Is my baby hyperactive?

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By Dr Melodie de Jager and Cozette Laubser

Hyperactivity and ADHD are feared words. Without even really knowing what they mean, we all know we most definitely do not want our children to end up with those labels. But what does hyperactivity really mean? Let’s break it down. Hyper means a lot and activity means movement.

Hyperactivity means a lot of movement

When you look at your healthy and developing baby kicking, squirming and moving endlessly that is exactly what you see, a lot of movement, and invariably the question might creep into your mind: “Is my baby hyperactive?” No, without a shadow of a doubt, your baby is not hyperactive. “But… you have not seen my baby” you might reply…

‘Hyperactivity’ is normal behaviour for a baby. In fact, a lot of movement is crucial for all babies and toddlers under the age of 2. The more babies and toddlers move the more they explore with their senses (their senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight), build connections in the brain, and develop strong muscles to act on the brain’s instructions.

According to Professor Jean Piaget, a pioneering clinical psychologist who is well known for his work in child development, a child’s movements form the basis of his or her learning. Similarly Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert says we have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that is to make complicated movements. Moms know from just watching their little ones that babies move instinctively from a very early age. It is as though they have heard Professor Piaget speak and move to pave the way for learning.

Unfortunately too many babies’ natural movements are all too often restricted because they get confined to seats and strollers, or tied to mom’s body for hours on end. Yes, wearing your baby is beneficial at times, especially when born premature or when recovering from time spent in Neonatal ICU, but once your little one is calm, adjusted and ready- they need to spend some time on the floor so that their curled up bodies, hands and feet can ‘unfold’ to become open and receptive to learning. Learning in this sense means they are ready to receive sensory information in a natural and spontaneous way.

A curled-up baby is a resting and recovering baby.

A baby who enjoys tummy and back time is learning to uncurl and develop. The hands and feet are open and ready to explore, ready to provide the brain with good quality sensory information.

Every movement sequence a baby naturally completes develops a specific part of the brain. These movement sequences include infant milestones such as suckling, mastering head control, rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking. By implication it also means that should a milestone be skipped, or reached out of sequence, that part of the brain has wired (or developed) differently than nature intended. This developmental crack may not be noticeable at first, but often in later years, for instance in grade 4 when school work becomes more challenging, early neurological weaknesses become apparent.

BabyGym is an ideal way to ensure your baby’s neurological wiring gets ample developmental opportunity because it mimics natural physical development. BabyGym does not ‘drill’ or ‘hot house’ babies to develop faster. Instead, BabyGym offers a fun and interactive approach to natural whole brain and body development. The BabyGym 2: Firm Foundations programme specifically promotes quality movement rather than early performance.

Through encouraging specific movements and repeating the movements in a variety of different ways, BabyGym builds a better brain.

Points to ponder:

  • Movement wires the brain. You choose: LITTLE movement = little brain wiring, or LOTS OF movement during the first 2 years = lots of brain wiring
  • Once the brain has been wired sufficiently, the need to move all the time will stop
  • The most sensitive time to wire the brain is between conception and 14 months
  • A moving baby is a baby hard at work- endlessly wiring and integrating the senses, brain and muscles altogether to execute complicated movements.

In a nutshell, a baby needs to move… a lot… to ultimately be able to sit still 6 years later!

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