Parent Toolkit Nights: Expanding Our Toolkit

By Renee and Russell Schoenbeck; Parents of TLC toddler Riley, age 2

 Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

Riley enjoys painting contact paper with watercolors for a fun sensory activity in her toddler classroom.

We love TLC. Let’s just throw that right out there. We love the mission. We love the philosophy. We love that we KNOW our daughter’s life is being enriched by her time spent at TLC. So, when opportunities at TLC present themselves, like Parent Toolkit Nights, we are eager to participate. 

Let us explain: Parent Toolkit Nights occur 4-6 times per academic year and are available to parents of students at TLC (prospective parents: this is a wonderful benefit). The Toolkit nights are 60 minutes and are lead by a teacher and a therapist who discuss helpful strategies that are taught in school, then offer ways to incorporate those strategies at home. 

Yes, really. The experts in early childhood education are not only willing to teach your child all day long, but they are also willing to teach YOU how to work with your kid (while providing you with snacks, laughs, and childcare). We feel like we could end this right here and invite you to join us, but let’s press on. 

 Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Riley and her parents enjoyed the toddler costume party together last October.

Toolkit nights are spent reviewing things like visual schedules, calm down strategies, problem-solving strategies and more, in a way that bridges the gap from school to home, and helps us help our kids with life-long strategies. The strategies help us communicate with our children better, and, heck, even our significant others (because suddenly people become a lot less annoying when they say “Geeze, my engine is running so slowly!”)

The teachers and therapists put a lot of time into these nights, and not only do they have a giveaway (we won timers at the last Toolkit night!), but they always have some kind of project or handout that you can make and take home to begin introducing the strategies at home immediately. This past ToolKit night, we received starter Calm Down Kits, complete with a squishy, chew, and lavender-infused weighted pad.  Not to mention, the evening is filled with other parents who are just as grateful for the information as you are. 

At the last Toolkit night, Miss Jen talked about how the trickle-down effect works with our children within the community. If our kids can learn to self-regulate, self-soothe, communicate effectively, and make good choices, then when they interact with other kids, they model that behavior, and it spreads. How can we set our kids up to be part of this wonderful trickle-down effect? By learning. By being involved. By bridging the gap. By extending the lessons that our children are learning at school, to our home.

We are raising the future, and TLC is setting us up to succeed. I can’t tell you how many times the words “If we had access to these skills when our kids were younger…” have been uttered. We are lucky to have access to this information, and we are lucky to have teachers and therapists willing to dedicate the time to teach us.

We hope you’ll join us for the next Toolkit night on Thursday, April 26, 2018, for some snacks, laughs, and learning. 

P.S. Don’t forget, there is free childcare! 
 

Teaching Babies to Self-Regulate Themselves to Sleep

 When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

When you're this little, even a toy cubby makes a good space to curl up for a nap.

;By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager & Occupational Therapist

Sleep is so important to our everyday wellbeing. Babies, children, and adults all need sleep, along with food, to be self-regulated. Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions and control body functions as well as maintain focus and attention. Self-regulation happens differently over the many stages of our lifespan. Self-regulation in an infant encompasses how an infant deals with a disruption (for example, a loud television) and regains control of their behavior so they can focus on what they're doing (nursing, eating, playing, etc.). In a preschooler self-regulation looks at how a child plays with others, learns to share and take turns.

If a child doesn’t have a healthy sleep and waking pattern, it makes it hard for them to learn. In babies we tend to see two issues with sleep that can cause problems with self-regulation:

1.    Fragmented sleep – many short periods of sleep, but not good long sleep cycles and

2.    Too much sleep, especially during the day. This frequently suggests a developmental issue. Daytime is when sensory stimulation occurs and the sleeping baby is not stimulated.

Parents and caregivers play a vital role in how babies learn to sleep. The amount of support given in the beginning impacts how much caregiver involvement is needed later on. This means if we teach babies early how to fall asleep in a healthy, self-regulating manner, the better off they are for sleep learning. It’s important for the caregiver to recognize:

–   Their decreased role in helping a baby to sleep;

–   Recognizing sleep cues and conditioning;

–   The infant's ability to self-regulate.

Having a consistent place to sleep is another important key to sleeping. Young infants have few self-regulatory behaviors, but as we teach them self-soothing techniques – pacifier, lovey – they become more competent self-soothers. Crying it out doesn’t work because babies don’t have the skills to self-regulate, calm, and then fall asleep on their own.

