Starfish Therapies

September 8, 2011

Developing Movement

I recently went to the Section on Pediatrics Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA.  It was an amazing 3 days of information all related to pediatrics.  One of the talks I went to talked about the development of movement and the variability that goes along with that.  This is in relation to all kids, not just kids with physical challenges.  Stacey Dusing, PT, PhD was the researcher and she discussed a lot of the research she has done on the development of movement, specifically postural control.  A lot of what she talked about was not surprising to me, however I had never sat down and formulated into words, what I was watching when I worked with kids.  As infants begin to develop movement and explore they use a lot of variability in their movement.  No two movements will look alike in the learning phase because they are trying out strategies to see what works best and what will be the most efficient and effective for them.  For instance when a child is learning how to develop sitting balance they are swaying all over the place if you were to look at their movements on a force plate.  As they become better at maintaining balance their movements will decrease and become more efficient but before they can do that they need to explore their body and their muscles.  Every movement is a learning opportunity for them based on cause and effect.  They start to learn that if I go too far this way I fall over.  After doing this a few times their body can start to remember what will happen and try using other muscles to prevent them from falling.  They also start to figure out how far they can move and not fall over.  Even for kids who have challenges with movement they can still practice this strategy.  Going all the way back to head turning while lying on their back, the child is trying to figure out how to get their head in the middle and keep it there.  If they keep getting stuck with it all the way on one side you can help to limit the range of their movement by creating a gentle bumper so they know they’ve gone too far and will try to bring it back to the middle.  In sitting the same thing can happen.  Instead of holding your child in sitting so they don’t fall over let them explore their body and space and use gentle taps to help remind them that maybe they’ve gone too far.  Create a safe environment for them to fall because the falling is just as important for their development as their ability to remain upright.  Errors in movement are okay because they get to learn from their ‘mistakes’.  If they never experience a ‘mistake’ then they may not develop multiple strategies and will only utilize one pattern.  In some of Dr. Dusing’s research she found that she could begin to predict who would have movement delays based on the lack of variability in their movement.

The key here is to allow your children to explore how their body moves and learn from the cause and effect of that movement.  Infants should be given lots of floor time to develop movement!


  1. I agree 100%. It is so amazing to watch an infant learn to move. Not only do they need to explore and try different options they do this over and over again. It is so interesting to see how many times an infant will repeat similar actions just to get a feel for the movement pattern. So few toys are necessary for this to take place either. Babies need safe space to play not necessarily loads of toys. Less is more with babies.

    I think we need to keep this same concept in mind as children get older as well. Children need time to explore new spaces when they encounter them especially if the children have motor planning or body awareness issues. I have written a blog post on this topic here

    I also agree that we need to let children make motor mistakes and learn from them not just as babies. I think we can be too overprotective which hinders development – here is a blog post I have written in this topic

    Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Your Therapy Source — September 15, 2011 @ 12:58 am | Reply

    • Thanks for your comments and sharing your posts! You provide great resources all the time.

      Comment by Starfish Therapies — September 15, 2011 @ 2:18 am | Reply

  2. […] out of. In fact I discussed the beauty of movement variability in the development of movement in my previous post.  I was re-inspired to post about w-sitting because of this article I read on the most recent […]

    Pingback by W-Sitting Revisited « Starfish Therapies — September 28, 2011 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

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