6 Fundamental Movements For Your Infant

baby child father fingers

Is your infant on track with their fundamental development? Find out with this guide!


by Anneliese Knop | Anneliese is an Associate Licensed Counselor, freelance writer, and self-proclaimed “blindfluencer,” using her blog to promote accessibility for the blind and service dog users in her community. She loves to travel, read, hike, and plan adventures for her friends.

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New and prospective parents, you know what it’s like. Hundreds of books, blogs, podcasts, and friendly advice telling you how important it is to make the most of your infant’s developmental years, how much of an impact you can have on your child’s emotional and academic career if you just play the right music, provide the right toys, environmental stimuli, and feed with the right formula and vitamins. It’s a lot, and it’s hard to know which advice is most important to prioritize.

Of course, busy parents can’t do it all. It’s impossible. So you’ve learned to pick your battles.

That first year is so important. It’s your child’s first impression of the universe, and her first impression on that same universe. First impressions matter.

So let me break down an easy way for you to track your child’s early development and predict how that early development might manifest later in life.

Researchers in the field of https://somaticstudies.com/ruella-frank/logy – the mind’s relationship with the body – have boiled down all human movement into six basic movement functions we learn in that first year of life, and explained how our first impressions of those movements shape how we experience them for the rest of our lives.

First impressions matter.

Six Fundamental Movements

Beyond rolling over, crawling, and sitting up in the first year of life humans learn the following basic movements. They can be paired into complementary sets, but I find it just as helpful to think of them independently as well. Here they are, and what they mean.

#1 Push:   I don’t want this thing near me

An infant who learns she can push things away will have learned the confidence to try it with words when she learns them. If your baby doesn’t ever shove away unwanted food or toys or affection, try playing games pushing a ball or other rolling toy back and forth to encourage the development of this critical behavior. Learning to say ‘no’ with the hands can help a child learn to say “no” with her words.

#2 Pull – I want that thing near me

An infant expresses desire by pulling something closer to investigate it. Sometimes that investigation comes with chewing, or just feeling it. This is the beginning of confident exploration, from picking up new toys to trying new sports and other skills later in adolescence and adulthood. A child who simply points for objects may lack the belief that she can successfully acquire what she wants on her own. Gentle games of tugging where the child is allowed to win can encourage development of this important skill.

#3 Grasp – I want to hold this thing

That blanket or stuffed animal the infant can’t sleep without and dry with her through toddlerhood is something she’s grasped onto and won’t let go of. She’s learned how to hold onto what she wants. Maybe learned that one a little too well! An infant who easily surrenders everything she picks up or is given may be afraid of holding onto things for some reason. ‘Yours should be a concept taught early on.

#4 Reach – what is out there?

Tiny arms and legs flailing up into the air or out past the safe edges of the blanket exhibit an infant’s belief that the unknown is safe until proven otherwise. If you catch yourself constantly trying to contain the seeking fingers, remember that sometimes it’s ok to take risks in infancy, because being unable to in adulthood is a lot harder to address.

#5 Yield – I accept contact from this thing

Yielding is an act of trust, a belief that whatever’s coming is safe, maybe even good. A child or teen who has difficulty accepting things near their face, who flinches a lot when touched, learned early on in life that accepting contact isn’t safe.

Readers who’ve seen my previous posts know that I am blind, and have been since birth. As a child I had very strong objections to things near my face. Innocent objects like curling irons, hair dryers, hands reaching for me seemed to appear out of nowhere. I went to great lengths to avoid them. Now as an adult I often struggle with accepting gifts, compliments, physical touches of affection – and I still hate hair dryers.

But as an adult I have the capacity to heal early developmental wounds like the terror of a hot metal rod too near my forehead as it shaped my bangs. A baby whose movement development is stunted or overdrawn has remarkable potential for healing and growth.

#6 Release – I can let go of this thing

Releasing an object means one of two things. Either the infant believes it will still be there when she wants it, or that she can live without it. A pastor I know once defined contentment as the belief that one has the resources to cope with life’s challenges. Release can be an indicator of an infant’s budding self-confidence. Encourage a child’s development of release by playing games of giving and passing, with lots of thank you’d and praises and snuggles.

The Somatic Development of Relationships

There’s an even more significant context for these fundamental movements, though. Look how their implications change when I alter one word of each definition.

Push – I don’t want this person near me

Pull – I want test person near me

Grasp – I want to hold this person

Reach – I wonder who’s out there?

Yield – I accept contact from this person

Release – I can let go of this person

It may seem like a stretch to imply that a child learning to let go of a toy is learning fundamental social skills and concepts of healthy relationship-building. But our brains, even as infants, process the physical aspect of relationships even before we learn what relationships are. The physical patterns of movement associated with hugging, pushing, yielding, reaching, and so forth become muscle memory, and these become a blueprint for our instinctive behaviors toward other people.

The Takeaway

As you watch and guide your little one through her first explorations of the world, you can see the future she reaches for, the confidence and strength she’s cultivating, and you can become an active part of that cultivation. Noticing where fear begins Now you can spot fear, anxiety, and withdrawal when they take root in places they have no business growing, and gently and playfully nudge your baby’s growth back toward a trajectory of confidence that will prepare her for all life’s challenges.

Until next month your favorite blindfluencer encourages you to explore these movements alongside your child. The way she moves through the world might just change your moves, too.



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