In the first few months of life babies show clear signs of sleepiness:

–   Yawning

–   Glazed eyes

–   Rubbing eyes

–   Heavy eyelids

–   Decreased sucking during feeding

–   No, or less, interest in interacting

–   Turning away from stimulation in the environment

–   Body movements become less organized

–   Fussy behavior

It’s important to recognize these cues and respond to them while the “sleep gate” is open. If you don’t catch the sleep cues within 15 minutes, “tired is wired.”

Place a drowsy baby in the crib and stay close by without touching the baby. A self-regulating baby will suck fingers, look around and then fall asleep. If the baby cries, wait for a time and then approach with a comforting voice.

If your baby continues to cry, approach and pat, but don’t pick up. Provide reassurance with your voice. If crying persists, re-enter the sleeping area with a “boring” visit. Stand close by, but don’t interact with the baby.

Encourage naps when babies are full. It’s easier to fall asleep with a full belly rather than after a baby has been stimulated with play. Between 6-8 months separation anxiety is heightened so parents are encouraged to move baby out of their room before this period if they are sharing a room.

Routines create predictable patterns. Babies with bedtime routines develop into toddlers and preschoolers with predictable bedtime routines. Sleep in the same location every night. Start to power down an hour before bedtime. Read books, play soft music, have a small snack, and other calming activities are pieces you can add to a bedtime routine.  Developing a consistent bedtime routine is key!

Happy sleeping!

Read more about cultivating healthy sleep habits in children:

Zzz! The Active “Sleeping” Brain 

By Brenda Lord, TLC Preschool Teacher

 Sometimes you're too tired to even make it onto your nap mat before Zzz

Sometimes you're too tired to even make it onto your nap mat before Zzz

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are busy people. Parents and teachers alike know that young children can be constantly in motion as they learn to move through and explore the world around them. As children are engaging with their surroundings, their brains are flooded with new information. We all know that sleep is important, and many assume that sleep is critical for resting our bodies, especially for active toddlers. However, research indicates that this is not the case. 

Building Brains

Surprisingly, the brain is more active when one is sleeping than awake! When young children and adults are sleeping, their brains are busy building and strengthening connections within the brain. Words, movements, and ideas that are introduced to children while they are awake get built into more permanent knowledge while they are asleep. If children or adults are deprived of sleep, research indicates that learning simply can’t happen. Also, when you are tired, your brain is not as good at filtering out distractions and focusing on tasks. Loss of sleep in both children and adults hurts attention, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and physical movement. 

Naps improve the brain’s day to day performance. These short bursts of sleep are critical for developing bodies and brains. The information from children’s rich and social learning environments in the mornings can be solidified into lasting memories during their afternoon naps. 

Creating Good Sleepers at Home

Many children thrive on routines and structure. Recognizing this, the TLC classrooms have well-established routines around quiet time. Children are used to having quiet time at the same time each day in a darkened environment with cozy blankets and relaxing music. Their bodies become accustomed to slowing down at this designated time. Establishing nighttime routines at home might make evenings more relaxed and getting children to sleep more successful. Taking baths, reading books, and snuggling together might be part of your bedtime routines. In addition, deep pressure exercises and calming yoga poses can be effective at quieting young bodies. Doctors also recommend that children should not have any screen time—computers, TV, video games, cell phones—at least an hour before bedtime. These video screens produce blue light which affects melatonin production, a hormone that signals your body that it is time to sleep. Creating and sticking to structured bedtime routines is important for helping children establish positive, lifelong sleeping habits. 

Napping is for Everyone!

Lastly, some great news for adults! Those naps that we envy our wobblers and toddlers taking are just as productive and valuable for adults. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent. Unlike our children, adults, unfortunately, are rarely able to have an afternoon snooze. Even though biologically our brains are programmed to slow down between 2-4 pm, work schedules and the realities of life usually make naps prohibitive. When you get the afternoon slump, recognize that this is normal. Nap if you are able; otherwise, try not to schedule important meetings at 3 p.m. Your body will thank you. 

Switching Hats: Teacher to Parent

By Amanda Brunning, TLC Preschool Teacher & Parent

 TLC Infant Lead Teacher Debbie Van Thuyne with a friend

TLC Infant Lead Teacher Debbie Van Thuyne with a friend

I have been working with and teaching children with special needs and their families for the past eight years. I have been through many emotional roller coasters with parents and have been a part of many conversations where parents just needed to vent and I was happy to listen. I tried to be as much help as I could, but before becoming a parent myself, my view was limited and I couldn't say that I knew what it was like to parent a child with a disability full time.

