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  • Sarina Shirazee

The vestibular system and why it's important to move


Why are playgrounds and other movement activities so important? One reason is because they help to develop our VESTIBULAR system. ⠀

The vestibular system is a collection of structures in the inner ear that provides our brain with information about how our body is moving, and where it is in space (sitting, standing, upside down, lying down?) Your brain then integrates this with information from your body's other senses, in order to create smooth and coordinated movements.⠀

It's not something that we're born knowing how to do. Every time a child learns a new skill that requires balance and body positioning (e.g. walking, going down a slide, riding a bike), their brain further modifies and refines the vestibular system.⠀

Kids whose brains are wired a bit differently and are not processing vestibular input properly may appear to be clumsy or uncoordinated, and may have difficulty balancing. They may be fearful or cautious on playgrounds, may dislike being picked up or turned upside down, may avoid going up and down stairs, and often prefer more sedentary tasks.⠀

Kids who don’t get enough movement may also have trouble paying attention at school. They may seek movement by swinging on their chairs, fidgeting, playing “aggressively” with peers, walking around the classroom and getting up to go to the toilet more frequently. This is something that is being seen more and more in schools, with the push for academics over play. ⠀

So, this is why movement activities like swinging, jumping, climbing, rocking, sliding, turning upside down, and tumbling are important to introduce as early (and safely) as possible. ⠀

Kids need lots of opportunities for movement throughout their childhoods, both at home and at school, as their vestibular systems continue to develop during this time.

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