AGENCY is one of our fundamental values.
We define agency as the ability to make choices, have an impact, take risks and learn from experience.
We believe agency is a given, starting from the beginning: With the support, nourishment and feedback of our environment, each of us grew ourselves as embryos from a two-celled organism into a full-term fetus.
A healthy sense of agency involves participation, connectivity and interdependence. To participate means acknowledging and accepting that we are changed by our participation, and that we are effecting change in return. We shape and are shaped by our environment and interactions.
Through a sense of their own agency, babies and toddlers can fully participate in their emergence, in relationship to their environment and others.
We cannot empower another person; empowerment comes from within. As caregivers, our role is to support, respect and nourish a child’s sense of agency and empowerment.
The agency of the one cared for and the caregiver are completely intertwined. Caregivers explore and experience agency and empowerment in their own right, and as part of their caregiving role.
Babies come in as whole people, not as blank slates. As babies and toddlers develop and grow themselves, they continuously unfold and emerge as whole people.
A baby’s experience is real and valid, though it might not be comprehensible to us. Babies and toddlers are fully and intensely immersed in becoming themselves. We can offer comfort without denying their experience, or our own. With toddlers, we can acknowledge and validate their feelings and emotions while also saying “no” to particular behavior.
Learning arises from a sense of comfort and curiosity, and trust in their environment. We are the baby’s environment, and we shape the toddler’s experience of their environment. By being present and meeting their needs, we encourage their agency and ability to self-regulate.
Self-regulation is key to a baby’s sense of agency and curiosity – and develops in relationship to their caregivers.
We aim to facilitate a healthy interdependence where babies can learn responsiveness, trust and confidence from our presence and responsiveness.
Process is more important than timing in terms of developmental milestones. If a baby or toddler takes longer to learn a movement, they might end up doing the movement more skillfully than if they did it sooner.
Movement skills develop from experiencing pathways, rather than being put into positions. (This means not putting them into upright sitting or standing positions that they cannot get themselves into and out of.)
Babies and toddlers learn to measure space, distance and effort through experimentation, repetition and iteration. Experiencing the results of their actions is part of this process.
Development happens in overlapping layers of skills and experience. While there might be an ‘ideal’ progression, there are an infinite number of ways to do it successfully – and babies will each find their own way.
These ideas are based on the Body-Mind Centering® approach to infant developmental movement, originally developed by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.
© 2016-2017 Amy Matthews & Sarah Barnaby