The Moving Child Film E-Book Chapter One
Written By Hana Kamea Kemble, BC-DMT, RCC, CLMA, RYT
(Copyright 2016 Hana Kamea Kemble. All rights reserved, no portion of this E-BOOK may be copied without the author’s express permission)
What are children learning as they move? They are learning so much…how to feed, self-regulate, explore and cope with their environment, communicate their needs, interact socially, engage in academic tasks…all of this relies on our connection to our moving body.
How can we better understand the emotional and physical changes taking place in each developmental movement stage in a child’s development? How can we better support our children by understanding the inter-relationship of their physical and emotional selves?
What if we better understood children’s need for age appropriate, dynamic, and diverse sensory, movement and emotional experience, in order to become creative, intelligent, flexible, and humane human beings?
How might parents and caregivers better support the healthy natural unfolding of a child’s developing moving body? What is the power and potential of movement for young human beings?
The Moving Child Film explores these questions and The Moving Child E-Book offers insights, ideas, best practices, and research references for you so that you may offer better informed care of children.
We begin as fluid flow
Our life begins in the fluid flow of movement. Through the movement within our cells and tissues, we grow a body. By moving, we receive nourishment and a felt sense of connection and love, and we engage our body’s capacity to communicate. We discover how to express our needs and feelings. Even a tiny set of fingers can say so much.
We live our life mainly through the support of our body’s movement capacity, though often we are unaware of this. Expanding and contracting, yielding, pushing, reaching, pulling, shaping, we learn how to meet our basic biological needs, move to stay in connected relationship with our families and communities, and learn to cope with our environment.
The flow of our movement development in early life can significantly shape our future. Engaging in dynamic movement helps us grow a confident sense of self and a strong, flexible body and brain.
Why this Film and Study Guide?
An understanding of movement’s importance in child and family development led me to create The Moving Child Film. Through body awareness and engagement in dynamic movement, children and families experience greater wellbeing.
Concerned by the ways in which the potential of children’s optimal movement is often not developing, and seeing the negative impact of a variety of societal influences on children physically, emotionally and socially, I wanted to offer useful insights, ideas and resources to parents, teachers and caregivers of children.
How to use The Moving Child E-Book as a Study Guide
Mindful that the life of a new parent or caregiver of children is often fatiguing and busy, this study guide was created for quick reference. You can look in the Main INDEX or each chapter’s OUTLINE and choose a quick topic, and learn at your own pace.
Each of the Film Chapter’s corresponding EBook chapters includes four sections:
MOVING TO LEARN: How are kids moving to learn, both physically and emotionally at each phase of child movement development, year by year.
OF CONCERN: What is potentially interrupting the flow of movement and children’s learning at each age or stage of development:
SUPPORTING MOVEMENT DEVELOPMENT: What are best practices through which parents and caregivers can support kids at each phase.
MOVEMENT IDEAS: for movement play and exploration with children and to address particular challenges or goals.
Feel supported! Our goal is to support adults caring for children to experience greater presence in body and mind, make connections, and engage more often with children in movement fun. That said, we honour the unique journey of each parent and caregiver of children, including each adult’s own developmental history, physical ability, and needs. It is up to each caregiver to take care of yourself and trust your own body, while enjoying a guilt and judgment free movement environment!
The Website – themovingchild.com
In our website, you will see tabs to learn more, read other articles, see more videos, link to websites of experts in the film, and find many other resources. There, we share and direct you to the best practices that through both hands-on experience and scientific research, we believe will best support children’s optimal movement development.
The Power of your Presence as an Adult
Dolphins circle and stay in close proximity to their children for their first few years of life, in order to teach them to move; by shaping, nudging, and touching. We have the same opportunity as parents and caregivers of human children to support the incredible potential of our children’s moving bodies.
The way in which a parent makes contact in utero, makes eye contact post-birth, breathes, holds, supports, moves with, shapes his or her body, touches, speaks, manages and expresses feelings, and stays in close proximity, hugely shapes a child’s own developing body and his or her movement development potential. In short, a parent’s presence and moving body is neurobiologically powerful and can make a very positive difference for children.
