Friday, July 24, 2009

Link between Physcial Activity and Cognitive Function

Walkers, yet another parent convenient toy you can do without for many reasons but mainly because they delay walking and can even prevent crawling, are dangerous and lack mental stimulation and they've been outright banned in Canada from being sold, advertised or imported (the US AAP is pushing for the same).
What's wrong with walkers? Where do I begin. Walkers overdevelop calf and ankle muscles while doing nothing for stomach, thigh and hip muscles. This occurs primarily in the "sit in" walkers. In addition they confuse and slow the developing mind of a child who has yet to learn to crawl, sit up or otherwise scoot their way across the floor on their own. Babies need to be aware visually of how their body works. Walkers block the view of feet and legs. The walk behind or push walkers are less damaging to the muscle development but still can cause irregular development with weight not being directly applied over the hips.
Now on the other hand if your child has started walking on their own without assistance and consciously chooses items like bar stools, chairs, tricycles, boxes or whatever else they deem suitable as walkers-no harm there. Their muscles are properly developing and they are simply being cognitively creative to propel themselves through space.
It may seem harsh to deem walkers as parent convenient toys but typically walkers are for those who want to pop their little one in and merrily go on their way of doing "other" things. Did you know walkers are the leading cause of injuries of all "baby products". They are simply a false security on so many levels. A baby can propel themselves quickly toward stairs-even ones with gates and with considerable force break through. Over 75% of accidents involve stairs.
Studies have concluded walkers are not beneficial for physical or mental development. Even with this knowledge parents continue to use these devices. It's really important to think long term here as well. Feeling your child is occupied and content while in reality they are far less active in their physical motor development and mental development. They are not working on crawling, scooting or other creative ways to move across the floor. This is lost physical time. They are not discovering how their bodies can enable them. They are not "reaching" for objects with earnest physical effort. This is not the normal progression of development.
Walkers will have long term affects in the preschool and primary school years. Children who used walkers early on are less physically active in those later years. Break down your childs' day of physcial mobility and inactivity (sitting in carseat, high chair or other restrained device). The majority of their waking day should be physical with very little restraint.
In addition, the majority of walkers are large hunks of plastic. Which if you are not yet aware come from petroleum and do not break down readily. Minimize your landfill load and interact with your child at the level their at instead.
Call me crazy but really ponder the use of baby-sitter and baby-sat when screening for caregivers during the baby and toddler years. Sitting the baby in a bouncer, excersaucer, walker, jumper or tv is detrimental to their development and health. Cognitive learning and physcial activity are imperative for a balanced being. If you really want to get down to the science of learning, the same part of the brain processes learning, physical activity and music. If you are questioning learning and desks-I'm right there with you.
Anyway, give your baby every opportunity to take advantage of the early days of motor development. Try playing with water, painting, playing or listening to music, baking, gardening, swimming, baby yoga or even- you become their prop-you'll both be stronger by your chooses today.

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