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Developing the Vestibular Sense

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Children love to play. They swing, spin, somersault, and move every way they can. This isn’t just coincidence that when we allow the space and freedom to play, children will gravitate towards these experiences. These movements and activities all work to strengthen their vestibular sense- the balance sense.

This vestibular sense tells us where we are in relation to the earth and its gravity. The vestibular sensory organs – the semicircular canals – are located in the inner ear. Movement of the head in any and all directions stimulates the fluid in these chambers, informing our brains of our body position in relation to all that is around us. As children are able to move about, engaging their vestibular sense, they are developing and strengthening this ever important sense of balance.

However, it has to do with even more though than just balance. As our own Nancy Blanning and Laurie Clark have noted in their article Strengthening the Foundational Senses of the Young Child, “The importance of this sense of balance cannot be overemphasized. It is a unifying element in the whole system and seems to prime the entire nervous system to function properly.” The healthy development of the foundational senses in the young child serves as the strong roots for all higher level learning- both in childhood and throughout life. As Nancy and Laurie have noted, “When the foundational senses are functioning well, the child has pleasure and joy in being within his/her body. He moves in a balanced, coordinated, integrated way. He is eager to explore the world and new sensory experiences, and is not timid. The child is well-balanced, both literally and metaphorically.”

Our daily activities during our time together at The Denver Waldorf School aim to strengthen the vestibular sense, and all of our primary senses. The emphasis on the importance of free play, the movement and rhythmic games incorporated into our learning, and the exploration of nature and the outdoors, no matter the weather, are all intentional building blocks to giving our children a strong foundation for their healthy development.

 

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