Traveling and Infant Development
SUCHITOTO, El Salvador- Petra is a traveling baby. Before this, she was a traveling featus — though I do not believe that Charles at MostTraveledPeople.com so far allows users to account for their in-utero travels. Petra did two squinty eyed, mushy headed months in Maine before joining her father out in Arizona to begin her open air traveling life. She has now traveled across the USA, to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and is now in El Salvador. So far, her development has adapted and been a result of the lifestyle her family lives.
Infant development of a traveler
Riding across entire states in cars and dwelling primarily on hotel room beds did not provide the best circumstances for Petra to learn to roll — the first major move of an infant’s physical development. At five months she was still not rolling. We worked at it, while in the northeast of the USA during the holidays, tummy time was a main priority. She hated it. Like prudent parents, we kept making her do it, ever reminding of the fruits that come from hard work.
Soon after arriving in the Dominican Republic, Petra mastered rolling. She was around seven months old. A little late but OK.
Crawling was the next major move for Petra’s physical development, and one that she did not seem to want to do right.
It is difficult to provide the proper amount of floor time for your baby when you fear the floor is too dirty for her to be on. Finding adequate training space for Petra to practice crawling had been one of the biggest challenge of traveling with a baby. When staying for a few nights in a hotel, you are not going to clean the floors — no, you are just going to check things out all day while holding your baby.
This is what we did. Petra spent far more time in our arms than on the floor. She did not have time to practice crawling. Upon arrival in El Salvador, our first priority was to get an apartment, keep the floors clean, and plop Petra down upon it so that she could do what babies are suppose to do — she yelled and screamed a lot. She was eight months old, she could not crawl, she could not sit up on her own.
But she learned.
Video of Petra learning to crawl
In one month of having adequate floor space and room to move, Petra first learned to sit up, then she began doing some awkward contingency crawling — she would move across the room on her front to hands and rise up on her two back feet — which was really more of a shuffle, shuffle way of locomotion, then she mastered crawl formation.
When going after our out door shoes kept in a a part of the apartment where Petra knows she is not allowed to go, our baby crawled. She must have realized that crawling properly gets here to where she wants to go the fastest, perhaps she was saving this move as a secret weapon to get what she knows she is not allowed to have when her parents are not looking. This was how she used this new skill for the first week after its mastery, she would just crawl when she wanted to go fast — to get away from mom and dad, to find mom and dad, or to get something dirty, rotten, or gross — like bugs, the garbage, or my boots.
Petra was nine months old when she learned to crawl, a little late, but acceptable given the circumstances. Babies in El Salvador start crawling at five months, but this is a parenting culture that has no mind for keeping their babies off of their stomachs — the “back to sleep” mantra has no bearning here — and little regard for keeping their kids off of dirty floors.
USA people are also obsessive about raising babies — and often when they can’t find problems with their kids, they make them up. USA people think too much. There are all of these development charts, facts, figures, stats, and I am told that my baby needs to be marked down between this and this percentile for their entire lives or I am screwing them up.
This is not true, infants, kids, adults often develop at their own pace. While Petra was a little behind in terms of walking she seemed to have been working on other skills. Social skills leaped to the forefront, Petra meets lots of new people every day, they play with her, hold her, she meets lots of babies and little kids in Central America, she plays with them. Petra’s social skills developing rapidly, she gets excited when she sees people she knows, she waves hello and goodbye, she is trying to say, “hola.” She has figured out ways to communicate with the people in her world, even though the meetings are often rapid to begin and rapid to end. Petra seems to like traveling. She likes being at the center of the world’s attention. If we were to keep her kept tight inside of a single home, with only a select group of people interacting with her I do not believe that her social development would be as acute.
Traveling will put Petra in positions to develop differently than sedentary kids and at different paces. From observing how babies develop the difference between the USA, the Dominican Republic, and Central America is pretty vast. The rules that govern child rearing are very much at odds with each other — each country, each culture has its own ways of raising infants, though it all seems to work out towards somewhat similar ends. The worst thing that I can do is to push Petra into any one developmental paradigm — she is being raised differently, and will develop in her own way.
Though all types of development need a proper stages to play themselves out upon. Coming to El Salvador and getting an apartment, buying brooms and mops, cleaning daily were all good moves. Petra is crawling now as if she has been doing it for the past four months. Petra stood up without assistance for the first time last night.
We have crossed the apex of the mountain, it is all fast downhill from here. In a couple months this kid should be walking.
Petra is growing up, developing on the open road.
Video of Petra dancing
Filed under: Traveling with Baby