Updated 22 January 2015

Learning to move

The more freedom of movement babies enjoy, the sooner they learn to control their movements without the need for reflexes.


Babies are born with a number of fundamental reflexes that help them survive and adapt to our environment. These reflexes are automatic processes and babies have no control over them.

A lot of exercise is required to overcome these reflexes and substitute them with intentional actions. The more “freedom of movement” babies enjoy, the sooner they learn to control their movements without the need for reflexes.

A baby who is able to do the following is ready to take the next step in movement:

  • Suckles effectively.
  • Feeds by turning her head to latch.
  • Holds her head up effortlessly turning it in all directions.
  • Demonstrates strong back and tummy muscles as a result of floor time. The moment infants start to roll over, they are ready to start interacting with their world.

The magical milestone of movement

  • Babies learn primarily through movement and this experience is enhanced when they crawl, walk or simply manipulate different objects such as balls, books or even household objects like bowls and cups.
  • Milestones are magic markers indicating that babies’ senses, brain, muscles and connective wiring are developing as they should be.
  • Babies spend 40% of their waking time kicking, bouncing and waving their arms. Every action promotes a child’s growth. Primary reflexes, such as clapping, are key to the development of the brain.

Physical workout

  • Babies on the move are busy little explorers with 30 minutes of crawling equating to a two hour aerobic work-out.
  • Some research shows that babies manage to take between 1 028 and 3 198 crawling steps a day. This equates to a daily distance of 60.4 to 187.8m of running.
  • Walking toddlers cover the equivalent of a marathon (42km) every seven days.
  • By extrapolation, walkers average 13 185 steps and 90 falls a day, travelling a daily distance of 39 football fields.

Mental gymnastics 

  • Babies on the move are learning important motor and perceptual skills such as distance and depth, as well as concepts like “in”, “out”, “on” and “under”.
  • Every day, by walking or crawling through different rooms toddlers can travel over six to twelve different ground surfaces, from plush carpet to polished wooden floorboards. By touching different materials they learn to recognise their surroundings and appreciate their differences.
  • A child’s ability to consciously recall information at will coincides with when they begin to walk.
  • Psychologists call babies’ intelligence “sensu-motoric”. This term describes the connection between the senses and their motoric action. Therefore, the more motoric movements the baby undertakes, the more his senses are stimulated, and the more the baby’s knowledge of our world increases.

The mobile baby 

  • Movement marks the beginning of a positive sense of self. The brain of a little person, who has learnt to move confidently and independently, is prepared for speech and language which will assist her in playing and communicating with others.

Freedom of movement
Subtle changes to a baby’s environment can alter the way a baby walks or crawls.  Any constraints can affect a baby’s balance and propulsion, hindering development. One such example would be a baby wearing an ill-fitting diaper.  A baby’s natural curiosity should always be supported and the fewer limits they have to their exploration, the better for the development of their intelligence 


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