Creative Movement: Podcast Episode #213
Kristin Revere chats about the importance of creative movement with Regina Lum of Little Feet Movement.
Hello! This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Regina Lum today. Regina is a creative movement instructor, infant massage educator, and a self-proclaimed lay advocate. She owns Little Feet Movement for developing minds, a parent child movement program that was voted as the top two toddler time in the 2023 GR Kids Best of Grandtastic Awards.
Welcome, Regina! So happy to have you here!
Thank you! I’m so excited to be here as well! It means a lot to me, especially being a small business owner, to be given this opportunity and to be recognized by such an influential organization like yours who’s doing great work for the community. So thank you!
Thanks! We love partnering with you. I’d love to have you tell a bit of your why story of why you started Little Feet and a bit more about what you do in the community of West Michigan.
Yeah, sure! I’m happy to share that. I was born and raised in Malaysia, and growing up, I danced ballet and played the piano for 15 years of my life and did cheerleading. And I really believe that these opportunities positively impacted my life. I’ve always dreamed of running a children’s music and movement program. I moved to Michigan for college, which is where I met my husband, and then we moved to Seattle and lived there for over ten years. We had two kids there, and then we moved back to Grand Rapids to be closer to family. We now have three beautiful children, and they’re 9, 5, and 2.
Certainly some of your own personal experience and bringing play and movement to your children’s lives. I love it!
Although I ended up getting a business degree, my dream of running a children’s program never wavered. After I graduated college, I worked in different youth development organizations. I coordinated trainings for adults who work in youth programs. And I did marketing for various youth programs, as well. But where that switch happens is when I became a mom myself. I had my first daughter, and I didn’t know what to do with her. I wanted to play and connect with her, but I didn’t know what to do. And the experts tell you, oh, you need to put her in tummy time; this is important to them. But I never was taught how to do it effectively and why it’s important. And every time I put her in tummy time, she would cry. So I just never did it. That’s when I found the program in Seattle called Nurturing Pathways that not only showed me what to do with my daughter and how to connect with her, but it also taught me how and why movement and music supports the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of the child. It made me become a more confident parent.
I was really excited to share all that information with as many parents as possible, and I thought, this is it. This is what’s going to be my path to my dream of running a movement program. So I got certified to be a Nurturing Pathways instructor, and I’d been teaching with that program in Seattle since 2017. And then when we moved to Grand Rapids, that was finally my chance of bringing my dream to life, and I brought that program to Grand Rapids and started Little Feet Movement.
Love it! And then you’ve expanded, so not only are you a play advocate, but you are an infant massage educator. Tell us a bit about that expansion to your business.
They all kind of work together because what’s the most important ingredient of a child’s development? It’s really the relationship between the parent and child. It’s that strong relationship that fuels development, especially that parent-child relationship. That’s because our brain’s first job is to keep us safe. So when our kiddos feel safe and secure in that relationship with their primary caregiver, their brains can then get out of that fight or freeze mode, and then they can be freed up for learning and attending, right? They know that they have that secure base to always come back to so that they’ll feel more confident and willing to go out and explore the world. It’s really the glue that holds everything together, effecting how kiddos relate to themselves, to others, and how they perceive the world around them.
For example, I think I have a pretty positive outlook in life, and I really have my parents to thank for that. My relationship with them has really set a good foundation for how I relate to my friends and how I was able to develop friendships and how I have a positive outlook in life.
I love it. I’ve taken a group infant massage class with my daughter years back and found it to be so beneficial. I mean, touch, communication. I just learned so much about my first baby and how to communicate and even asking before touching, that consent being a big part of it.
Yes, and it’s really giving you the opportunity to tune in to a kiddo’s needs and then be able to respond to their needs, and it’s that constant attuning, responding that kind of builds that trust and relationship with our kiddos. Infant massage is really a good start. And then we kind of go into the play part and the movement part, you know?
Yeah. It definitely is a great extension, and with Little Feet, it is parent-child based, and you cover not only the babies, but also into the preschool years. So tell us a bit more about what that looks like, to work with you.
Yeah. We talked about the infant massage part, and then for the movement classes, we have our baby, our waddler, and toddler classes. With the baby classes, we do a lot of dancing with kiddos in arms. We’re really working on that bond and that playful connection with our kiddos. Actually, that applies to all of our classes, you know, really working on that playful connection, because play is really like a little window to our kiddos’ world. If we’re able to enter their world through play, we’re able to forge that relationship with them.
I love that. So not only are you a big play advocate and focused on creative movement, but how does that help physical development for babies and/or toddlers?
A little brain fun fact here is that our brain is built from the bottom up, starting with our low brain, which consists of our brain stem and cerebellum, and I want to talk a little bit more about the cerebellum here in our low brain. Then it goes up to our midbrain, which is our social and emotional brain, which we’ll talk more later, and then our high brain, which is our cortex and our thinking brain, which is responsible for cognitive functions and executive functions, language development, and things like that.