Teachers in early childhood have kids from four to eight hours a day before they go home and we're off duty. We work with the children in a controlled setting and on a consistent schedule. We have extensive training and on-hand tools that we can draw from and utilize when a child is having a hard time. Life outside the classroom - with families, in public places - is very different and far more unpredictable than classroom life. As a teacher, I have preparation and immediate assistance for handling trying situations and behavior on top of my primary job of helping teach children educational skills and positive social behaviors,  but when a person becomes a parent, there's very little preparation for the next 18+ years of caring for and raising children of any ability. Children don't come with handbooks, and parents have to learn as they go.
 
My husband and I had been going through the adoption process for several years, and nine months ago we were matched and placed with a 7-month-old little boy with Down syndrome. I would love to say - with all of my experience and degree in early childhood and special education - that I was prepared. In truth, I did not feel prepared at all. I knew that this beautiful little boy would need pediatric therapies and that TLC would be the perfect away-from-home-home for him when I went back to work, and that the therapists would work with him both at our house and in the TLC infant nursery, and that was a huge relief when I felt overwhelmed. I was so thankful for all the help from my co-workers in getting his therapies and early interventions in place and for helping the process of transitioning our son into our home go as smoothly as possible.

After he arrived, every day was a new experience and a new visit to a new doctor. In the first few months of having our little boy we saw so many different doctors and with each doctor we felt overwhelmed at what this new doctor could say or what that visit could bring. His therapist became my go-to when I was unsure what advice to take, what direction to go, or when I was trying to figure out if something going on with him was normal for his diagnosis, or when I needed guidance on what I needed to do to help him grow and develop. His infant teacher at TLC is my other go-to when I have a parenting/infant question, and I no doubt ask her a million questions a day. Debbie (the TLC infant teacher) has also listened to me vent about everything from difficulties getting him to sleep to doctors appointments that we came away with no answers or nerves about surgery. These people have become part of our support system and we are so thankful for them. In stepping into the role of parent of a child with special needs, I'm finally getting to walk in the shoes of the parents of kiddos I've worked with throughout the years, and I feel even more connected to them and struggles that come with parenting young children.
 
Switching hats to the parent roll has opened my eyes to so much of what families with children with special needs can be going through. I hope that my new roll as this beautiful little boy's mommy can help me grow as a teacher and better support the children and families better that come into my classroom.

Through all the struggles, the late nights, spit ups, and parade of questions, I wouldn't change a thing, and I'm so grateful to my TLC support group.
 

The Benefits of Tummy Time for Infants

importance of tummy time

By Amanda Boldenow, TLC Development Manager & Parent

A few minutes in tummy time for infants is the equivalent of a few hours sweating it out at the gym for an adult. While on their tummies, babies work hard to lift their head, look left and right, and lift their feet, all movements that help prepare them for holding their head up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling. With ample tummy time, an infant approaching twelve months should have a rounded head, S curves in the neck and low back, and flexible legs that help move the tot in and out of sitting positions. When a child spends too much time on his or her back (usually in cribs, bouncy seats, swings, or car seats) they risk developing positional plagiocephaly (flattening on the back of the skull), a C curve in the spine that may prevent transitioning to hands and knees to crawl, and tight hips and legs that prevent straightening the knees. Internally, too much time on a baby's back puts excessive pressure on the spine and vision centers of the brain, both of which can be detrimental to development.

TLC's Therapeutic Services Manager, Occupational Therapist Shari Karmen, says:

Tummy time is important for eye-hand coordination, and is a prerequisite for crawling. In the therapy world we are seeing kids with misshapen heads and part of that is because they are put on their back so much. Tummy time is important for shaping the head. The other thing we’re seeing is that babies who don’t spend time on their tummies have difficulty rolling. It takes a lot more work to correct the development delays that happen without tummy time, than to put your child in tummy time for a few minutes a day. There’s a natural progression for infant development, and skipping tummy time and crawling can lead to fine-motor problems and disabilities down the line. For these reasons and more, tummy time is critical for infant development.

Unfortunately, many infants are not fans of tummy time, (the same way I'm not a fan of crunches or push-ups, although adult social stigmas prevents me from crying and screaming while doing them... usually). When a kiddo doesn't like being on their tummy, they won't hesitate to let you know. Regardless, parents and guardians should persevere in tummy time for healthy development.

