Wobbling Practice

Not too long ago I tweeted out an article about how when kids appear aggressive, it might actual be a motor planning issue. One of the conclusions drawn was that in the absence of big body chores (like hauling logs and digging holes) and big body play (like wrestling and play fighting) kids haven’t really developed the receptors to realize they might be hitting too hard. (Worth a read, check it out here )

As the new mom of Very Active Child, one who is bound to want to play fight and jump off high things, I went on the hunt for articles about how to support his motor development so he can do all these things with confidence and kindness. And in doing so I wandered into this blog post about sitting. (Stay with me here, this isn’t going to be about sitting for long). The author argues against going straight for supported sitting (like the Bumbo Chair) and instead letting your child wobble. She calls it “wobbling practice”. Here is what she has to say (I swear I am about to wrap up the sitting part):

What most parents hope for when their baby begins to work on sitting is a steady sitter, but as a pediatric Occupational Therapist what I hope to see is a baby who spends some time wobbling, wobbling, wobbling! The constant loop of sensory information coming in and postural adjustments going out of the brain is developmentally rich; it isn’t a step in the progression toward sitting to be skipped over or rushed through.

Here is the gist: you don’t learn to sit by being propped up in a chair, you learn to sit by wobbling and falling over (and having a soft place to land), and if that isn’t the perfect analogy for our goals as teachers than I don’t know what is.

Let’s reframe mistakes and missteps for kids (and ourselves) as wobbling practice. Let’s see it as a constant loop of information that can’t be skipped or rushed through. From inventive spelling to a child’s attempts to solve problems without hitting, its the wobbling that make us steadier and better, provided we have a soft place to land, and an adult that sees the value of wobbling practice.

It’s not that a child is struggling, it is that he or she is wobbling, and just like a baby learning to sit, propping him or her up robs them of the chance to find their own steady place in the world.

Here’s to a year of wobbling, soft landings, and the space and clarity to see the real work in struggle.

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2 thoughts on “Wobbling Practice

  1. Thanks for this post and this realistic analogy. “Propping” kids up may look like success but it deprives them of stamina and the critical sense of mastery.

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