Parents are impatient
She continues: ‘Babies naturally have their own drive to move, as a parent you don’t have to do so much about that. Around 8 months of age, children will be able to sit on their own and then they will be strong enough. But parents would like their children to be able to sit and enjoy some cozy time at the table in the highchair a little earlier. Children will then be secured completely and producers will develop all kinds of things to meet the needs of parents. The fact that a child cannot sit down yet, has to do with the fact that his body is not yet strong enough for this. Instead of supporting him in this by ‘securing’ him to something, it is better to give a child more room to move so that he can strengthen his muscles.
Activities offered to a far younger age group
I also see that activities meant for ‘big children’ are being offered to a far younger age group. There are sports clubs where children from the age of 1.5 years can play football for toddlers. Fathers who used to play football themselves, for example, would like their son to play football as well. Preferably as soon as possible. Resulting in 30 toddlers walking around in a group going all directions except the right one. They are just too young for that, both physically and mentally. Grass does not grow any faster by pulling it either, children grow into it on their own. It would be nice if parents and organisations could be a little more patient. In addition, the musculoskeletal system is stressed far too much on one side. Starting this kind of activity too early is not a good thing, and there is a good chance that parents will overcharge their young children and allow them to have negative experiences in something they want so badly. And this surely cannot be the intention.’
Do parents not know how to handle a baby?
‘Absolutely!’, Marije replies. There are many parents who do not know what a baby needs in order to develop properly. This is determined by a demographic history. The first baby held by young parents is often their own, whereas we used to babysit small children on a regular basis ourselves. Families used to be bigger, so there were always siblings to look after. And the mutual ties in the community where people lived were stronger. Now families live more apart, because you travel everywhere by car, with the result that families become isolated. At the Baby Club, we see parents coming in who do not know what else to offer a baby other than food, a clean nappy, cuddles and toys. It is also difficult to imagine what the life of parents is like now without help and with all the technology currently present’.
What about making toys available?
Children are now lying in the playpen with so many toys and cuddles that they can hardly move. They look at a babygym and above it hangs another mobile, they experience sensory overload and will not be able to play anymore. Babies get fixated, cannot filter so they will not let go of this image. The problem is also that parents do not know what all these toys now mean for their child’s development. When parents join us at the Baby Club, we offer them a bowl and a ball and tell the parents: take a good look at what your child is going to try out himself. Then you will see that children discover a tray completely with their hands and mouth, put the ball in and discover that the ball can be thrown out. This way, parents learn what their child is learning. There are many beautiful toys available, but parents have no idea what exactly children learn with them. Manufacturers should be able to explain that much more clearly’.
Marije herself is a big fan of balls in all sizes, especially beach balls. ‘They are light and very instructive; if you push it, it rolls away; if you push harder, it rolls further away. They get to know the shape, the weight, the material, they just engage in arithmetic! You can roll balls, throw them, you can sit on them, you can do massage and balance exercises on beach balls so that children can train their muscles’.
Is there enough information available for parents?
‘I sometimes see parents who really don’t know how to pick up their child and what to do with their child. Parents no longer know where to get information for the care of their child. There are so many parenting questions. They read too little and sometimes too much. In addition, they often mirror themselves to role models on social media and this does not always make them happy. And this also includes highly educated parents. The problem is much bigger than we think’.
She gives an example. Parents no longer know how to teach their little one how to climb and don’t want to, afraid of falling and bruising. These are all risk-averse behaviours for which they can now buy baby helmets, knee and elbow pads and even a pillow-shaped backpack online. We have a layer of pyramid-shaped wooden furniture with a gangway. Instead of teaching the child to climb and clamber barefoot so that it learns to assess risks for itself, they hold the child by the hand and want the child to walk up on a slippery board with socks on. That does not work, of course.
What about childcare expertise?
Marije: In 2018 the law IKK came into force. This stipulates that only 3 babies are allowed to be under the supervision of a baby carer, that a mentor must be present to better monitor children’s development and there is compulsory further training for the carers working with babies. But that has made baby groups unaffordable. For practical and financial reasons, they are placed in vertical groups of 0 to 4 years and that’s a mistake. After all, babies cannot be placed on the ground between racing bicycles and there is often insufficient space for playpens on the ground, with the result that they are all too often placed safely in high playpens. Research data of the ‘Landelijke Kwaliteitsmonitor Kinderopvang’ (National Child daycare Quality Monitor) from 2018 show that the educational quality in the vertical groups for babies is lower than in a (horizontal) baby group. With the introduction of the Child daycare (Innovation and Quality) Act (IKK Act), there have only been more vertical groups. The big question is what this means for the educational quality of babies. Crowds in the group can cause babies to experience sensory overload and stress, but with the new act the risk of understimulation lurks because they receive less attention and care, especially if they are quiet babies. In doing so, the IKK Act is counterproductive’.