Swings and Sensory Development
Swings are not only one of the greatest joys of childhood, they are also helpful for brain development.
Children love to swing, spin and tumble, jump and climb and move their bodies in all directions, and there’s an important reason they crave all that activity - they are waking up their brains and stimulating their Vestibular and Proprioceptive systems, the senses responsible for balance and awareness of where the body is in space.
We all know about the 5 senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, but these two little- known ‘6th & 7th” senses are crucial for integrating all the other senses developing good co-ordination, attention span, focus, fine motor skills, and even emotional security.
The Vestibular System is the first functioning sensory system a baby develops, fully formed in utero assisted by the movement of the womb. It’s the system that helps make sense of movement, telling us whether we are sitting up or lying down, moving fast or slow.
The Proprioceptive System helps the body make sense of gravity, the awareness of where body parts are without looking, so we can move effectively and feel safe and secure in our surroundings. The body receives sensory information from the joints and muscles through movement.
Swinging, spinning and rocking moves the fluid in the inner ear which activates the vestibular sensors, tiny hairs within the ear. Movement stimulates the brain to integrate all the information from multiple senses, co-ordinating the movement of the head and eyes, strengthening eye contact and spacial perception, and helping develop focus and concentration.
With the increasing amount of sedentary screen time and decreasing free-play time children experience these days, the opportunities for sensory learning are becoming limited and narrow. When these sensory systems are underdeveloped children may appear clumsy, fidgety, anxious, or lack concentration and focus. Swings are widely used in therapy for children with sensory processing issues.
Swinging fires up the physical and emotional connections in the brain; the swaying, twirling, rhythmic movement can soothe and calm an upset restless child, while the excitement and thrills can stimulate a lethargic one.
Above all swings are just great fun!