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Vestibular Sense & your childs development

The vestibular sense (our 6th sense) is related to all things movement, gravity and/or balance sense. In essence it allows us to move smoothly. The vestibular sense is connected to our inner ear. We are able to maintain our balance while engaged in activities because of this sense. While vestibular helps us with balance while we walk and run, it also helps us stay upright when we sit and stand. 

It works alongside our other 5 external sensory systems (as well as our other internal sensory system the proprioceptive sense), enabling us to use our eyes effectively and process sounds in our environment.

Our vestibular system has a HUGE impact on our physical, emotional and indeed learning skills. It is the first sensory system to develop in the womb. When the foetus is only 5 months old its vestibular system is amazingly well developed. The vestibular system provides the growing foetal brain with a whole host of sensory information as the foetus is rocked back and forth by its mother’s movements.

After birth, our vestibular system is often likened to the ‘brain’s traffic controller’ for all the sensory information it receives. Examples of the vestibular sense being activated by your child:

  • Holding up head: A great early indicator of baby’s vestibular skills is the ability to hold up their head! This sense helps to develop neck strength, which is important in early development.
  • Learning to walk: Baby is able to balance and take their first steps because of the vestibular sense! They are able to begin walking once they feel balanced, and strengthen their balance sense as they get the hang of it.
  • Riding a skateboard: We are able to balance on the board, bend knees at the right time, and stay upright using this sense.
  • Sliding down a slide: Because slides often have bends and curves, we use our vestibular sense to go down a slide and enjoy the ride instead of becoming dizzy and disoriented.

Vestibular activities not only aid the development of balance, but also the development of muscle tone, posture, co-ordination, space awareness, vision and eye movements, the inhibition of primitive reflexes and speech, hearing and language development!

These activities also provide babies with opportunities to use and to strengthen these muscles, encouraging the development of good posture and coordination. With each of these activities, babies are developing head control as their position in space is changed. This is very important for making sure babies have the opportunity to develop control of some early infant reflexes. This control is crucial for total development and to help prevent later learning difficulties.

Each vestibular activity helps movement of the head to become coordinated with eye movement, teaching babies how to move their eyes whilst changing position. The gathering of all this information in your babies’ brains helps them to develop an understanding of ‘where am I in space’. 

Red Brush Stroke with Photo Kids Instagram Post (1) Mini Musos Bond with Baby class baby is stimulated through sensory sounds and movement, props and visual aids, to engage them and encourage them to interact, move, feel and process in a safe space. Activities we incorporate for vestibular development are:

  • Gently fly the baby around. Having them fly with their face towards the ground makes them feel most secure.
  • Fly the baby slowly over items and around their class mates, Fly slowly so the baby can see what they are flying over.
  • Dance with your baby. Bounce, turn, swoop and move around holding the baby close.
  • Lie with your back on the ground, bend your knees and place the baby on top of your shins. Rock the baby backwards and forwards. If your abs can manage, rock from side to side. While working your baby’s vestibular you are safely working your core strength too! An added bonus.
  • In a group class setting, place your baby in a parachute, hold two corners each and gently swing/slide /twirl them inside the parachute.
  • Bounce your toddler or baby on your knee to all our horsey rhymes, be careful you might fall down the big hole!!
  • Rhymes & song are good for language and when you turn them into a vestibular activity they are even better. Do tick tocks with your baby/toddler as you sing Hickory Dickory Dock, or chugga chugga sounds and moves for train songs.
  • Hold you baby/toddler and slowly turn in a small circle one way and then the other. The child’s vestibular loves this, probably more than you do!!