Learning to sit is yet another one of those milestones that can be eagerly anticipated by parents. Its always exciting when your child can now maintain sitting by themselves and you don’t have to hover within inches of them in case they fall over! In fact we’ve created multiple devices to give us a little more peace of mind and allow our children to sit. The easiest example of this is the Bumbo chair. The downside to our wonderfully creative and advanced society is that the more we create conveniences for us as adults to use with our children, the more we deprive our children of learning opportunities.
Part of the whole process of learning how to sit is the figuring out how to get into a sitting position as well as recognizing that there is a reason to get into sitting. Right now a little girl I am working with can spontaneously get into sitting but she isn’t doing it very often because she hasn’t realized that by sitting up she can reach a toy that is above her, or that she can interact with the world from a different perspective. I am working on showing her the cause and effect of the fact that when a toy is just above her and out of reach, she can reach it by moving into sitting. In addition, the practice of getting into sitting and figuring out how that works and when to do it and utilize that skill are part of the learning process. I know I repeat this a lot but this is where motor planning and coordination are developed as well as exploration of how their muscles work and what their capabilities and limits are.
In addition, using tools such as the Bumbo chair are good in small doses but what it does is delay your child’s ability to figure out the cause and effect of balance and gravity. They are being provided stability at their hips so if they reach for something they don’t get the same effect as if they were sitting unsupported or with your close supervision. Falling and loss of balance are extremely important steps that our children go through so that they can learn about safety and their limits. If they never have the opportunity to fall they aren’t learning developing safety awareness.
Many kids will learn how to maintain sitting while still working on getting into sitting. We as adults just have to be careful that we aren’t creating professional sitters by constantly placing the kids in a sitting position. Give them the assist they need to get into sitting and then let them hang out there and play with you. If we constantly pick them up and put them at the end result they miss all the benefits of going through the journey!
(side note – tools like the Bumbo Chair and other stability devices are helpful for working on fine motor skills or for children who have greater delays and need to start interacting with the world from a more upright position. I am not against them, I just believe in moderation and providing your child with as many movement opportunities as possible!)