Movement is at the very core of how children develop intellectually, emotionally, socially, and of course, physically. Here at Moving Smart we foster children's naturally move-to-learn style while helping parents and teachers understand the comprehensive benefits of all that wiggling!

That's why we say "A Moving Child is a Learning Child."

Friday, February 11, 2011

DEVELOPING BALANCE: THE SPIN CYCLE


As you may know, I’m new to the world of blogging and social media. Yet I’ve already met some wonderful new friends – allies in the campaign to return childhood to the way nature meant it to be… on the move, non-stop, action-packed, hands-on, feet-first, heads-up, and elbow-deep! (If you want more adjectives, just let me know.) Thanks for sharing your insights and supporting our efforts here at Moving Smart. And we're going to try to answer your questions as soon as we can. Today, I'd like to thank Rebecca of rebeccabooksandbirthdays.com, who has asked me to talk about how to help children with BALANCE. This just happens to be one of my favorite topics, so here are a few quick thoughts on the subject…

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!


THE-OFFICE-CHAIR-A-THON
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.

SLOW-A-ROUND
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…

FAST-A-ROUND
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! 




EPILOGUE
With this post, we included a little survey which asked: When you were a kid, did you ever spin around and make yourself dizzy? 


We had 24 responses.  Unanimously (100%) responded:  YES - I'D FALL DOWN DIZZY!


So what else did you do as a kid that today's kids aren't doing any more?  Hmmmm...



NOTE:  Please go and discover Rebecca’s site:
www.rebeccasbooksandbirthdays.com. where each week you'll find Rebecca's hand-selected list of timely and topical books you’re sure to enjoy sharing with your children.

12 comments:

  1. Great post Gill - such valuable and important information

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  2. Fab Gill, so great to see you blogging!

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  3. I'm really enjoying this website and am implementing all the suggestions that are age-appropriate for my little one (10 months) and making note of the rest for the future!

    Another fun thing I remember doing as a kid - rolling down grassy hills. We were always itchy and covered with grass, dirt, twigs, etc., but it was such fun!

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  4. Dear Gill,

    A really enjoyable read AND it reaffirms my knowledge as a physical therapist
    SENtherapist@ integratedbrain.

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  5. Interesting. Spinning is also one of the 5 tibetan rites - which are supposed to rejuvenate you.... it's a kind of short form yoga ;-)

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  6. Thank you for reposting this on twitter - My almost 2 year old does spinning after lunch every day until he makes himself dizzy he finds it hillarious to fall over. For some reason it's only every after lunch but he loves it - I wasn't sure whether he was ok, but now reading this it's really reassured me and I will be encouraging him to do it.

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  7. Fantastic! After reading this post I had to take a little break myself and give it a go. I so remember being fascinated by the swirling, whirling colors as a child....guess I still am.

    But I especially like your suggestion to spin in both directions. Many of us choose a dominant direction very early in utero...so helping to inform both directions through spinning is fantastic.

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  8. 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......

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  9. Spin him slowly three times in one direction, then spin slowly three times in the other direction, reminding him not to let go.

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  10. 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.

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  11. 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!

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  12. I remember starting at the top of the stairs and bumping on my bottom all the way down to the bottom! And doing roly poly’s through the grass in summer when out in the fields. As kids we had great fun in the summer holidays in Brisbane outdoors exploring the local countryside. Do kids do that sort of stuff anymore?

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