Why Children Are Falling Out of Their Chairs: A Lesson in Proprioception & Vestibular Senses by Rae Pica

Parenting Playtime
2 years ago

Why Children Are Falling Out of Their Chairs: A Lesson in Proprioception & Vestibular Senses

When I read that children are falling out of their seats in school, I thought there must be a mistake. But, no, it was true. One first grade teacher reported that it happened 44 times in one week! She likened it to 23 penguins trying to stay upright on chairs. Since then, many other teachers have reported similar stories to me.

Honestly, I should have realized it would come to this. The reason? Children are getting so few opportunities to move these days that their proprioceptive and vestibular senses aren't developing as they should.

What are these senses we seldom hear about? Proprioception is awareness of the location of one’s body and body parts in relation to the environment. And the vestibular sense detects gravity and motion to create an internal sense of balance. It coordinates with the other senses to help a person get upright and stay that way.

With properly developed proprioception, children are able to perform such tasks as feeding themselves without having to watch the fork travel to their mouth, or climb a staircase without looking at their feet. With a properly developed vestibular sense, children will have, among other things, better balance and visual tracking. When both the proprioceptive and vestibular senses are well developed, sitting is much easier for children.

The critical period for development of these senses is before the age of 7. And the activities nature intended to develop them are among those we often warn children against:

  • spinning
  • swinging
  • hanging upside down
  • running
  • changing directions
  • rolling down hills

We say "Don't run" when children put on a burst of speed. "Be careful" is often the phrase children hear when they climb and hang. We shout "Don't do that, you'll get dizzy" when they spin.

But it's not just parents exercising caution. Swings, monkey bars and those wonderful, dizzying merry-go-rounds have been removed from school and public playgrounds. And tag, running, and cartwheels have been banned at many schools.

That means children are missing out on the very movements that are part of nature’s plan to prepare them to be able to sit still. Many adults seem to believe that if we simply insist the little ones sit still, those who are “well behaved” will comply. But the truth is, complying requires all the concentration they could be using to complete a more important task. Being still is actually a very challenging form of balance requiring mature proprioceptive and vestibular senses.

So, let the children swing and spin. Find the perfect hill for them to roll down. And the next time there's a gathering of children, encourage a game of Freeze Tag, where a tagged player must remain frozen until touched by another player, or Statues, where children move in any way they want while music plays and freeze into statues when it stops. Games like these make the children want to be still. Combined with the movements they involve, the kids will develop self-regulation skills as they improve their proprioceptive and vestibular senses.

The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.

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Rae Pica
Donna, what's interesting to me is that we imagine we humans have a better plan than nature's!!
Mike Prochaska
Amen! I say this all the time!
Julie Rose
How crazy is that. Get those kids spinning! 🤸🏼‍♂️🤸🏾‍♀️
Elisa Schmitz
Wow, that is fascinating and just not OK. All those activities kids need to do to play are also forming very important parts of their senses and well-being. Thank you for shining a light on this, Rae Pica !
Rae Pica
Thanks for giving me the opportunity, Elisa! Play is absolutely critical for development in all domains, but the idea that it's not a "productive" use of time is one of the myths making parenting more challenging than it needs to be and keeping kids from thriving!
Mike Prochaska
I had an school board member tell
Me it parents job after school
To make sure kids get to move and get Enough outdoor time after school beduase school has to work on “academic”
Learning. Leading me to beleive for test
Scores. Not all parents are home after school to make sure kids get outside time or even understand it important. That why I fought so hard to get the recess bill passed in Illinos. And sadly for Illinos families for public schools to get it passed they had to move it from 30
Min from 60 min.
Mike Prochaska
Thank you! I been preaching this but lately I feel like I falling on death ears. Kids need to move and have breaks. I would like to know your thoughts on these go noodle Brain breaks school uses. Is It Enough or do kids need more ? I don’t know the answer
Rae Pica
I know what you mean, Mike. I think it's hard for parents to imagine this is any big deal, when they've been led to believe that what's happening in the *head* is so much more important than what happens with the body.

The thing is, whether we're talking about underdeveloped vestibular and proprioceptive senses or gross or fine motor skills, these things WILL impact a child's future!

I appreciate what GoNoodle does, but I am not a fan of using video. Just don't think it's a substitute for an actual teacher leading the kids. But if it's a choice between GoNoodle and no movement, I vote for the former.
Mike Prochaska
Yeah me too! Jisr this what I was told at my kids school when I asked about this issue. I had mixed feeling bjt was glad my kids get to move every 45 minutes.
Rae Pica
Mike, as far as that school board meeting is concerned, it's clear that person had NO idea what s/he was talking about. The research is clear about the link between physical activity and learning. Ignoring the body is like halving the brain! Also, with all the homework children are given, they rarely have time nowadays for outdoor play!

Ugh. The whole thing really upsets me.
Julio Caro
Thanks For Sharing....

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