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The Seven Senses

Why Kids Fall Down A Lot

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Seven? Yes, seven. Beyond the five senses we learn about in school (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) there are actually two more: the vestibular system (our sense of BALANCE) and proprioception (our INTUITIVE sense of space and position). Most grown-ups have never heard of these, yet these senses guide and govern just about everything we do with our bodies.


Kids aren’t born with these senses. They learn Balance and Intuition when they move. And it’s a trial-and-error process which means they fall-down-and-go-boom a lot.


So, let’s take a quick tour these two not-so-well-known senses…

Sense #6 – Balance

The vestibular system is the scientific term for our sense of balance, responsible for keeping us upright and in balance. Without it, we’d fall over.


And that’s what kids are dealing with every day. They’re just learning their balance, even when their trying to be still. Have you ever noticed when a child sits in a chair they fidget? What you’re seeing is their vestibular system at work helping them adjust themselves to feel in balance.

Whenever we move, the inner ear reacts to and records those movements, giving the brain important information about the body’s orientation at any given moment. Over time and with lots of different kinds of movement, the brain will begin to automatically determine what is and isn’t “in balance.”

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Sense #7 – Intuition

Proprioception, or what we call Intuition, is our body and brain working together to understand and navigate space and objects. Without thinking about it, you know if your body will fit through a passageway. You can climb stairs without looking at them. You have a sense of how much strength you need to push open a door. Through experience, your proprioceptive sensors (residing in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments) help you anticipate and navigate your physical environment.


Kids don’t have that experience, of course. We can guide them, but only to a point. That’s because the only way for a child to know their own body is to use it. And yes, that includes bumping into furniture, tripping over things, pushing too hard, and all those other things we think of as kid-clumsy... including falling down a lot.

The Challenge for Parents

Parents often ask when kids will stop being so clumsy. Surely, if they can walk, run, and jump, they must have mastered these senses by now? You’d think. Except for one thing. They are still growing.


As the body changes, the brain needs to re-learn its understanding of balance, orientation, and of course, space. And that will take all of their growing years. The play tunnel they could walk through last year requires them to duck down to get through this year. Next year, they’ll have to get on all-fours to crawl through it.

The thing to look out for isn’t when they bump into things, but when they begin figuring it out for themselves... when to duck down or crawl through with no prompting from you... and without the fall-down-and-go-boom part.

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Getting Gluey



Moving in weird ways is flat out fun for everyone and works great on those fidgets! Wonder aloud what would happen if we put gluey hands on our knees. Pretend to have glue on your hands. “Uh-oh. My hands are stuck on my knees!” Encourage your child to do what you do. Together walk around with your hands “glued” to your knees.


“This glue is really sticky! How will we get unstuck?” Stomp your foot to signal getting unstuck. “But, oh dear, there’s still glue on my hands!” Now suggest other body parts. For instance, shoulder and ear, or tummy and toe. And don’t forget to end the game with a great big, sticky hug. “Oops, now we’re stuck together!”

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How the senses teach the brain to think.  


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The benefits of Messy Play. LEARN MORE...

How movement develops step by step. 


And there's more...

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