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The Spin Cycle

Balance

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Balance underpins everything we do in life. Without it we’d spend our days falling over. That’s exactly what little ones are up against. They weren’t born with a sense of balance. They have to learn it. And the only way to learn balance is by moving.

The Inner Ear

As the body moves, the vestibular system (the inner ear) records every sensation. This is how the brain comes to understand what it feels like to be in balance... and out. Funny enough, the sensation of being out of balance is training ground for being in balance.

 

How the Brain Learns Balance

Most whole-body movements contribute to developing balance, especially those that change their orientation. For instance, have you ever noticed little kids love to spin like a top until they make themselves dizzy? This is why.

 

At all ages kids need vestibular stimulation, so here are a few things to keep in mind.

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For Infants

You provide stimulation each time you pick up your baby. From time to time, give them a  SLOW, GENTLE, and CAREFUL spin (approximately 1 rotation every 8-10 seconds). Watch for their reaction. If they’re enjoying it, continue spinning 1-2 more times in each direction.

 

If they’re not enjoying it, slow down or stop and come back to it later. And note, it’s better to do this a few times and often rather than a lot all at once.

 

  • Office Chair Spin. 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.

  • Stroller Spin. If you’re out for a walk with the stroller, once in a while, do a slow 360° turn.

  • Hug and Spin. Hold them in your arms and ever so slowly, gently dance the night away!

For Older Kids

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 spinning in lots of different ways is an important movement pattern. Encourage it by making the environment as safe as possible for them.

 

Slow Spinning. Spinning slowly is best 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. 

 

Fast Spinning. When they spin fast they are getting a rush of adrenalin throughout the body that feels good. Physical exhilaration is one of the ways they are learning body control.

Just be sure they have a nice soft landing pad when the dizzies set in.

Spin Left. Spin Right. Most kids tend to spin in just one direction (often towards their dominant side). Encourage them to spin the other way so the brain gets to experience both.

 

And don’t forget, at any age, you can always hug and dance the night away!

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Rollover Reading

At story time, lie on the floor on your backs with your child and a book. They’ll need to listen very carefully, because each time you turn the page, they need to roll over (from back to tummy or tummy to back). At the end of the story, suggest you both roll as far as you can roll and back again! Rolling is great for the balance development But more, there are times when they won’t be able to see the pictures. That’s great practice for their visualization skills.

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And there's more...

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