Key Themes in the Film
- How a child experiences the womb and birthing impacts his/her unfolding later movement development.
- Sensorimotor development matters greatly and is impacted by many practices. Aspects of our modern culture have created both under-stimulation and over-stimulation of babies and children, impacting their sensorimotor processing ability.
- Movement and nonverbal connection plays a critical role in secure bonding and healthy attachment in families.
- It is by moving that children best learn. In fact “all learning involves movement” – Carla Hannaford, PhD
- Movement develops and shapes brain growth and function.
- It is by moving that a child’s body awareness can grow, which is important to their overall self-awareness, an important tool in life.
- Children are able to regulate (manage) and express feelings by moving their bodies, and cope with emotions by being aware of sensations.
- It is through nonverbal and movement attunement that we learn to read social cues and develop relationships.
- Movement helps children meet many needs: physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual.
- DANCE in particular offers an experience of moving that is dynamically rich and different than most sports and the types of movement engaged in everyday life.
What Is Sensorimotor Development?
Babies learn through sensory and movement experiences. At a basic level, sensation is processed along sensory nerves, taken in through sense organs, followed by a motor response directed by the brain or spinal cord and sequenced through the body. New learning takes place when sensorimotor novelty is perceived: “this is different!”
From studying with dance therapists, occupational and other movement-oriented therapists, and through my experience with babies and families, I began to learn about the incredible importance of sensorimotor development. A child’s sensorimotor development is taking place in relationship with the minds and bodies of her caregivers, whose ways of moving and being will deeply influence the developing infant’s body movement and brain development. A caregiver can learn to use his or her own moving body to support a child’s physical development, and interconnected emotional and social development.
Motor memory is imprinting through a process called Sensorimotor Development. From in utero through age 6, a key sensorimotor and brain development window, a child is developing his or her body’s senses and movement in relationship with caregivers and the environment. We now know that the unfolding and success of this early sensorimotor development process impacts our mental, emotional and physical health for life.
How a child is sensing his inner and outer world, mapping an image of her body, moving in response to sensory stimuli, making meaning of those embodied experiences, we now entirely know shapes all aspects of development.
Our Concern is the “Frozen Child”
In North America, we have some of the highest rates of learning disabilities in the world, rising diagnoses of attention deficit, anxious, depressed, obese, emotionally disturbed, anxious and traumatized children. How is our modern and technological lifestyle affecting our children’s physical and emotional development, and specifically their sensorimotor development?
Impacting children’s developing bodies and movement potential are levels of maternal stress and mental health, birthing practices, lack of touch and body to body contact, lack of movement play and accurate nonverbal reflection by parents, as well as lack of access to an ideal range of sensory stimulation and dynamic movement experience early in life, such as would be provided by play in natural environments.
The stress of our modern lifestyle results in adult nervous systems that are often overly still, tense, and when moving it is with quickness and acceleration, sometimes too much acceleration for young children to be able to respond to. This has consequences.
“It’s like having a damn in a river. The river wants to flow but it can’t, it gets dammed up and that is what happens in our bodies. And it struggles.” – Brenda Pulvermacher, Pediatric CranioSacral Therapist
As we have moved away from an intimate connection with the natural world and the nature of our three dimensional dynamic moving bodies, and their natural impulse to move expressively, we are at risk of losing our birthright to our natural intelligence. Our lives transformed by technology, urbanization, sedentary lifestyles and faster pace, many children are not moving in a large variety of ways, in order to harness a wide movement repertoire.
A child’s movement repertoire supports having a wide range of choices available for behavior and self-expression. Instead, kids are being placed in isolation, experiencing constriction in contraptions, and too often their natural desire to learn through movement is being thwarted. Both sensory overload and sensory deprivation can also impact our children’s healthy movement development.