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to practice tummy time besides laying baby on the floor. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting tummy time as soon as baby is home from the hospital. Sessions can be as short as 30 seconds to one minute in the beginning. By the time baby is two months old, try to have increased tummy time sessions to a minimum of three five-minute sessions per day. Fifteen minutes of tummy time per day is a good rule of thumb as babies age past two months, but try to encourage longer playtime and enjoyment while baby is on their tummy through play and engagement, working up to 40 to 60 minutes of tummy time daily.

How to Have Tummy Time With Your Infant

Place a clean blanket, baby gym, or mat on the floor and place baby on his tummy. Some baby gyms come with small, crescent shaped pillows to place under baby's chest and elbows to help prop them up, but the same effect can be achieved with a small, rolled towel used a bolster, although this isn't always necessary.

To make tummy time fun, place toys that engage your baby on the floor. Shake rattles, crinkle sensory toys, or roll rainsticks across the floor to encourage baby to reach, grasp, and roll toward the objects. "You can also place a regular closet mirror on its side on the floor for babies to see their reflection while on their tummy," Shari says. 

Each stretch, roll, lift, and scoot helps baby develop muscles needed for movement and head stability. To make tummy time safe, always supervise an infant on their tummy, make sure their breathing passages are unobstructed by pillows or blankets, and make sure they are not on a high surface they could roll off of.

Different Tummy Time Positions to Try

  1. Tummy to floor: the traditional tummy time placement, where baby is on his or her tummy on a flat, safe surface.
  2. Tummy cuddle: place baby on your chest or tummy while laying down on a bed or couch. Be sure to hold baby by firmly.
  3. Reverse football hold: you may be familiar with the football hold from breast or bottle feeding. In the reverse, have baby's tummy down against your arm and nestle them close to your body. 
  4. Tummy lap time: Place baby face down across your knees while sitting, with a hand holding baby steady. 

Does your baby like or dislike tummy time? What do you do to help make tummy time fun and beneficial for your baby?
 

Super First Foods for Baby

By Amanda Boldenow, TLC Development Manager & Parent

Introducing baby to his first solid foods can be far more exciting than presenting bland rice cereal in a bowl. There are a whole world of delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins that can be offered to baby in a safe and engaging way, no spoons and pretend airplanes necessary! 

Before six months of age, babies can taste small flavors of new foods on the tip of a caregiver's finger. "Flavor" means strictly that - a small taste of the juice from a solid food, like a fruit, smeared on a fingertip that baby can suckle off, or that can be dabbed on baby's tongue. By six months of age, a baby's digestive system is ready to handle small introductions of solid foods. But what foods are healthiest, that a baby is most likely to enjoy and be enticed by into trying more?

To start, let your baby try new foods gradually. If baby has a negative reaction to a new food, the offending item will be easy to identify if new food introductions have been spaced out over several days. Nurse or bottle feed baby before offering new foods, as early solids are an opportunity for experimentation and fun more than they are suitable for meal replacements.

Ready to try solids? Here are some healthy choices that push the produce envelope beyond the bland and the boring (looking at you, mashed bananas and cereal):

The Basics

Pears: Fruits that can be steamed until they are soft (including apples, peaches, apricots, and plums) and then mashed are a sweet treat for budding palates. 

Avocado: Rich in healthy fats, avocados are easy to mash with a fork. Plus, avocados are fun for little hands to squish - let them try these utensil free.

Squash: Steamed squash of any variety, whether winter options like butternut, hubbard, or acorn, or summer squashes like zucchini can be easily steamed and mashed. They have a mild, sometimes sweet flavor, that can be made adventurous through the addition of herbs or pureed leafy greens.

Grapes: Grapes and other small "finger" fruits, like berries, are delicious first foods, but be sure to slice them before presenting to babies. Round fruits (like any solid food) can present a choking hazard.

Sweet Potatoes: Like squash, sweet potatoes (or yams) can be easily steamed and eaten plain or with flavor boosters like turmeric, basil, or light sweeteners. Steamed sweet potatoes are also fun for little fingers to smoosh and squish!

Carrots: The most common root veggie to introduce as a first food, carrots have a naturally sweet flavor.

The Adventurous

Eggs: New research suggests that common allergies, such as eggs, nuts, fish, and soy, can be prevented through early introduction. Eggs can be hard boiled and chopped, scrambled, or mixed into an omelette and diced for baby to try.

Salmon: Fish is full of healthy fats and, like eggs, brain-building omega-3's. Try mashing cooked, flaked fish for baby to try.