So how it supports our physical development is that our cerebellum is responsible for automated movements. So things like riding a bike or driving or walking. As adults, if you think about it, we don’t even think about how we move our bodies anymore. We just do it, because thanks to our cerebellum, it’s automated now, right? But for our kiddos, especially babies, they don’t even realize that they’re a separate entity from their caregiver until about 6 to 8 months. That’s where the separation anxiety begins. So let alone learning how to use their bodies, right? That’s why through movement we are teaching them about their bodies and how to use their individual body parts and then how to coordinate all these different body parts together to do what we want our bodies to do. That’s like motor planning.
And then we also teach our kiddos how to relate to the space that we’re in and the things and the people around us and how to navigate through the space. For example, do we need small movements when we’re in a crowded room that’s pretty small? Do we make big movements when we’re in a bigger space? Moving in different directions and different tempos. Just so many different things we can do with our bodies to explore the world. And the more we move our bodies, the more automated movement becomes. And once movement is automated, it will free up our brain for higher level learning and thinking.
An analogy I like to use to illustrate this point is that when we first learn to drive, we had to think about our every move. We probably can’t even talk to the person next to us or listen to music. We’re just focused on where our foot is, where our hands are, am I looking. And the more we drive, the more automated it becomes. So now we’re able to talk to the person next to us. We can navigate directions on the GPS. It’s because that movement and that process has already been automated. That’s what we want for our kiddos.
Of course. Love it. And I’m also a big fan of the self-regulation that you work through, especially with toddlers when they start to get into tantrums. Tell us a bit more about that work.
Sure. That’s where our midbrain gets lit up, right? Our midbrain is responsible for emotions, our memories and stimulation, and that’s where that body-mind connection comes into play. When we know our bodies and we’re aware of those emotions and we’re able to connect those emotions and our feelings in our bodies, the sensations that we’re feeling in our bodies, we’ll be able to tell – for example, if our skin is starting to get prickly from maybe feeling overstimulated or like our shoulders are starting to tense up because we’re getting angry. When we’re able to be aware of our body and the emotions, we’re possibly able to find the reason why we’re feeling that way. And then learning skills to manage those feelings, whether it’s to remove ourselves from the situation or find a healthy outlet for those feelings or simply talking about naming those emotions. That can help control them. And that’s what self-regulation is, really. It’s that ability to notice when we’re reaching the threshold and then figuring out steps to keep us in homeostasis before we explode.
That’s great, and very practical if they’re out in public and having some emotions that need to be managed or in a preschool classroom and so on.
Yes. So, for example, in class, we do different activities that support self-regulation. For example, we do heavy work and deep pressure activities, which can help regulate our nervous system. We practice stop and go movements so that we can practice our self-control skills. We do freezing and melting movements to learn to control our muscle tension. And then we can use all of these tools, like you’re mentioning, as a way to manage our emotions, right? If our kiddos are running wild and they’re feeling dysregulated, then we as adults can say, okay, let’s get down on the ground and do some heavy work. We’ll roll around. We’ll push the wall. Different heavy activities that can help regulate our nervous system. Or when we’re mad, muscles are tensed, right? We can then take deep breaths and intentionally relax our muscles, our shoulders, and maybe we can even shake our bodies to relax those muscles. How we feel physically can affect us psychologically.
Oh, absolutely. And so you’re helping them to be very social and also with the cognitive development functions – take us through a bit about that as far as how your classes can help with sensory processing and language development.
For cognitive functions – I think we briefly mentioned memory, learning, attention, executive functions, language abilities. In class, we do different things like play with speed to help develop attention span. We problem solve using our bodies. For example, okay, let’s go through this hoop, so they’ve got to figure out, oh, first I’ve got to duck my head and then take a step through and do that movement through the hoop. That’s really problem solving with our bodies. We do things like obstacle courses to develop motor sequencing. All of these things that we do in class will translate into mental capacities because the same neurons for doing are the same neurons for thinking. So if we can do with our bodies, we can also do with our minds. And the more we do these functions, the stronger the neural connections are, allowing us to be able to perform these functions more quickly and automatically in the future. Like a path in the grass, right? It forms through walking that same path over and over again. That’s what we want to do for our kiddos. That’s for the attention and different functions that we can do in class.
The other part that supports our cognitive development is memory and learning. Through dance, whether it’s dancing in our caregiver’s arms, playing with different sensory props and a variety of music, we’re giving our kiddos a rich visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic experience, which are the four learning sensory pathways. When all four of these pathways are activated, the child is more engaged, and it provides more memory pathways to recall information.
For example, trying to recall somebody’s name, because I’m so bad at remembering people’s names. When people just tell me their names, it just flies out of my brain. But if you kind of hear it and then you write it down and reactivate the kinesthetic and tactile sense, and then we see it visually, we have more chances of remembering that person’s names, right? Because we’re just giving more pathways to recall that information. That’s what learning really is: the ability to recall information.
So a Chinese proverb that I’ve heard of is: I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand. So that’s why some people learn better through doing.
Yes. Everyone’s got their way. I learn best by writing things down. Like you said, some people really need to experience it to remember. It is great that you can focus on all of the different learning styles and communication styles. And movement is so central, as you said.
