Movement Matters!

In Montessori, we honor children’s movement, even from birth! One reason why we focus so much on movement for young children is that healthy movement development in the first two years of life can provide our children with considerable benefits in the years to come.

So, let’s take a quick look at the science to better understand how to support our infants and toddlers during this critical time.

Movement & Myelination

At birth, movements are spontaneous and reflexive, like sucking and swallowing which are essential for survival. These early reflexive movements originate from the spinal cord and brain stem, but soon movement matures from the head down.

Our brains depend upon our sensory nervous system to share information about the surrounding world. This information actually shapes our brains’ connections and neural pathways.

For infants, these neural connections are just forming. As electrical signals move from one area of the brain to another, as well as down through the spinal cord to the rest of the body, they need smooth passage along what are called axons. Axons basically act like electrical wires conducting electrical signals.

Those signals need to be transmitted quickly and efficiently. Just like electrical wires need insulation so the electricity isn’t dissipated, axons need insulation, too! For more rapid passage of these electrical messages, axons become insulated by a layer of lipids and proteins, a process called myelination.

Babies are born without much myelin, which explains why their reaction times are so slow and movements so effortful. But with each experience and repetition, the myelin sheaths around axons get thicker. Myelin essentially greases the wires and allows signals to travel along the axons faster and more effectively.

More myelination in infants’ motor systems allows them to lift their heads, reach out, roll over, crawl, and eventually walk and run.

Mobiles for Movement

Within the first weeks of life after birth, babies begin to learn to control their eyes which means some of t