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‘Containerized’ Infants: How Products are Affecting Our Babies’ Brains

By Rae Pica

Photo Courtesy:  Chloe (chloe004 -

Courtesy: Chloe – chloe004 –

Besides the fact that they were built to do so, there are a great many reasons why infants need to move. The truth is, even though their movement capabilities are extremely limited when compared with even those of a toddler, movement experiences may be more important for infants than for children of any other age group. And it’s not all about motor development either.

Thanks to new insights in brain research, we now know that early movement experiences are considered essential to the neural stimulation (the ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ principle involved in the keeping or pruning of brain cells) needed for healthy brain development.

Not long ago, neuroscientists believed that the structure of a human brain was genetically determined at birth. They now realize that although the main ‘circuits’ are ‘prewired’ (for such functions as breathing and the heartbeat), the experiences that fill each child’s days are what actually determine the brain’s ultimate design and the nature and extent of that child’s adult capabilities.

An infant’s brain, it turns out, is chock-full of brain cells (neurons) at birth. (In fact, a one-pound fetus already has 100 billion of them!) Over time, each of these brain cells can form as many as 15,000 connections (synapses) with other brain cells. And it is during the first three years of life that most of these connections are made. Synapses not used often enough are eliminated. On the other hand, those synapses that have been activated by repeated early experiences tend to become permanent. And it appears that physical activity and play during early childhood have a vital role in the sensory and physiological stimulation that results in more synapses.

Neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford, in her excellent book, Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, states: ‘Physical movement, from earliest infancy and throughout our lives, plays an important role in the creation of nerve cell networks which are actually the essence of learning.’

She then goes on to relate how movement, because it activates the neural wiring throughout the body, makes the entire body — not just the brain — the instrument of learning.

Gross and fine motor skills are learned through repetition as well — both by virtue of being practiced and because repetition lays down patterns in the brain. Although it hasnt been clearly determined that such early movements as kicking, waving the arms, and rocking on hands and knees are ‘practice’ for later, more advanced motor skills, it’s believed that they are indeed part of a process of neurological maturation needed for the control of motor skills. In other words, these spontaneous actions prepare the child – physically and neurologically – to later perform more complex, voluntary actions.

Then, once the child is performing voluntary actions (for example, rolling over, creeping, and walking), the circle completes itself, as these skills provide both glucose (the brain’s primary source of energy) and blood flow (‘food’) to the brain, in all likelihood increasing neuronal connections.

According to Rebecca Anne Bailey and Elsie Carter Burton, authors of The Dynamic Self: Activities to Enhance Infant Development, whenever babies move any part of their bodies, there exists the potential for two different kinds of learning to occur: learning to move and moving to learn. Still, recent evidence indicates that infants are spending upward of 60 waking hours a week in things – high chairs, carriers, car seats, and the like!

The reasons for this trend are varied. Part of the problem is that more and more infants are being placed in childcare centers, where there may not be enough space to let babies roam the floor. Or, given the number of infants enrolled, there may be little opportunity for caregivers to spend one-on-one time with each baby. This means, in the morning, an infant is typically fed, dressed, and then carried to the automobile, where she’s placed in a car seat. She’s then carried into the childcare center, where she may spend much of her time in a crib or playpen. At the end of the day, she’s picked up, placed again into the car seat, and carried back into the house, where she’s fed, bathed, and put to bed.

Even when parents are home with baby, they seem to be busier than ever these days. Who has time to get on the floor and creep around with a child? Besides, with today’s emphasis on being productive, playing with a baby would seem almost a guilty pleasure! And if the baby seems happy and safe in a seat placed conveniently in front of the TV, in a bouncer hung in a doorway, or cruising about in a walker, then what’s the harm? It’s a win/win situation, isn’t it?

In fact, it isn’t. Being confined (as one colleague says: ‘containerized’) affects a baby’s personality; they need to be held. It may also have serious consequences for the child’s motor – and cognitive – development.

Other trends in today’s society having an impact on infants’ opportunities to move are the inclination to restrict, rather than encourage, freedom of movement and the misguided belief that early academic instruction will result in superbabies. (In 1999, 770,000 copies of infant software – ‘lapware’ – were sold!)

Humans are meant to move and play. The inclination – the need – is hardwired into them. Babies, in fact, spend nearly half of their waking time – 40% – doing things like kicking, bouncing, and waving their arms. And while it may appear all this activity is just for the sake of moving, it’s important to realize a baby is never ‘just moving’ or ‘just playing’. Every action extends the child’s development in some way.


Rae Pica has been an early childhood education consultant, specializing in children’s physical activity, since 1980. A former adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire, she is the founder and director of Moving & Learning and the author of 18 books, including the text Experiences in Movement and Music (now in its 5th edition), the award-winning Great Games for Young Children and Jump into Literacy, and A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, and Free Time Create a Successful Child, written for the parents of children birth to age five. Her website:




Now Or Never

Now or Never


The Planning

Parenting begins long before your precious child is conceived in the womb of his or her mother. And the kind of parent you have been to your child long before he was born affects your child long after his birth.

This chapter is meant particularly for couples planning to have their first child. But it is also for couples who already have a child; they will gain a new perspective of the awesomeness of the coming into being of a life which never existed before and which will never have its uniqueness taken away or diminished in the least by another life in eternity.

As you unite your body and soul with your life partner, all the forces of heaven and earth rejoice in the ecstasy of that union, and join together to produce the greatest expression of their joy – a new life resembling yours in amazing ways, and yet so different in astonishing ways. For it is a union that sets into force a new dimension of existence, introduces a personality absolutely unique in eternity, launches a new element into the purpose of the whole universe, and starts recording new entries in the chronicles of man kept in heaven.

