Muscle Memory and Your Baby
You haven't ridden a bike in years, yet somehow when you hop on, your legs know exactly what to do. The same goes for playing an instrument or a sport. When our muscles have practiced performing the same task over and over, it eventually becomes automatic. The areas responsible for the memorization of a skill in our brain are primarily the motor cortex, and cerebellum. And when we become better at a particular skill, the activity in these areas becomes more focused.
Upon entering kindergarten, children must already be proficient in many skills; walking, running, kicking a ball, holding a crayon, cutting, talking, in addition to having the core strength to sit and attend during circle time. So, how do you foster these skills in your young children? Where do you start? You start from birth!
From day one we must play and engage with our babies. It is through play that baby learns to attend to people and things in their environment. Tummy time is a great way to work on baby's core strength, vision, and auditory skills. Once babies start to crawl, they are strengthening the muscles that will eventually be a factor in handwriting and playing musical instruments. Babies are already stimulating the areas in the brain that are responsible for muscle (skill) memory when they babble. The act of producing certain sounds and putting them together (e.g. words and sentences) takes quite a bit of precision and skill. When your baby repeats syllables (e.g. mama, dada, etc.), they are forming connections in the brain to aid with that skill (or muscle) memory.
When babies are stimulated at birth, they are already at an advantage to create those connections much faster and more readily. This is part of what makes early intervention so critical when there are delays. For more ideas on how to promote muscle memory in your babies and toddlers, check out the activity cards in the OFY infant backpack and OFY toddler tote. Increasing motor skills has never been so easy...it's all in the bag!