Guest Blog post by Kes from Whizz Kids Toys
Based in Exmouth, Kes holds a biological degree and has been a science teacher for over 15 years with a passion for all things active, cycling being one of them. She’s also a published sports scientist on the benefits of compression garments for cycling recovery.
As a school and community sports coach, parent, and volunteer event organiser, she set up her Community Interest Company Whizz Kids Toys to help boost activity levels in young kids.
Her goals are about sourcing high quality products that develop co-ordination, balance, and improve sensory processing. Not to mention encouraging them outdoors and building a sense of independence. This gives children the brain boost they need.
Alongside this, she runs balance bike events in the East Devon area, in both school and community settings.
A child’s sixth sense
During this Covid-19 pandemic, life has changed dramatically for our little people.
Playground equipment is off limits. Until recently, we could only head out for 1 hour of activity outside the home. Nurseries, child-care facilities and activity events shut their doors for the time being.
The focus shifted to the home setting for all the play, activity, learning and fun.
It’s certainly been a challenge for parents and children to adjust to this ‘new normal’
The aim of this blog is to give you a few suggestions of activities that you can do at home or in any green space around your local area to boost one very important sensory area for your child.
We are all familiar with the 5 senses of sight, sound, hearing, smell and taste. But this 6th one, sometimes called The Movement Sense, is equally as important. It is vital that this system be developed within the early years of a child’s life as co-ordinated movement is fundamental for all life’s activities.
This Movement Sense involves the Vestibular System and proprioception. The Vestibular System is a sensory system that is responsible for providing our brain with information about motion, head position, and helping to know where our body is in space. It’s actually one of the oldest of the sensory systems, thought to have evolved about 0.6 billion years ago! The sensing ‘machinery’ is found in the inner ear and is essential for normal movement and balance.
Balance is not something we automatically have; it is something that we do. And it needs practice, lots of it. This means that our vestibular systems needs regular stimulation.
Sadly, children sitting still for long periods of time without moving their heads in a range of movements does nothing to stimulate this vital sensory system.
The vestibular machinery in the inner ear responds to three different types of movement and it’s vital to allow your children to do activities that stimulate all three.
1. Horizontal movement around a vertical axis or vice versa.
Activities like spinning on a roundabout are perfect for simulating this part of the inner ear.
We might not be able to use roundabouts or spinners in playgrounds right now but this doesn’t stop you encouraging your children to practice this movement.
Log rolling down a gentle grassy slope is the best activity for this. You can do it on a flat surface too, but it’s a little harder that way. Just make sure you check the grassy area for any unwanted items before they roll along the area!
Want to make it more challenging? Can they roll one way, then back the way they came? Or can they roll with their arms stretched out high above their heads, making a peak with their hands together. I call these ‘rocket ship arms’.
Of course, if your child loves dancing, spinning round during a dance routine is a perfect motion to practice this movement too!
2. Movement forwards and backwards through the horizontal axis.
Activities like rocking and swinging give this part of the inner ear a fabulous workout.
Initially, the passive gentle rocking of a cradle or being rocked in a parent’s arms helps to stimulate this system.
As the child develops, and when there is a level of muscle strength and postural control, rocking toys can feature in the play mix.
The Wishbone Flip or Mini Flip in rocking mode works a treat at stimulating this part.
Or a swing. This snap is of our Solvej Baby and Toddler swings that can be set up inside the house or outside on a verandah or under a tree. What child doesn’t love to spend hours swinging backward and forwards – it’s a gorgeous feeling.
3. Tilting side to side
This is the least stimulated vestibular movement in everyday life. When a boat tilts in a strong wind or seas or an aeroplane banks from side to side, this part of the inner ear is stimulated.
Wobble Boards are the perfect toy to practice this movement safely. First they can sit, cross legged on the board and wobble side to side. When they get better with balancing, they can try to stand up.
If you don’t want to buy a wobble board, you can easily make something at home that practices the same movement. I’ve created one here with a short plank of wood, sitting on a half round log from the log pile. Make sure that the wood is smooth as you don’t want to get splinters in feet.
Want to make it more challenging?
Use a larger log underneath or use a completely round log which will have much less stability.
You’ll notice that young children don’t get dizzy doing any of these movements where adults certainly do! I go weak at the knees at the thought of getting on a Waltzer these days! This is just because the connections between balance and other centres are still being formed in our children.
With any of these activities, it’s essential that you fully supervise your child when at play.
So, the tiny Vestibular System, tucked away in the inner ear, is a vital cog in the heathy development of your child.
Not only is it king in developing your child’s balance and co-ordinated movement. This system has also been shown to have a profound effect on emotions, and is essential in higher cognitive skills such as reading and writing, which require directional awareness coupled with the improved integration with the other sensory systems and benefits in stabilising eye movements.
If you want to find out more, head over to https://whizzkids-toys.co.uk/blog for more articles and activity suggestions like these. Or sign up to our monthly newsletter that sends out hopefully useful tips and activities to your inbox.
Little Devon Discount
Kes has kindly offered Little Devon readers a 10% Discount on any non sale items (excluding Standing Balance toys). Just quote Littledevon10 at payment. https://whizzkids-toys.co.uk/shop