Here’s just one of the many eye-opening chunks of a study of 5–point harnesses (the kind that go around the waist, between the legs and over the shoulders), by social-worker-turned-movement-therapist Barbara Chutroo:
Infants’ brains have fewer neurological networks than those of adults but they grow rapidly. This rapid neurological organization of experience occurs in response to sensory and movement stimulation. Piaget said the child’s first stage of cognitive development (thinking) is sensory motor, meaning that infants think through sensory and movement explorations. As a child receives sensory information, the child organizes a sense of the world and of his or her body.
An infant must figure out “How do I roll over?” “How do I grasp this ball?” “What does this sound signify?” They pay sustained attention to each sensory motor task. This is the child’s first encounter with problem solving. Learning to sit up, learning to roll over, each task is a problem to solve with time and attention, each solution is linked to a new neural organization of the brain…
In other words, movement and brain development go together in kids. (Maybe in all of us, but that’s not our point at the moment.)
Stifle movement and you stifle the natural urge to look around and start putting two and two together: “That thing making noise is a bird. Birds are in trees. Hmm…”
This is an issue I really haven’t seen discussed much — the way we have just allowed super-safety/immobility to infiltrate more and more of childhood without ever questioning whether kids were unsafe without it. Chutroo isn’t talking about car seats, where serious harnesses make sense. She’s talking about strollers and high chairs, even trikes, where kids get strapped in for no real reason, making them “safe” from awareness, agency and curiosity.
Time for us to look around with more curiosity, too!