A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BALANCE
When babies are born, they have no sense of balance – it must be learned. And there’s only one way to learn balance — through movement. When the body moves, the brain records that information and forms its own understanding of what it feels like to be in and out of balance.
Now, most whole-body movements contribute to learning balance. But in particular, there are three types that work harder than most in this regard: spinning, rolling, and hanging upside down. Have you ever noticed how kids will do these things spontaneously? The reason is the brain is craving these kinds of movements in order to stimulate what’s called the Vestibular System and establish its sense of balance!
So, for this post, let’s focus on spinning activities….
FOR LITTLE ONES…
Now for little ones, obviously, spinning has to be considered very carefully. There are some easy ways to give them a little sense of gentle rotation. But please note:keep it SLOW AND GENTLE, and watch for his reactions. If he’s not enjoying it, don’t take him out of his comfort zone. Slow down or stop the activity and revisit it another time or in a different way.Here are a few ideas to consider…
If you have a spinning chair in your home, hold him in your lap lying on his back or his tummy and spin slowly and gently around(approximately one revolution per eight seconds). Spin 1-2 times in one direction and then spin the other way, always guided by your child. And know this, doing this a few times but doing it often is better than doing a lot all at once.
If you’re out for a walk with the stroller or push chair, once in a while, do a 360° turn. Wheeee! How wonderfully carefree you’ll feel while surprising and delighting your child. And you might just give onlookers a smile as they watch the two of you having fun together!
Hold him in your arms and ever so slowly, gently, and lovingly dance the night away!
FOR OLDER KIDS: DIFFERENT SPINS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS
Once children are pretty steady on their feet (walking and running), you’ll probably see them begin to spin all on their own. At first they may be a bit wobbly and out of control, and they might even fall over, but it’s an important movement you should encourage by making the environment as safe as possible for them.
And, there are several different ways they can spin…
SLOW SPINNING. Spinning slowly is great for building balance. At a slow speed (again, approximately one revolution per eight seconds), the brain has time to register all of the sensations necessary to record and embed that balance information. In addition, any slow, controlled movement will go a long way to helping him develop his sense of body control.
FAST SPINNING. For most kids, fast is the only speed they know. When they go fast, they are getting a rush of adrenalin throughout the body that feels good and helps them develop their ability to cope with the outer boundaries of physical exhilaration. That’s why kids will often spin fast to the point of falling-down-dizzy. (Remember that? I bet you did it too.)Spinning on his own is a child’s natural way to “test” his sense of balance. Put another way, how would you ever know what it feels like to be IN balance if you’ve never been OUT of balance? (Just be sure he has a nice soft landing pad if he does spin a little too much.)
SPIN LEFT. SPIN RIGHT. If you watch your child, he will likely spin towards his dominant side naturally. So sometimes he’ll need a little encouragement to spin the other way. When you see him go into his “spin cycle,” suggest he try spinning in the other direction.
In a nutshell, spinning is naturally good for kids’ balance. Try to mix it up – fast, slow, to the left, to the right — but most of all, if they want to, let ‘em spin!
Yes, it’s inevitably true. Kids love office chairs. They’ll go around and around and around, so we say take advantage of it and make a game of it!
FOR YOUNG CHILDREN: See the suggestions above.
FOR OLDER CHILDREN: Try the following suggestions, modifying the activities to match your child’s age and ability to follow instructions. And remember to always watch for his reactions and stop the activity if he’s not enjoying it.
Have your child sit on your lap or if he’s old enough, have him safely sit back and hold onto the arms or sides of the chair. Spin him slowly three times in one direction, then spin slowly three times in the other direction, reminding him not to let go. (Slow is defined as one revolution per eight seconds.) When he’s mastered this activity, go a little faster…
If he’s enjoying himself, pick up the speed of the spin, again, three spins in each direction. Be careful to watch that he’s holding on and of course, stop if it’s not fun.
THE COOL DOWN: SPIN ‘N KISS
Kneel down on the floor in front of the chair. Give the chair a slow, gentle spin and each time your child spins back to you, give him a kiss!