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Lessons I Learned from My Toddler: Joyful Movement Edition

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

“When it comes to defining movement, the limit does not exist.

Once again I come to you writing about how my experience parenting my toddler has continued to be a testament to the philosophies we practice here at Beyond Therapy & Nutrition Center. And this time I’m talking about joyful movement.

As babies enter the world, they have a never-ending thirst to understand their environment, and this includes exploring their bodies through movement. From early milestones like bringing one’s hand to the mouth to later ones like walking independently, there is this desire to move one’s body that doesn’t need to be taught, only supported. Now for anyone who has ever been in the presence of a toddler, it is clear that most do not need to be encouraged to move their bodies. One of my son’s favorite self-invented games that we played while on my recent maternity leave this winter was what we named “Run Around the Table.” This was played by simply moving in circles around our dining room table with numerous round objects he referred to as “steering wheels.” He also fell in love with stomping on crunchy leaves this past fall and with stomping in puddles after rainstorms. His latest favorite is walking around the neighborhood looking for different trucks…. His latest favorite is walking around the neighborhood looking for different trucks… Just this past week we spent a good 20 minutes under a tree in the shade, watching an excavator. (Reminder: rest is important too!) I have never had to encourage my son to move his body; he has simply discovered his own favorite ways to do so and truly finds the joy in joyful movement.

Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed moving my body in a local gym taking different classes depending on what I was in the mood for that particular day. Fast-forward to present day, and I mostly find myself moving my body with my toddler in the ways listed above…. It is truly a joy (albeit quite exhausting) to stomp in puddles with my son. While stomping in puddles, going for a nature walk to collect a bucketful of sticks and pinecones, or playing “Run Around the Table” may not fit our society’s classic definition of exercise, I can honestly say that these bring me significantly more joy than a spin bike ever has….

I will never forget the first few (and final!) spin classes I ever took, where I spent most of the class turning towards the back of the room to check the clock and see how many minutes were left in the class…clearly not something that was giving me any type of joy. My best suggestion is to “Marie Kondo” your movement and ditch anything that doesn’t spark joy. Check out NourishED with Kindness’ blog for some ideas on how to give your exercise a “joyful makeover.”

For me, that was never hopping on a spin bike ever again. It was choosing not to rejoin a gym post-pandemic but instead falling in love with a vinyasa class at a local yoga studio (where the instructor’s emphasis is on flexibility, strength, and recharging the body) and noticing the (very occasional) desire to go for a short run after having a long day where I can clear my head while blasting some punk rock tunes. At times, it may mean taking a break from movement altogether to practice more rest and rediscover how to nurture a healthy relationship with movement once again. There certainly is no “one size fits all” when it comes to what type of movement is the best for any of us. I encourage you to take a minute and consider how you liked to move your body as a child to think of ways to practice movement that may be “outside the box” of traditional fitness routines. And I highly recommend Alissa Rumsey’s free download Body Positive Fitness Resources that can be accessed at the bottom of the following link:

What sparks joy for some, doesn’t for others, and that’s just fine. And I’m happy to say that I now don’t dread rainy days as much anymore knowing that there’s some fun to be had with my son once it stops!

Niki Pilliterri, RD, LDN at Beyond Therapy and Nutrition Center in Newtown, Bucks County PA. Health at Every Size practice offering weight inclusive eating disorder therapy and nutrition services.

Registered Dietitian

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Beyond Therapy and Nutrition Center offers weight insluvie eating disorder therapy and nutrition services in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. HAES Health at every size providers. eating disorder treatment.

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