As parents many of us worry that our children don’t listen, or can’t focus or sit still. Did you know kids need to move and be challenged physically in order to help them do just this?
We loved this article by the Military Wife & Mom and just had to share about why kids won’t listen. The Most Overlooked Reason Why Kids Won’t Listen gives some great pointers about letting kids be kids, allowing them some freedom to explore movement (even the sometimes “risky” activities), as well as giving some great ideas for development activities you can practice at home.
Studies show children are experiencing less and less physical activity. Time that used to be spent playing outdoors – running, jumping, spinning, rolling, climbing – is decreasing; while screen time and less play time become the new norm. Further, parents are sometimes unwillingly restricting their children’s play with concerns over what is seen as too risky for their kids – like spinning on a swing, climbing too high on the playground or hanging upside down.
Fact: it can be scary to let your kids hang upside down from a monkey bar or swing or climb so high! Yet these activities are crucial for children to develop proprioceptive awareness and their vestibular sense (more on what these are soon) in order to listen and focus. Healthy kids need sensory input. So how do we get this balance right as a parent? How do we let them physically prepare themselves and get what they need, while still keeping them safe?
It can be hard and it’s natural to worry (especially when it’s your 4 year old at the top of the climbing gym in the park). That’s one of the many reasons why we focus on letting kids get this fix, in a safe & supported environment at gymnastics.
What is Proprioception?
Proprioception refers to the messages our joints and muscles send to the brain to help coordinate movement. Sensory receptors in every muscle, tendon and ligament provide our brains with important information about the dynamics of the world around us, including where our body or parts of our body are in space at any given time, & how much force or pressure our bodies need to use.
Activities like climbing, hanging and pushing put pressure on the muscles & joints. Children can feel or sense this pressure, which helps them map their bodies more deeply and more quickly, developing good proprioceptive awareness. (Read more here). Children with a healthy proprioceptive system can move, play and explore efficiently and smoothly, without being too rough or too gentle. Put simply, our proproiceptive system helps us move our arms and legs without having to look.
Our Vestibular Sense
Our vestibular sense helps us understand balance. Vestibular refers to head position. Rolling & turning, swinging, swaying, bouncing up & down & going upside down swishes the fluid in the curved canals in the ear, which in turn stimulates tiny hairs (which are ‘receptors’ to the nerves) to carry information to the brain about which way is up!
Children need to develop their vestibular sense to master gravity, maintain balance and move fluently. Going upside down gives children the sensory input they crave and helps them regulate their bodies, their behaviour and the development of important motor skills. Not to mention what developing children’s vestibular sense does for mood, posture, flexibility and overall strength!
By playing with purpose at gymnastics, not only do children increase their co-ordination and confidence for the play ground – they get to try things safely, develop their proprioceptive awareness and vestibular sense and learn how to regulate it!
Our Top 5 Proprioceptive Activities:
- Jump on a trampoline
- Build Sand Castles (dig the sand, carry buckets of water)
- Create Play Doh masterpieces
- Help with the chores! (so many resistance activities like pushing and pulling a vaccuum, picking up the rubbish bin, carrying the laundry basket in – and little kids love to help!).
- HUGS! (and lots of them)
Our Top 5 Activities to Build Vestibular Sense:
- Animal runs and relays
- Roll down a hill (or a crashmat in the gym)
- Jumping through hoops (skipping style)
- Wheel barrow walks
- Head to the playground, let them go head first down the slippery slide and hang upside down (we also practice this lots, step by step at Jnr Gym Kids)!
Our Jnr Gym Kids Program Manager, Julie Kulbe is passionate about kids moving and learning through movement; about helping get them ready for Kindy, the playground, School, sport and life. “Whether it be in BIG swings or little steps Jnr Gym Kids takes them there. It fills their vestibular tank”, she says.
We often see children at either end of the see saw at gymnastics. There are those under 5’s who are not yet confident for the monkey bars, swinging or going upside down, as they haven’t had the chance to process it step by step in a safe, supportive way. Their parents want them to build these skills, so they are able to take more risks in the playground. At the other end there are the bouncers, never stopping, energy to burn, never sitting still. Both need to be here! For the input craving and learning how to regulate it, to starting to process the input and regulate it’s affects.
There is so much good in letting them move. In holding their hand for support, rather then telling them to hop down, it’s too dangerous. We’re all about helping our kids and you their amazing parents, get the balance right – all while having lots of fun as we learn through gymnastics!
Thanks for moving and learning with us and be sure to check out this great blog: The Most Overlooked Reason Why Kids Won’t Listen
For more information, we also love The Inspired Tree House. Check out these great blogs on the Vestibular System and Proprioception: