Spinning and swinging for fun, focus, and emotion regulation

The vestibular system is responsible for balance, focus, and even plays a role in emotion regulation. But the best way to activate the vestibular system is by moving through space. So, if your child is having trouble with focus or emotion regulation, try encouraging movements like spinning and swinging and you’ll notice a huge change.

At Montessori school, we used the swings to help kids focus at least several times a week. I even activate my own vestibular system by doing somersaults whenever I’m feeling socially anxious. (So if we’re at a party together and I sneak into a back hallway for a moment, you know what I’m up to.) The thing is, it really works! After a few forward rolls, I feel so much happier and better able to engage and be social. If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to try it for yourself.

But I’m not writing this to help adults with their social anxiety, rather, I want young people who get labeled as “out of control” or informally called “adhd” to have solutions to anxiety, aggressiveness, or lack of focus that are easy, fun, and free of negative side effects. So, the next time you see your kids spinning in circles, remember that they’re self-regulating and it’s really good for their brains. Plus, it’s just fun and it feels good to spin around in circles!

For months now my daughter has enjoyed shaking her head back and forth. She’ll shake her head and then look up and smile. I usually join her just because it’s fun, but now I’m remembering that shaking our heads or moving our heads through space in other ways is actually crucial to brain health and wellbeing. The vestibular system needs input!

And, now that we humans spend less time running through the forest and more time sitting in front of screens, it’s even more important that we consciously choose to activate those systems.

So, your homework this week is to dance, wiggle, spin, jump, cartwheel, and swing with your kids. It’s good for everybody’s brain and it’s a great strategy to teach your child for times when he’s feeling worried, bored, or disconnected.

Have a fabulous week! Warmly, Shelly

3 comments
Shelly
Shelly

Hey Karyl, I'm so glad you'll share this information with others. I wish everyone knew this! I think it's one of the most useful pieces of information to come out of brain science in the past 10 years. Thank you scientists!

Megin, That sounds like a great book! Where can I get a copy?

Megin Potter
Megin Potter

Awesome! A science-based argument for the toddler wisdom Lesson #10: Jump, Spin, Twirl I discuss in my book, Heart of a Toddler: The Zen in Them: 51 Lessons Learned from a One-Year-Old on Enjoying Life. Our children really are great teachers!

Karyl
Karyl

Funny this comes up today; I go to the park frequently with my children, and noticed on 4 different occasions older people with developmental issues on the swings for long bouts of time, and wondered if this was soothing and brought joy; it really seemed to be the case! I also wondered if the gravity affected certain parts of the brain in a beneficial way. I will be passing this along; I think you have something valuable here!
Fondly, Karyl