MOOV Baby – The free movement revolution

Confidence through scaffolded exploration

When Leigh Holford of MOOV Baby had her son in 2016, a friend introduced her to Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) which was developed by Magda Gerber. Based on the scientific observations and methods of Dr Emmi Pikler, the free movement philosophy resonated with Leigh and she was drawn to find out more about it. In particular, how it could facilitate her son’s play and physical exploration by helping him gain confidence and independence in his movement.

Leigh explains, “I looked for the product in Australia, but it was very niche and the cost was exorbitant. As a new mum on maternity leave, I thought if I had been looking for an affordable option surely others would be too. I talked to my parents, who own a timber manufacturing facility in Northern NSW, and within a few months we had created a few product prototypes. We received so many positive comments when people saw the products. As a consumer of my own product I’m happy with how it has transformed my approach to parenting and how I engage with my son during play and movement.”

We are very excited to speak with Leigh and share her passion for free movement! 

What is your business philosophy?

“To make products which promote active play and encourage independent gross motor development.” 

What is your mission?

“I’m no longer a helicopter mum because I know my son can handle himself. I’ve seen his abilities grow over time using the climbing triangle. Our mission is to give the same confidence to other children and their parents.” 

What inspires your product design?

“Dr Emmi Pikler’s designs and the Montessori philosophy have been huge influences in the product design. We strive to extend the use and interface between the different products to make them multipurpose. Having an extremely active two-and-a-half-year-old gives you an invaluable insight into how products are used and how they can be adapted!”

Run us through the development process from concept to prototype

“We are so fortunate in our family business that we all have different, yet complementary skill sets. I led with the concept, Dad provided the timber business expertise, and Mum contributed observations from her teaching experience. We moved quickly from the technical stage to production because we have an enthusiastic team who were keen to see things come to fruition.”

What is the best feedback you’ve received?

“There aren’t many toys out there that get played with every day for years, but this is exactly the feedback we get. The stories which really make our hearts sing are about the children with gross motor delays or special needs where our products are helping them develop key life skills and contributing to their wellbeing.”

How do you manage working with your family, especially from different locations?

“We are lucky to have a strong family bond based on mutual respect. Small business is not easy as you have so much invested in terms of time, money and love. We have disagreements about things but stay on the same team. The distance isn’t too bad, it is more managing my baby and toddler while being on call which is difficult”.

What has been your biggest challenge?

“Finding the confidence to give it a try. It’s all new to us and we have been so delighted with the enthusiasm from our wonderful customers”.

What is your five-year plan?

“Our focus remains the same – encouraging free movement for children. As noted by Dr Emmi Pikler, infants and toddlers don’t need to be taught how to crawl, walk or climb they just need the opportunity to learn according to their inherent ability. Our products play an important part in inspiring more child-led active play”.

From the experts – MOOV Baby equipment is:

Liz Ryan, Occupational Therapist Little Heroes Kids OT

  • The perfect solution to increase opportunities for movement-based play in small spaces.
  • Made from natural materials and promotes open-ended play: physical, imaginative, and sensory. Supervision provided by an adult can be graded to suit needs.
  • Appropriate for six months to five years. Children will naturally adapt their use of the equipment as they grow and most importantly, when they are ready to adapt.
  • Great at providing incidental sensory input through movement and heavy work activities to help children regulate activity levels and emotions.

Jessica Frizzo, Senior Physiotherapist Milestones Physiotherapy

  • A useful addition to the paediatric clinic setting and so adaptable. The plank as a ramp provides a fantastic stretch of the calf muscles in toe walkers, and all the climbing and balancing is perfect for low muscle tone friends.
  • A great product to aid parents in achieving the Australian guidelines around active play – three hours per day for one to five-year-olds. 

Words by Celine Barnes
Photography by Francoise Baudet 
Styled by Madeline McFarlane

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