Rocking my 2 month old baby girl to sleep each night reminds me of how important our vestibular system is to the well-being of ourselves and our children. Clara specifically enjoys her swing, being bounced by daddy, and rocking and swaying with mom. While the vestibular system can be our greatest tool as parents for calming our children, daily activation is also vital for the promotion of its healthy development.
As a child, I struggled with various activities related to vestibular functioning, including car sickness, inability to tolerate roller-coasters and enjoy amusement parks with my friends, and aversions to various playground equipment. Use of regular, structured vestibular activation can prevent and reduce these types of difficulties that can be so limiting to a child’s scope of play. Fun vestibular activities include:
- Sit n’ Spins
- Games such as “Ring around the Rosie,” “Duck, Duck, Goose,” or “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”
- Rolling down a hill or an incline
- Performing forward and backward rolls and other gymnastic activities
- Various swings
- Rocking and Jumping
- Teeter Totters
- Playing “Simon Says” and having your child move their head into different positions, such as touching their toes with their head down or shaking their head from side to side or up and down.
These activities are especially valuable because they provide the child with control, which helps to decrease overstimulation. Providing the child with proprioceptive input through heavy work before and after these activities will also prevent the child from becoming overstimulated. Heavy work activities involve moving one’s body against resistance and include activities such as pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, and weight-bearing. A few heavy work options include: pushing the laundry basket or a wagon, wheelbarrow walking, animal walks, climbing, hanging, tug-of-war, crawling, and jumping. Oral motor heavy work is also beneficial, including sucking, blowing, and chewing. All of these heavy work activities can be helpful prior to activities, such as riding in a car, that you know may be difficult for your child to tolerate or after any dizziness or motion sickness has occurred.
Children love to move and they love having that special time to play with mom or dad. These activities can also be fun for siblings to play together or during play dates . So, have fun with it and find a game everyone can enjoy!
Dana Elliot, MS, OTR/L