Children require gross motor movement every single day.
Not just because they need to burn off energy but becauseit’s absolutely necessary to develop theirVestibular System.
What is the Vestibular System?
It’s located in the inner and middle ear and helps sort the sensory information that we receive from the outside world pertaining to vision, sound, balance, and the placement of our bodies.
How do children develop the Vestibular System?
They need movement that moves the fluid in the inner ear around in every direction.
For children under 18 months, they need movements like:
Rolling from front to back and back to front
Climbing stairs, climbers, or furniture with an adult nearby
Limited time in “containers” i.e. car seat, bouncy seat (ideally less than 2 hours each day)
For children over 18 months, they need movements like:
Being upside down
Without this type of movement regularly, children may become more clumsy and have more difficulty controlling fine and gross motor movements.
What can you do as a parent to help your child develop their Vestibular System?
For infants, allow for plenty of time to move freely on a blanket on the floor. The movements that occur while babywearing will also help to develop the Vestibular System.
For children under 18 months, it’s as simple as following your child’s lead. Children this age want to move so simply provide the guidance and support they need to do it. If they want to climb to the top of a Pikler or even the stairs, follow their lead, and stay close by.
For children over 18 months, create time every day for movement and unstructured, gross motor play.
And not only unstructured play but risky play, where their physical movements involve uncertainty and experimentation.
You can do things like:
Go to the park, stepping back to give your child the space to push themselves to figure out what will happen.
Remove the couch cushions and build obstacle courses or forts in the house. If you have any of our indoor climbers, you can incorporate them into these setups too.
Go on walks or hikes and give your child the time and freedom to explore. Allow them to climb on the rocks, roll down hills, and jump in puddles.
Provide opportunities for Maximum Effort, the innate drive to do hard and heavy work, exerting maximum physical effort. Allow your child to carry the watering can full of water or a grocery bag from the car.
Have a dance party with jumping, spinning, and tumbling. The Freeze dance songs are great for dance parties because the start and stop motions will also help with gross motor control.
Allowing children to get the vestibular input their bodies need, will support the development of aware, connected, problem solvers who understand their own unique capabilities and are deeply connected to the world around them.
Our friends atRoots 2 Rise Outdoorsin Toronto have a wonderful outdoor program focused on the development of the whole child. Their program takes place in natural spaces around the GTA that invite exploratory, child-initiated play. Children are taught to appropriately assess risk and appreciate the beauty of nature. If you have children between the ages 2-10 we highly recommend checking them out!
We also offer a collection of wonderful indoor climbers that bring gross motor activities into your home and create a space for exploration and developmentally appropriate play.