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The fact that, as adults, some of us have great balance and some not so great, is not just the ‘luck of the draw’. It is, in most cases, a result of the balance experiences or ‘vestibular stimulation’ we received as babies and young children. By providing your baby with appropriate vestibular activities, you can help to ensure that he or she lays those important foundations for a lifetime of excellent coordination and balance. However that’s not all! Movement activities that stimulate vestibular development help your baby’s brain and body to develop in an amazing number of ways!
Aside from balance, vestibular stimulation also aids the development of your baby’s muscle tone, posture, coordination, space awareness, vision and eye movements, the inhibition of primitive reflexes, speech, hearing and language development!
Research is showing that babies who have been given regular vestibular stimulation in the earliest years of life, display improved brain and body development.(1)
So how and why does this happen?
Muscle tone and balance
Vestibular activities aid the development of your baby’s balance and muscle tone by teaching her which muscles need to be used to keep her body well balanced in any position.
These activities also provide your baby with opportunities to use and to strengthen these muscles, encouraging the development of good posture and coordination.
With each of these activities, your little one is developing head control as her position in space is changed. This is very important for making sure she has the opportunity to develop control of early infant reflexes, crucial for total development and to help prevent later learning difficulties.
Each vestibular activity helps head movement to become coordinated with eye movement, teaching your baby how to move his eyes while changing position. The sensorimotor input helps your little one to develop an understanding of: ‘Where am I in space?’ ‘Am I moving or am I still?’ ‘Which direction am I moving in?’ These messages form the essential building blocks for later skills such as direction and spatial measurement, knowing rights and lefts, forwards, backwards, how far, how close, what’s the right way round and so on. Without this early input, later work with balance, mathematics and writing becomes difficult.
Speech and language
Being centred in the inner ear, the vestibular system also works closely with the auditory system. Vestibular activities aid in the development of speech and language.
Prevention of over-sensitivity
Vestibular activities are not only great fun and enjoyed by parents and babies alike, they can also help prevent your baby from becoming over-sensitive to movement, so she doesn’t miss out on important movement activities later on.
Before you start any vestibular activity with your baby make sure you read the guidelines here.
Here are some lovely vestibular activities to do with your baby from our enormously popular free online Active Babies Smart Kids series. Enjoy! Watch the full free video on your baby’s balance here.
Bindy Cummings is a teacher, GymbaROO early childhood neurodevelopmental consultant and early childhood development lecturer. She is the co-creator of GymbaROOs free online series for parents and babies and is the Editor of GymbaROO’s ‘First Steps’ magazine. More on Bindy Cummings here.
GymbaROO Images by Studio Z Photography
Reference: (1) Sandler, A. et al. (1981) Vestibular stimulation in early childhood. Journal of early intervention 3: 48-55
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