Turnips: Give the carrots a break and let baby try a variety of healthy root vegetables, including mashed turnips, parsnips, and beets. There are a rainbow of root vegetables to try, and early introduction can help prevent turned-up noses at unfamiliar fare later.

Kale: Leafy greens, including kale, spinach, arugula, frisee, and others are both fun to touch (especially the frisee), and healthy additions to a baby's expanded diet. Greens are easily assimilated into other dishes, including scrambled eggs and squash purees. 

Lentils: Healthy proteins like lentils cook in minutes, and can be mashed together for an easy protein boost to veggies.

Sauerkraut: Want to really go out on a limb? Try fermented foods! Try sour foods! Let baby experience a full range of flavors as they learn that the world is full of delicious flavors, most of which can come straight from the produce aisle, as opposed to the boxed fare in the middle of grocery stores. 

TLC Parent Testimonials: We Love Our Families!

By Amy French-Troy, TLC Parent and Volunteer

I am an educator and my school has referred several students to TLC for evaluations and therapy over the years. While I was aware that TLC had a preschool for special needs children, it wasn’t until we were searching for a new school for our son, that I discovered that TLC is also an inclusive preschool that purposefully mixes children of all types of backgrounds and abilities in an effort to raise more empathetic, compassionate, and conscientious kids. After a tour of the school and reading about the school’s mission and curricula, we knew that TLC was the right place for both of our children (at the time, TLC had just added the infant/toddler program and we were thrilled to enroll our baby daughter, as well). 

In the last year, TLC has far exceeded my expectations as both a parent and an educator. The manner in which faculty and staff blend academics and social emotional skills should be a model for more schools. Since beginning kindergarten, several teachers have commented on my son’s ability to mediate tricky situations between peers and I know that this in great part due to his time at TLC. I have also been impressed with the amount of differentiation that teachers afford students, and their ability meet each child where they are and design a learning plan that will help each student to reach their full potential. I would recommend TLC to any parent who is looking for a school that fosters diversity, compassion, and lifelong learning. It feels so good to be able to leave my children in the care of such caring professionals whose aim it is to not only teach kids academics, but the life skills needed to be kind and caring members of society. 

The Listening Program

By Lindsey Blechle, TLC Occupational Therapist 

Sound is all around us. We are constantly processing auditory input from our environment. As I type this I can hear cars driving down my street, a train in the distance, the wind coming in my window, my computer humming, birds chirping, and an occasional alert on my phone. It’s a lot to take in as I try to focus on this one task. 

The act of hearing is passive; it is simply the ability to sense sound. The act of listening is active; it is the ability to take in and filter out sound. Auditory processing is dynamic; it is how the brain organizes what it hears. Children with sensory processing challenges often struggle with all three forms of auditory input. The act of hearing may be overwhelming when the sensory system perceives sounds as being too loud. The act of listening to directions in a classroom may be challenging when classmates are talking, pens are clicking or the hallway is noisy. For children that are struggling with the act of hearing and listening, processing auditory information correctly at a higher level adds a whole new challenge. I became a certified provider of The Listening Program because of the positive effect I saw the program make in pediatric patients with auditory sensitivities. 

The Listening Program by Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) is a therapeutic music program focused on improving sound brain fitness. The music is performed by ABT’s own award-winning Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble. The music then undergoes neuroacoustic modifications to provide the sound contrast needed to train and improve sound perception.  These modifications improve discrimination, reduce sensitivities and direct attention. 

The Listening Program modification techniques work with the brain’s plasticity to improve overall function and shows benefits in the following areas:

Perception                        Attention                              Memory
Motor coordination         Language                            Listening
Auditory processing       Spatial awareness             Flexibility
Problem solving               Decision making               Self-regulation
Sensory processing        Sequencing                         Inhibition
Social engagement        Creativity                             Brain health 

 

The Listening Program includes many therapeutic programs to target specific areas of intervention:

  • Level One – balanced training adaptable for all listeners that focuses on all frequency zones (full spectrum, sensory integration, speech and language and high spectrum). This is the best program for children with sound sensitivities and the most recommended for TLC Learning Center’s pediatric population. 
  • Sleep – sound neuroscience for a restful night’s sleep 
  • Sound Health – Music of Learning, Music for Concentration, Music to Relax, etc. 
  • This music can be played over speakers and throughout all environments
  • Music for Babies – Sleepy Baby, Peaceful Baby, Playful Baby and Cheerful Baby
  • Spectrum – foundational training with a focus in the sensory integration frequency zone, for the extreme sensory sensitive listener. 
  • Achieve – intermediate to experienced training with a focus in the speech and language frequency zone. 

