Thursday, February 26, 2009

Belly Swinging and Spinning is Good Brain Food!

I was visiting a preschool recently. The young children were outside playing and I found myself standing and observing the children on the swings. A four-year-old child was draped over a swing seat on his stomach while swinging back and forth. At the same time he was spinning around and around as the swing chain twisted high above him. Soon he could twist it no more and then, propelling himself in the opposite direction, he spun around and around as the chain untwisted-- his small arms extended as if flying in space, a great big smile on his face. I smiled back, happy that he was stimulating the mind/body connections. He was in the process of repeating the action, when from across the playground came a loud voice commanding him to stop belly swinging and informing him it was against school rules.
Children are innately programmed to spin, swing and be upside-down. When children are spinning and swinging, special receptors in the little “vestibule” of the inner ear are stimulated and communicate a sense of where the body is in space. This vestibular system controls the sense of movement and balance.
I often mention "brain food" in my workshops. Physical activity is good brain food for young children. When a child is swinging and spinning, they're having fun, but their little body and brain is also unconsciously telling them that they need this kind of movement for a healthy sensory "diet." Swinging and spinning helps kids regulate their bodies. It helps them focus and increase their body awareness. Young children do not get dizzy as easily as adults do because connections between balance and other systems are still being formed in the first eight years of life. We, as adults, take our sense of balance and our fundamental understanding of our place in space around us for granted. For children, those abilities are still developing, becoming more complete and connected. We need to give children opportunities for movement and physical activity so they can develop these crucial abilities (and so they won’t be bouncing off the walls when the teacher needs the child to sit down and be attentive.) Remember that teacher who was shouting at that child to stop belly swinging? I wished that early education teacher could have instead celebrated the child’s movements and his need to feed his body and brain-- one belly swing, one belly spin at a time.

5 comments:

ourmoney said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robb Lucy said...

Sharron,

Can you let me know when, and what number to call...as I'd like to have a chat. We're in the same 'business' and producing new materials.

Cheers,
Robb Lucy
www.eyelearner.com

mhb said...

Sorry---but this is really bad advice and practice. Teachers should be aware of their own personal liability in case of injury during such activity. Most states have a legal malfeasance statute that holds individual teachers liable for their students' safety when negligence is involved. And allowing kids to use equipment in ways the manufacturer warns against is often considered negligence. I don't know of any swingset manufacturer that says "Go ahead and belly swing and twist as much as you like!" I've never known a public school to allow this behavior either---some insurance companies penalize for schools who don't have rules for prohibiting such. So allowing kids to do it in preschool and then sending them on to schools that don't allow it can also be confusing. There are pretty significant statistics about injuries involving swings. While there may be benefits that you can see from this, there is also a huge risk.

Jacqueline said...

I get the school liability thing as an unfortunate reality of our times, I am not going to get into that, but my son is autistic and he is strongly encouraged in therapy to belly swing and we do it at the playground too. It seems to be helping with many of his vestibular input issues. There is much documentation of spinning being excellent for vestibular development. So, yes, I don't doubt the commentator above is correct about the legal issues of doing this in school settings, it also does not negate that it is very good for children when done in the right environment.

jfreak13 said...

How can I find more information on swinging on tummies, because we are getting complaints from other preschools in the same building that they cannot swing on their tummies, and I think it is a good idea...