Anthroposophy views the tasks of the child’s first three years to be learning to walk in the first year; speech in the second year; and the emergence of thinking in the third year (and yes, a later post will address why we start academics around age 7 when thinking begins to emerge before that time). Today we are going to look specifically at walking and why this is important in anthroposophic terms.
I am currently re-reading Karl Konig’s “The First Three Years of The Child: Walking, Speaking, Thinking.” For those of you new to Waldorf and anthroposophy, Karl Konig was a physician who founded the Camphill Movement in Scotland in 1939. The Camphill Movement includes schools for children who are differently abled and also villages for adults who are differently abled.
Konig talks about the progression to being upright as starting with controlled eye movements amidst that generalized chaos of random lower extremity movement that begins in the first few days of life. The sequence of walking begins from the head down, and Konig remarks that “This process seems to be patterned after that of actual birth. Just as in birth the head is the first part of the body, so here , out of the womb of dissociated movements, coordinated movement is born and oriented step by step toward standing and walking. At the end of the first year the process of the birth of movement is completed.”
The head occupies an important place with learning to walk because as long as the head is “restless and wobbly”, as Konig puts it, walking cannot be attained. Other important things leading up to the development of walking and seen in newborn includes a positive support response (ie, a newborn will take weight on his or her legs when the soles of the newborn’s feet come into contact with the ground), a stepping response and a crawling response. These responses disappear and then come back as the true crawling, walking and standing. Konig writes, “The ability to stand, the reflex walking movements, crawling and the athetotic movements of premature births differ fundamentally from the new phenomenon of walking. They must disappear in the course of the first year to make walking possible.”
Most of all, anthroposophy sees walking as very important for several reasons. Walking upright differentiates man from animals. “Endowed as they are with a horizontally oriented spine, the animals remain part of the world. They are overwhelmed by sense impressions and the abyss between self and world does not open.” In anthroposophic terms, walking is also related to the ability to control feelings and moods and also the conscious use of memory.
Happy hmusings for your baby’s first year of life,