RESPECTING THE BABY’S FIRST TASKS
At birth, babies have a few basic physical abilities such as sucking and grasping. They can hear and see, but do not yet fully make sense of their sense impressions. Everything is new, much must be learned. And learning takes focus and concentration. Some of the child's first tasks in life are learning to see as we do, finding thumb and fingers, recognizing their own hands and objects, moving arms and hands purposefully and coping with a new way of assimilating food. Their development evolves quickly through the first year or so: learning to lift the head, move the limbs, roll, sit, crawl, maybe even stand and walk, experimenting with sounds and learning to speak. These are tremendous tasks, and they are not things one can teach the child, they learn these things on their own. So how can we best allow for the child to be able to fulfil these tasks in a harmonious, healthy way? What is the best supportive environment?
Perhaps the first helpful thing is to be aware of what the child is doing, what they are learning, by observing them and allowing them the quiet, the physical space and freedom to do their task. Watching a child learn to see, to observe them watching their own hands with fascination, learning to grasp a cloth and pull it with both hands, can fill one with astonishment and wonder at the innate perseverance of the child - and at the amount of time and work required to learn to do the simple things we do thousands of times every day.
For the first months, laying the baby flat on his back allows him to learn to move hands, arms and legs freely and, eventually, find uprightness on his own. His hands are free to find each other, play with things, and the baby is able to try turning and rolling without hindrance. Laying flat also allows the healthy development of the bones by keeping pressure off the base of the spine and hips - which an assisted seated position creates. A basket or carrycot can be a good place at first, and when the baby starts to move and roll, one can lay a thick wool blanket or a sheepskin on the floor, out of drafts, to keep the baby warm.
Panciatichi Holy Family
See-Saw, Margery Daw
by Albert Bierstadt
Another aspect to keep in mind is our interaction with the baby when we are changing their diaper, dressing them or moving them in any way, is to try to include the child in the process by being present in what we are doing, speaking to them in a simple, quiet way and having patience to allow them to respond as they get older and more able to participate.
From Research Institute for Waldorf Education:
 Pikler, Emmi and Anna Tardos Laßt Mir Zeit, Richard Pflaum Verlag, München 2001
 Pikler, Emmi. Friedliche Babys, zufriedene Mütter. Pädagogische Ratschläge einer Kinderärztin. Herder Verlag, Freiburg, Germany 2000
THE FIRST MONTHS
CLOTHING AND CARE
FOR THE BABY