Recently I was eating lunch and observed a mother spending time with her young baby, who looked to be only a few months old. She was holding her child away from her body, trying to stand her daughter on her two feet to look outwards, even though the baby clearly couldn’t visually focus on far away objects and certainly was nowhere near finding her legs for standing. There was an awkwardness and a lack of sensitive knowing of the baby’s physiological development that pained me. Just hold her close to you, I thought, that’s all she needs right now.
Unfortunately, many of us grow up in a family and society where a felt-sense awareness of our bodies is not understood, highly valued, encouraged or much considered (in comparison, developing a strong visual sense is often greatly emphasized). This can have multiple profound impacts in our lives: how we feel in our bodies; feeling physically integrated; feeling a sense of belonging in a variety of environments; the ease by which we move through the world physically and emotionally; and in our movement development.
That being the case, I am thrilled to have recently discovered Dr Chava Shelhav’s Child’Space Method. Dr. Shelhav is one of the original thirteen students of Moshe Feldenkrais, the originator of the Feldenkrais Method. She has applied Feldenkrais’ respectful approach to a person’s physical learning process for very young children: gently supporting the child in whatever state she or he is functioning, allowing for a safe and relaxed way of learning movement and exploring the possibilities of how to live in her or his body. According to the Child’Space Method website:
“The Child’Space Method is based on teaching parents how routine activities and play with their babies can stimulate developing motor, cognitive, emotional and social abilities, and improve co-regulation between babies and parents. Child’Space takes its name from an approach to interacting that respects a child’s space, as when she is exploring on her own, and adjusts activities to suit her pace and temperament.”
I love this method’s respectful and playful approach with babies that includes an emphasis on pleasure and enjoyment (how much better to feel like learning about and moving one’s body is fun rather than work for either child or adult). Also, parents are taught ways of touching, moving and naming their baby’s body, so that their proprioceptive touch maps out the baby’s body in her or his own brain. There is a great need for this kind of education about our own bodies. And there is the added benefit of a healthy parent-child relationship in which the parent is truly attuned to the child’s present state of movement and interest.
If your are interested in experiencing this method with your baby and live in New York City, there are group classes and privates available through Child’Space NYC.
I also want to note that there is an entire branch of Body-Mind Centering that is deeply intelligent about and similarly dedicated to supporting an infant in her or his physical development, including “proper handling and a deep understanding of developmental movement patterns.” You can read more about the BMC approach to infants here. There are practitioners available throughout the world.