Ever wonder why we have the impulse to rock babies to help them calm down?
Studies show that rocking, spinning and other physical movement through space helps children’s brain development and their ability to pay attention, by stimulating the vestibular (inner ear) system.
And here’s the thing, this works with both infants and older kids. It can also be a really fun way for you to cut lose and play with your kids.
So, the next time your little guy is about to lose it, check with him about whether it sounds fun, and then spin around with him in your arms, or take him to a nearby swing-set.
Even hanging upside down can produce vestibular stimulation. Just make sure he’s enjoying it, and not getting dizzy or upset. It never hurts to ask, “Is this okay?”
Believe it or not, when we get lots of motion through space (like on a swing, dancing, or spinning) it actually helps our senses work better. With some well-timed rocking or spinning, stimulation, your little dude could be settling down with his dinosaurs for some sustained play time.
In other words, you may get to shower today! Hooray!
So here’s the deal with vestibular stimulation: you want to offer your baby or child lots of it. As long as she looks content, just keep rocking and/or spinning.
After a while, you’ll either have a sleepy child, or an awake, alert child.
When babies and children are in the “awake-alert” state, they’re most open to learning new information. So, in a way, vestibular stimulation helps the brain decide whether it’s ready for more learning, or needs sleep to help process what’s already been learned.
When you have an awake-alert baby or young child it’s a perfect time to get out a few favorite toys, or a new puzzle, sit back, and enjoy your little ones as they learn and grow.
When I worked in Montessori schools, we’d often use this tool to help our most active kids settle in to their work. If we noticed someone wandering around, bothering other kids, and unable to decide what activity to choose- we’d just send him or her out to the swings for five minutes.
After a few minutes of swinging, the child would almost magically come back into the classroom, decide on an activity, sit down and really concentrate for a half an hour or more! I sometimes couldn’t believe it was the same kid.
So, enjoy this new tool and use it whenever your kid seems unfocused, erratic, or is just looking for trouble.
I’d love to hear your comments about this topic and your stories about trying it out. Please leave your thoughts or stories in the box below.