Do nothing with your baby, find your 'yes space'
Do less, observe more, enjoy most. - Magda Gerber
Article by Ilona Tar
Leaning up against my MOOV baby Pikler Triangle which my toddler now runs up and down like a pet-store mouse, I reminisce about a time when I was an overly anxious mum with a serious case of baby-activity FOMO. From library rhyme-time to baby-gyms, most us are generally spoilt for choice when it comes to activities for children from the day they are born. All the more relevant are when these things aren't available to us (thanks COVID!). I recall worrying needlessly about how little I was doing with my baby son. Now with three and a half enormous years of hindsight behind me, here's something important I learnt: It’s ok to do nothing much with your baby.
What does doing nothing look like?
Or what doesn’t it look like, rather? When we’re used to a full-steam-ahead lifestyle, whether at work or socially, it’s hard to slow down to the pace of a baby at first. It doesn’t quite feel right sometimes.
After a few stressful experiences hopping in and out of shared-rides and public transport with my infant son, or getting stuck in the rain, getting the baby-class time, date, or location wrong, all whilst lugging around my precious cargo in a car seat weighing a ton, my anxiety levels started to mount. There were tears (my tears!) I needed to race home for scheduled feeding and nap times, there were poo-namy disasters, and my overstimulated baby’s fretful crying episodes. I quickly became discouraged, and decided we weren’t going anywhere for a while.
I also realised that getting out of the house was for my own benefit, more than that of my child. I needed the social contact. My child just needed me. He needed me to be present and relaxed. So instead of all the sensory art, music and movement classes, I started staying home more, talking to my friends on skype, going to the playground with a big rug and seducing the company of other parents with an inviting smile. My coffee dates became limited to cafes within walking distance during stroller nap times.
As my baby started to move more (he was rolling at 4 months and crawling soon after - I had a mover on my hands), I began to trust myself more. I knew that going out less, doing less, giving him ample time to explore his own movements, unrestricted by the stroller, car seat or carrier was the right thing for him. Playdates became stressful for us. Getting to someone’s home would seriously eat into the time between naps, and many playdate homes were not yet safe for a baby mobile as early as mine was.
Relax with a ‘yes space’
So whilst my son was still napping three times a day, I became committed to spending as much time at home as possible. With more time at home I started to look at our home environment. What was it that my son needed? What did I need? What could I create at home in order for us to both thrive? In research, I came across the concept of ‘yes space’. A ‘yes space’ is simply a space where there are no “no’s” - nothing is out of bounds and everything is safe.
In reading more about RIE, a pedagogy which puts particular emphasis on physical development in early childhood, Magda Gerber, RIE founder, said of a ‘yes’ space, “It's one where if your baby was left on her own all day, she would be hungry, upset, and need a new diaper when you returned but she would be physically unharmed. It’s an interesting concept.
A ‘yes space’ can be a whole room (as in a typical Montessori room set-up), or An uncluttered playpen with ample room for your baby to move. When you don’t need to worry about physical safety, you start to relax and enjoy the stillness of the day, and the quietness of a home routine. This time really allows us the space to observe our child’s gross motor developments unfold, and marvel at how closely linked brain development is to physical development, which is the cornerstone of Emmi Pikler’s philosophy, and the foundation of MOOV baby’s product offering.
What to put in your ‘yes space’
The typical RIE yes space for a baby not-yet sitting would contain a soft floor covering (not too spongy, as this inhibits movement and gives your baby a false sense of security), a napkin folded to a triangle, standing vertically. This allows the child to see it when they turn their heads and grasp it. Five items, as a rule of thumb in a play pen. Simple, soft or wooden toys that are easy to grasp are best.
Although a “yes space” is intended to be a place where your little one can get on with the day solo, I also spent a lot of time there. When supervised other toys can be introduced for use.
To encourage movement, RIE asks us to refrain from handing a child an item they cannot reach. Instead, support them in any frustration (Janet Lansbury has good tips on this), and encourage them to use their body and innate problem-solving skills to move towards an object.
Kidsafe provides excellent guides for creating a safe home, you can read their guide to safe homes here.
Independent Play and MOOV baby objects
It’s a cliche, but they really do grow up fast! From the minute those little toes start tingling, babies start to look for something they can pull themselves up on. Don’t wait until they’re fully mobile before ordering your first MOOV baby item. Having an object in your baby’s yes space from the start, makes it familiar to your child, and they therefore won’t hesitate to engage with this object from the minute they’re ready.
A MOOV baby Rocking Boat/Steps (turned to the steps mode) are the perfect addition to a baby’s yes space. Not too high, and safely stable, they will encourage your child to move autonomously and independently without the need of a guiding hand. This in turn contributes to their profound sense of independence and self-confidence.
As your child grows, you can easily add to these objects, or turn the steps to the rocker side (encouraging the exploration of balance), stimulating and challenging your child at a pace that they choose.
Keep an eye on our full range of MOOV baby products which, in combination, can continue to grow with and challenge your child, from infancy onwards.
“At RIE, we urge parents to relax, observe, and enjoy what their babies are doing, noticing and enjoying new skills as they develop naturally.” Magda Gerber
The author Ilona Tar is an author & illustrator, a passionate parent, and constant inspiration for MOOV baby. Thanks goes to Ilona for her wisdom and guidance.