The love union is the very first cause and the beginning point of millions of equally unique existences, of many achievements on earth, of the changing of history in innumerable societies. For if that union does not take place at the precise moment between the two precise people, it means the non happening of the same number of existences and activities on earth. The non happening of your union would be the non happening of uncountable changes on earth and in the annals of history.

That is the awesomeness of what you and your spouse are going to be responsible for when you plan to have a baby.

Because you plan to have a child, multitudes of people with your genetic dispositions will be able to experience the delight of inhaling the scents of fresh flowers; they will have the blessing of seeing the sun rise and set, and other awesome wonders of nature; they will be able to use their hands to build homes and societies, their legs to explore and inhabit new corners of the earth and space, and their minds to discover new dimensions of living – which will never happen if you decide not to have a baby.

In fact, the forces of the universe have already been set in motion from the very moment you and your beloved set sight on each other for the first time in your lives.

From the moment you first set eyes on your future spouse, and your mind allowed amorous thoughts and your body began to sense irresistible vibes towards the new person, spiritual and physical elements cohered within you and began preparing for a new life. These elements generated from heaven and from earth reach their maximum intensity at conception. Thereafter these elements merge into and become part of far greater elements of creation: the genes of the parents, their health, their dispositions, their weaknesses and strengths, their beliefs and attitudes, their fears and phobias, their joys and pleasures. Every single one of these newer elements plays a vital role in developing the embryo into a fetus, the fetus into a child. And when the child is born, still newer and even greater elements of creation come into being in the life of the newborn, and these elements continue its work until the child is an adult capable of making his or her own decision. These latest elements are: heredity, the environment, the cultural and spiritual environment, the society, parenting, and freewill.

You cannot do anything about heredity, and you may not always be able to protect your child from unwanted cultural and spiritual influences, or from the influences of the society your child grows up in. But as parents, you can have a monumental role in the character formation of your child, and the direction in life he or she would take as an adult. So consequential are the effects of good and bad parenting that generations after the parents are dead, their descendants would continue to reap the consequences of how those parents brought up their children.1

In fact, the Bible states that in the present age no single factor in the world determines earth’s total destruction or survival as the quality of relationship between parents and their children.2

When you plan for your first child, or your next child, remember the awesome responsibility that God has placed on you. Your wise decisions as a parent will mean that there will be blessed generations of upright people who will rejoice in you as their first ancestor3; your unwise decisions will mean that your children and grandchildren, even to the fourth generation will reap a terrible penalty for what you as their progenitor has done in your parenting days.4

‘Has He not made you and your wife one?…And what does He seek from such a union? Godly children.’   Malachi 2:15 The Voice



1 ‘Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.’  2 Kings 5:27

‘He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.’   Psalm 78:5-7

‘But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.’   Psalm 103:17-18

2 ‘And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse [‘total destruction’- NIV].  Malachi 4:6 NKJV

3 ‘The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.’   Psalm 102:28

‘Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.’  Psalm 112:2

4 The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’  Exodus 34:6-8






The Man Who Ordered Coffee

Courtesy: Aleksandr Zykov (Flickr)

Courtesy: Aleksandr Zykov (Flickr)

Before going to church today, I went to that iconic of all Indian cafes -Indian Coffee House – where turbaned waiters of regal comportment flit from kitchen to dining table and back in one ceaseless motion from morning to late night. I ordered a two-course breakfast: first, puffed puree with mashed beetroot, and then scrambled eggs on toast, concluded with what every fine breed of Indian is reputed to drink first thing in the morning – coffee brewed from the choicest seeds of the finest coffea arabica plants in the country, and available in its full aromatic strength only in this chain of coffee houses.

While enjoying my puree, and my next course waiting beside it, a man walks in, and after looking around for a vacant seat, finds one in a corner of the room. Then he gets up and goes to the kitchen…and emerges again after being shooed out from there.

The man then returns to his seat. He asks a passing waiter to bring him coffee, but the turbaned head does not turn and its bearer walks on as if he didnt hear.

The snubbed customer gets up and goes to the toilet, opens first the ladies’ toilet, peers in, and then the gents, peers in, returns to his seat, and repeats his order for coffee to every waiter that passes by him.

The man continued to sit there patiently for his steaming beverage. One side of my eyes was riveted on him, while the other was following the movement of each piece of morsel on my plate until I lost sight of it under my nose. But it was getting harder and harder for me to swallow the delectables on my table. I called the waiter who served me and asked him if that man had ordered anything, and, if not, to serve him something and I will pay for it. The waiter replied it was not a problem of the expense of a free coffee, but he was a nuisance and would come frequently and pester other customers if he was shown kindness.

As I finished my breakfast and got up to leave, the unserved customer came up to me and asked if I could help him. I did not answer but walked to the cash counter to pay my bill. The man followed me and stood beside me at the counter and repeated his request. I remarked aside to the cashier I would have bought him a meal, but I had been advised against it. The cashier smiled approvingly.

When I left the counter, I took the biggest of the bills in my wallet, gave it to the man and told him to go outside and buy something to eat. The man grasped the money, and in his ecstasy came with open arms to embrace me, but I ducked just before he could touch me. The cashier shouted his annoyance at him, and in the verbal melee I left speedily before the man got another chance to thank me.

I have no problem being hugged by anyone who wanted to show me gratitude or love. But he smelled contagion, and I didnt want to go to church with some of his vermin crawling on my body. I wonder why the coffee house people allowed him to enter their reputable premises in the first place. There’s no doubt hungry people like him are a nuisance to a satiated population.

I prayed as I got out of the coffee house: Lord, give him his daily bread.


Pappa Joseph