Your baby’s balance system is particularly important to their overall neurological and physical development and we at Baby College are very aware of its importance and the problems that children can face with an immature balance system. How does your balance system work? Your balance system helps you stand, walk, run, and move without falling. Your eyes, inner ear, and muscles and joints send signals to your brain. These signals help you stay balanced. This system of signals is your vestibular system. Visual system: Your vision helps you sense motion between you and your environment (is it you moving or your environment?) and also see where your body and head are in comparison to the world around you. Proprioception: Special sensors your muscles, tendons, and joints send signals to your brain so that you know where you are in space - you can tell where your feet and legs are positioned relative to the ground and how your head is positioned relative to your chest and shoulders. Vestibular: these are the organs in your inner ear which tell your brain about the movements and position of your head and is the major component of your balance system. Within each ear there are three semi-circular canals which sense when you move your head and help keep your vision steady. The canals recognise movement on different planes: up-and-down movement, side-to-side movement, and tilting movements. In each canal there are receptor hairs and a fluid containing salt particles. When you move so does the fluid, which registers with the hair cells who send messages to the brain. All this Information from your vision, proprioceptive system and vestibular is sent to the brain stem. Balance functions in our subconscious, and we only become aware of it when it is not working correctly: dizziness brought on by a severe cold or perhaps travel or sea sickness. These problems occur when there is a breakdown in communication between the three systems. Nausea occurs because the body mistakes these symptoms for those of having been poisoned! Balance and Children The vestibular is the master of our movements, but it can only be properly trained through movement. For your child, the development of their balance system is linked to the development of their postural control This is a slow process which will take at least 7 years and will continue through puberty. The process of balance maturation started as soon as your baby was born. Your baby will only able to hold its head up once it has developed some muscular strength gained through repeated movement opportunities in its first few months of life. The strength your baby will acquire in its neck, shoulders and arms will then be used to combat the force of gravity and their head will lift off the ground 😊 For babies and children movement and repetition are vital to help their balance system develop so that even very complex movements become nearly automatic over a period of time, such as learning to ride a bike, kicking a ball, swinging a tennis racket or just walking in a straight line! At Baby College we recommend that you use movement as part of your everyday play with your babies and children Activities to try at home:
Dancing with your baby
Swinging your baby in your arms
Spinning your baby around
Bouncy pram rides
Enjoying a knee ride
Tummy time games
Encouraging crawling and rolling
Performing baby massage or doing the baby maps exercise that we encourage in our Baby College classes. The proprioceptive system is an important part of your baby’s balance system and touch games which help babies to learn about their bodies, which stimulate their nervous system and develop the sensations in their joints and muscles are gentle ways to encourage their vestibular development
Zooming up to the moon – our infant movement activity this week really promotes vestibular development. It is also comes with a fun song and an exciting count down!!
Toddlers over 12 months
Crawling to explore or going through tunnels etc.
Spinning your little one around
Using building blocks to build towers
Encouraging them to learn how to jump and skip
Playing with spinning toys (such as hoops)
Going to the park and playing on the swings and the roundabouts
Using scooters and balance bikes
Learning to do handstands, forward rolls, and cartwheels. In our Baby College classes this week, our teachers will be demonstrating an easy and gentle way to get your little one to perform a forward roll. As with every activity having fun while playing is the best form of learning.