“I like to talk about the frontal lobe of our brains as being the newest toy on the planet and we’re just enthralled with what it can do and want to explore it … our human frontal lobes are one of the only mechanisms on the planet that can effectively repress physiological biological processes for extended periods of time. So because we’re able to imagine what is not and repress what is, or dissociate from it, then we do. … And unfortunately we’re seeing that in the behavior of our children and their sensory disintegration, their neurological imbalances and their lack of movement abilities.” Susan Aposhyan, LPC, Founder BodyMind Psychotherapy
As adults, we all know the experience of feeling “stuck”. We may not recognize how the flow of children’s moving bodies is getting “stuck”. Stuck in a particular way of moving, or not moving, a particular way of being or behaving….stuck emotionally, physically, socially, and mentally. One of the things that Dance/Movement Therapists who work with children pay attention to is how is this child moving or not moving, and where do they seem a bit fixated in the pattern of their movements? What seems to keep repeating and not changing?
“When a child is stuck in a movement pattern that child is really communicating to us that something is not right, something is going on for that child so it’s a very important message that the child is communicating, so the most important thing we can do is to try to understand what is going on.” – Susan Loman, BC-DMT
Many of these issues may stem from the impact of our modern lifestyle on early sensorimotor development.
“The incredible power and value of movement is completely minimized in our culture. We tend to forget the fact that we are meant to move. Human beings are meant to move, we are designed to move.” – Dr. Bruce Perry, MD, Child Trauma Academy
“There are many ways today that restrict children’s access to movement. This begins early on. Car seats are essential to safety, but it’s also important that children be allowed to move as freely as is safe for them throughout most of the day, every day, so that adults’ attention to creating a safe environment for children to be able to have access to, and develop, all the movement skills that they can at that level is essential. One of the other challenges in restricting movement is the capturing of children’s attention through technology at too early an age, because it’s so captivating, and you can see how still the children’s bodies are. So there’s not a solid infrastructure then, which is developed through early movement experiences. .” – Kalila Homann, LPC, BC-DMT
The flow of our movement development in early life can significantly shape our future. Like water moving in sand, our body’s movement shapes the growth of the body, neural pathways in the brain and all of our future perceptual and cognitive ability. How does that happen? Why is Movement Development so important?
Movement Development impacts all other aspects of our emotional, social, and cognitive development.
The movement journey and learning that we all go through as babies has stages, built upon the scaffold of what are called primitive reflexes (180 of them) that are already developing in utero. The successful integration of these reflexes then supports the development of the five basic movement actions and 12 developmental movement patterns being engaged and integrated during the first year of life. These developmental movement patterns support our brain functioning for later cognitive thinking tasks needed for school academics.
More stages of integrated rhythmic, physical and emotional expression develop from age 0-7. When these naturally unfolding movement development stages do not have the chance to fully develop or complete, we see a huge impact on the overall social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children. We see less ability to cope with stress, an increase in anxiety response and less resilience. Movement development matters to our mental health and most especially in the first few years of our life.
In working as a Dance/Movement Therapist with children and adults for the last fifteen years I’ve been fascinated with how movement shapes our development and potential as human beings. I draw inspiration from the lineage of pioneer dance movement therapists who during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, began to investigate the relationship between emotional wellbeing and movement; discovering many therapeutic benefits of the elements of dance when engaged in as therapy. These pioneer movement-based therapists turned toward their own body’s felt experience, identifying and using their natural intelligence to understand the needs of their patients. They sought to awaken the developmental potential in the body-mind through moving.
Early on in my career, I got interested in the growing diagnosis of “attention deficit” disorders and noticed that often children with this diagnosis seemed to be seeking a lot of constant and new sensory stimulation. “Hyperactive” kids tend to move in what might appear to be chaotic or fragmented ways, sometimes having a hard time shifting their arousal levels in order to settle, and may experience challenges organizing their movement as well as their thoughts and focus. I noticed a lot of these kids seemed drawn to anything that involved rhythmic movement. Well, I began to learn that rhythmic body movement has a hugely organizing and regulating effect on the brain. Many of these children are organically attempting to self-heal their nervous systems by engaging in rhythmic movement, but may need support with shifting out of coping mechanisms not supporting change. The question of how kids deemed “hyperactive” or “attention deficit” can best be supported by movement and rhythm in life and school continues to fascinate me.