For our listeners who live outside of West Michigan, what is the best way to find a similar program in their own community?
Oh, yeah. Well, the program that I’m certified through is called Nurturing Pathways, and it’s based out of Seattle. The founder of that program also trained different Creative Movement instructors, as well, and they’re all over the country. I know that there’s a program out in Colorado and, I believe, in Kentucky and different states. Good question, because I’m not really sure where we can find a whole list of all these programs. I know there’s one in Idaho, too, I think. Our founder retired last year and she used to have a whole list of all the providers on her website, but once she retired, she kind of removed the website, so now we are kind of figuring ways to house all the information that she had.
That’s a challenge. And if it’s not that specific program, I’m sure even doing a search or Googling “creative movement” or different terms could be helpful. And you are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and serve the West Michigan area. What would be some of the different channels that our listeners can find you at, besides littlefeetmovement.com? You’re also on social media, correct?
Yes, I’m on Facebook and Instagram, as well. Right now, I don’t post as often as I should, but that’s where people can find me.
And before we wrap things up, Regina, how can parents support their child’s sensory and motor development at home? Again, if our listeners are in a very rural area that doesn’t have these options, I would love to hear some tips from you.
Yeah, for sure. You mentioned earlier sensory processing, right? So 80% of our brain is dedicated to sensory processing, and that’s what really parents can do for kiddos at home: activating those different sensory pathways, like the visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic, which is through movement. They can do that at home with any sensory toys, ribbons, scarves and instruments. Dance and sing with them at home. But I think going back to the main ingredient of what supports development is that strong relationship. I would say get on the floor and play with your kiddos. Follow their gaze and their interest and really engage in the world of play. That’s kind of what I would recommend that parents can do at home.
And you mentioned your own personal struggles with tummy time. Any advice on that? Because as you stressed, floor time is important.
Yes, exactly. For those who know me, they know that I’m a huge advocate of floor time and less propping our kiddos up to sit or stand or putting them in seats. There are so many development milestones that our kiddos go through as intended, and letting them get their themselves is so important. When we think of tummy time, we always think, oh, putting them on the floor, right, on their tummies. But there’s actually a variety of ways that we can do tummy time, like whether it’s on the parent’s chest or even if you’re sitting, they’re still on your chest and they’re still holding their head and their back up, right? We can put them on yoga balls and roll them around. That’s what we do for rhyme time in our baby class, as well. So just different ways we can offer tummy time, and doing floor time with our kiddos. It can also be instead of just being on their tummy, we can do sidelying positions with our kiddos, as well. All of this is because getting them on the floor really helps them to learn about their bodies through that feedback from the ground when they kick the floor or push with their arms. They can feel, oh, that’s my arm; that’s my legs. It helps develop a sense of agency because they know when they see a toy, they’ve figured out how to move their body to get to that toy. And then when they get the toy, can you imagine how they feel? Woo-hoo, I did it myself! Right?
And then we help them develop the strength to get to the next milestone. For example, with sitting, when we prop our kiddos up when they’re not ready for it because they haven’t developed the back and core strength, they end up flopping forward, or even worse, they fall backwards. And then when they fall, they won’t be able to catch themselves because they didn’t get to that sitting position on their own. So that’s why we want to let them just develop that strength that’s required to get to that next milestone.
And then lastly, when we go through those different milestones, we develop different motor patterns that help stimulate the neural pathways in our brains, and the more we stimulate those neural pathways, the more organized they will be. Then information can flow more quickly and automatically to all different parts of our brains. That’s what an integrated brain means.
One final question, Regina. How do you manage, say, parents who have multi-age children at home, so they’re not yet in school, with your classes? Are they able to bring along, say, a three-year-old with a newborn, or how does that work with multiple ages?
That’s a really good question. Right now, I do allow for – of course, if a parent is able to have another caregiver watch the other kid so that then you can have one on one time with that one kiddo coming to class, that’s wonderful.
That’s ideal, yeah.
Right, ideal, of course. That’s what we want with our kiddos is that one on one time. But I know, like you said, myself includes, we have multiple children. So I do encourage parents to also bring the kiddos. For example, if you have a three-year-old and a baby, you can bring the baby in the car seat or put them in the carrier, and you can move and dance together. So you sign up for the toddler class, and then you bring the baby. Everybody can dance and benefit from the music and the movement because if you strap on the carrier, the baby is also feeling all this kinesthetic sensory input. Some of the things that the baby can involved in is with the instrument time and the rhymes. We’re also really developing for the baby, even though they’re not actively signed up for class.
That’s ideal because often childcare is expensive. If you’re paying for a program, then it’s like, okay, what do you do budget-wise? So it’s wonderful that your program and likely many others offer that option.
And if the kiddo is older, like two siblings, I might offer a sibling discount when you sign both of them up for class, and then they get a 50% sibling discount. It’s a pretty steep discount that I’m offering because I want people to come and benefit from the program.
Wonderful! Well, thank you for sharing all of your wisdom. It was a blast, Regina, and I look forward to chatting with you again soon.
Yes! Likewise. Thank you so much, Kristin!