The Listening Program is now available at TLC Learning Center as another therapeutic tool for our pediatric clients. 

Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient.
— Yehudi Menuhin

For more information visit The Listening Program, or contact TLC for information on occupational therapy and The Listening Program. 

Resources for Parents Looking for Early Education & Childcare

By Cindy Wickham, TLC Educational Services Manager, and Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager

Choosing a high quality child care program is one of the most important decisions parents will make:

  • 90% of a child’s brain develops between birth and five years of age.
     
  • Education begins at birth.  An infant is born with approximately 100 billion brain cells.  If an infant is immersed in an environment that is stimulating, nurturing, and responsive to the baby’s needs, the child’s brain will more closely resemble his pediatrician’s than a newborn’s by the age of three!

Quality care means more than a safe place to sleep:

  • A focus on relationships, including nurturing touch, is essential for a child’s physical development, intellectual development, positive self feelings, developing trust, and developing independence.
     
  • Bonding (attachment to a caregiver) is essential by the age of two years.  Trust cannot develop without bonding, and children who don’t bond by the age of two years, show permanent impairment in their capacity to make human attachments later in life.
     
  • When touring a child care center, ask yourself: How does it “feel”?  Warm and friendly?  Do the children look happy? Do the adults seem open to your visitation? Do the adults look happy? Does the environment appear to be clean and sanitary? Ask to see the child care license as well as the accreditation certificate.

 A child’s future success and the choices for care made now are deeply intertwined:

  • High quality preschool programs can boost language and literacy skills.
     
  • School achievement in the 6th grade directly correlates to a child’s development between 12 and 42 months of age, and an enriched environment ensures 25% more brain connections!
     
  • Research shows us that learning to read is a lengthy process that begins before children enter formal schooling.

Indicators of high quality childcare centers:

  • Licensed by the Department of Human Services.
     
  • Accredited by Qualistar or NAEYC with a high rating (4 stars for Qualistar).
     
  • Highly qualified teachers and staff (degrees in early childhood education).
     
  • Low adult-to-child ratio (more nurturing adults to meet the needs of each child).
     
  • Teachers and staff who engage in conversation with children, helping to develop language and vocabulary.
     
  • A variety of experiences available to children (opportunities to explore, safe outdoor space, fine and gross motor development experiences, etc).
     
  • A center that gives you, the parent, a sense of warmth, security, and a nurturing environment.

If you have questions about indicators of a quality early childhood education center, TLC staff is happy to answer questions. Comment here, email Cindy Wickham at CWickham@LearningWithTLC.org, or call us at (303)776-7417

 

Crawling & Crossing the Mid-Line in Infants

By Justine Sanders, TLC Infant Care Teacher

“You have to walk before you can run” is an old saying I’d like to amend. I’d have it read: “You need to crawl before you walk.” It is important for babies to learn to crawl. It is infinitely more beneficial for a child to learn to crawl than to skip ahead to walking. 

One of the biggest benefits of crawling is that when a child crawls, their limbs cross the mid-line. The mid-line is the middle of the body from head to toe. Every time a child crosses the mid-line, connections are built in the baby's brain. These connections become essential later in life for both gross motor development (used, for example, when reaching for objects) and fine motor development (used, for example, when eyes track words written on a page from left to right.) The brain receives input from both sides of the body and registers that transitions are being made. These transitions enable the brain to process incoming information more clearly. 

There are other ways to cross the mid-line in addition to crawling. Every time a baby brings something to its mouth, he or she is crossing the mid-line, so feeding becomes an opportunity for crossing the mid-line. Babies who like to pull off their socks and play with their feet are also crossing the mid-line. Even the act of passing a toy from the right hand to the left hand is crossing the mid-line. 

Why is it so important to crawl, then, if there are so many other ways to cross the mid-line? Many parents with older infants will tell you that they are not sure if they (the parents) are ready for crawling because they don’t know how they will keep up with their baby. There is truth to this sentiment. Babies love to explore and once they discover that crawling allows them to do this independently they are pretty much always on the go. As babies transport their little bodies from one end of the house to the other, discovering kitchen cabinets, overturning interesting objects, and leaving a trail of debris in their wake, they are crossing the mid-line through it all. Crossing the mid-line in these crawling romps helps infants make connections that may someday help them write a 30 page term paper, throw a discus in a state track and field competition, and keep their own crawling infants when they have grown into healthy adults.   


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