The River Within – finding Flow
Our naturally unfolding movement learning is what allows us to become graceful, coordinated, integrated and balanced human beings. So what happens when our movement potential is diminished? And how does that occur?
In 2004, I experienced a mild brain injury that impacted my connection to my body and movement. I used movement therapy and my understanding of early developmental movement patterns to support the rebuilding of my bodymind connection and movement capacity. I practiced moving like a jellyfish, snake, fish, lizard, frog, and tiger. I looked to nature for how to heal my brain. In the movement of water, I saw flow, and learned that in the healing of trauma which often results in fixated states, restoring “flow” is essential. That could be the flow of fluids within or between cells, the flow of energy in the body, or the flow of movement connecting neurons in the brain. Flow matters!
Movement and the Brain
Movement, though affects many different brain areas, is particularly important for developing our lower brain functions that begin to develop early in life. The following experts, from their interviews for The Moving Child Film share insights into the relationship between movement and the developing brain.
“Movement develops the brain in three primary areas. There’s the low brain, or the body brain, here, which includes the cerebellum, the reticular activating system, the vagus nerve, and the mid-brain, which are all areas that are related to vital functioning, voluntary movement control, and heart rate, and all of our organ functioning. It’s also integrating and supporting the limbic system, all of the areas in the middle of the brain, which has to do with emotion, memory, and connection to others. It’s important to understand that the brain is not a separate organ, but it’s an integrated part of the whole nervous system, which includes the whole body, so movement is literally food for the brain, similarly to rain being nourishing for the roots of a tree, which can grow more fully. Movement is similar, because it stimulates biochemical activity and brain activity in all regions of the brain, and thus it helps the child integrate at a brain level their capacity for movement, their emotional functioning, and their cognitive skills.” – Kalila Homann, LPC, BC-DMT
Movement is the language of the brain, and the source of the information the brain requires to grow, self-organize and map the body, the mind, and their successful functioning. –Daniel Wolpert
“And there are “top” parts of our brain, the most complex, that are involved in thinking, planning, and speech and language. With every part of the brain that is organizing, depending on the previous successful organization of lower parts of the brain, and so one of the things that we know is that these lower areas of the brain, which send organizing signals up into higher parts of the brain, are essential to healthy development. If the lower parts of your brain are well regulated and well organized, then that means there will be a much easier and healthy developmental process that can follow. – Dr. Bruce Perry, MD
“What we have discovered is that the way we learn is through movement. We are actually growing new nerve cells until the day we die, as many as 60,000 a day. So when we walk, or when we swim, or when we climb a tree, or monkey bars… all of those movements, those cross lateral movements are the things that are growing these nerve cells, till the day we die. Movement is extremely important in children, they’ve got to be moving in order to grow, in order to develop the brain. If we didn’t move we wouldn’t need a brain. Because the brain, the way the brain is set up it’s wired and rewired throughout our life by movement. So movement is absolutely key, to everything that we do.” – Dr. Carla Hannaford, PhD
When human beings move, our movement generates sensation, which then generates feelings, memories and thoughts. Our feelings are biologically designed to move through our bodies in pathways, and this supports healthy brain development.
But movement in and of itself is not always enough, its better when its three dimensional, dynamic, and supports our capacity for connecting to our feelings and emotional self, as well as not overwhelm our nervous systems with too much stimulation. We make new neural imprints when we are aware of how we are moving and that something is different in this moment, or when heightened emotion or curiosity is at play. It is a child or adult’s awareness of his moving, feeling body that matters.
If we look closely and observe the moving bodies of children in relationship with the adults caring for them, we can see a series of dances unfolding. A child’s movement is developing directly in relationship with a caregiver’s moving body. Within these relational dances of development, we can harness the resource of our moving body and its natural intelligence to support our emotional intelligence. This begins in the womb.