Hungry Hungry Hippos

When we’re babies, do our caregivers need to ask us to move in certain ways? Do we say to our 4 or 5 month old:

“Ok honey, it’s time to practice rolling over. Just move your legs like this, and your shoulders like this….”

It seems kind of crazy, right?

Of course we don’t need to explain to babies how to move! Given the opportunity, and save any disability that would prevent it, babies naturally move how they need in order to develop their brain and body!

We, as humans, are hard-wired to connect with others and to the world around us. What drives babies to roll, reach and crawl? It’s the desire to interact with the world around them. The desire to interact with their environment, explore with their senses and get to know this new “place” they are now living in. When babies are given plenty of time on a firm, flat surface- tummy and back (both are important!) with room to move around freely, their bodies will move through a natural sequence of steps that get them moving, and ultimately, standing and walking. All the while, they are developing muscle tone, postural control, integrating primitive reflexes and helping to “link up” the three parts of the brain.

Ok, so you may be wondering why I named this post “Hungry Hungry Hippos”.

Well- you see, kids that come through Brain FUNdamentals- for whatever reason (no judgment!) still have retained Primitive Reflexes, underdeveloped sensory systems, and their brain and body may not be working together optimally. For most of these kiddos, we can follow a “schedule” or agenda of items that give structure to the sessions. The movements are built into the structure and I guide kids through the movements in certain ways to help with the work. And of course, we also have our play and rest time as well.

This counter-acts what I just said above- doesn’t it? About babies not needing to be told how to move?

To be honest, the session structure is just that- a structure. It helps the kiddo and me to know that is coming. It helps us to have a sense of certainty and safety, and it helps us to “notice” positive changes.

Having said all that, can my sessions be completed without that structure?

Yes. Yes they can. And for some kiddos, it’s what they need.

This brings us back to the beginning of the post, and back to Hungry Hungry Hippos.

If babies naturally move in certain ways, and they do it while interacting with the world around them, it serves to reason that we can recreate that with older children, correct?

That’s exactly what I was doing with Hungry Hungry Hippos.

If you remember the childhood game, the hippos “gobble” up the marbles that are on the playing board when you push the lever that activates their head- which stretches out and up- ready to grab the marbles.

I recreated that game with a kiddo, in real life. I can’t take credit for the idea because I saw it on the internet somewhere, or someone showed me a video at some point. So thanks to whoever came up with the idea!

Anyway, the kiddo lies on their tummy on a scooter board. I grab their feet and serve as the “lever” that pushes the child forward to grab the marbles (small balls) with the hippo head (a small basket) that they are holding in their hands. This continues back and forth until all the balls are collected.

Does this game engage the child’s senses and help them interact with the world around them? Absolutely!

Does it help to integrate a primitive reflex? Yup, the landau (technically a postural reflex).

Does it recreate movement opportunities that might have been missed as a baby? For sure!

Is this game fun? You bet!

And- as I’ve written about before, if we do the work while in a state of joy, changes happen faster!

Who knew hippos could be such a big help at Brain FUNdamentals?!?

Leave a Reply