working on getting there themselves.

    In reality though parents can not always wait until a baby gets to their destination but we can make an effort to give a baby ample practice time (and space) when it is available.

    Comment by Your Therapy Source — July 27, 2011 @ 1:17 am | Reply

  2. […] asleep or when they wake up to explore their movement and bodies.  A lot of time it can be due to frustration (i.e. they want to get up and so they look for any means to let their parents know this) which can […]

    Pingback by Swaddling « Starfish Therapies — October 25, 2011 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

  3. […] Give them motivation and a challenge:  This is in response to how to get their kids to move.  Now some kids may have other challenges going on but the same ideas still apply.  If you want your child to move don’t put everything right in their reach.  I remember going to a family’s house and they were concerned because all their daughter did was sit in one spot and didn’t attempt to move.  When I looked to where she was sitting, she was on her blanket with every toy she could possibly want right in front of her.  She has no reason to move!  Find out what is motivating for your child, let them engage with it and then move it just a little bit out of their reach.  Let them try to struggle and figure out what they need to do to get to it.  The struggle is part of the learning process.  Its when they get to figure out what their body can and can’t do and how to react to any changes.  This is where motor planning is developed.  Now, I don’t torture the kids, I will usually let them try to figure it out and then assist them into having some success so they can play with whatever motivates them and then move it out of reach again and start all over.  Over Christmas my cousin’s little girl really wanted to move but couldn’t figure out what she needed to do.  We put the little baby doll that she wanted a little bit in front of her and then I gave her some assistance at the legs so she could push herself along the floor.  After a few tries she started to grasp that by moving her body she was able to get to her toy.  That awareness helped her to pick up the skill even faster.  (see also ‘Frustration + Problem Solving = Motor Planning and Movement‘) […]

    Pingback by Motor Tips for Parents – Part 1 « Starfish Therapies — January 9, 2012 @ 9:02 pm | Reply

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