If it’s warm or cold, doesn’t matter. Find a place outside to get moving with your kids! It’s good for you and your kids, and babies especially love movement play. Fresh air, natural light, and good old fashioned movement stimulation for the brain! Ahhh….life is good!
I took my little one and first grader out for a swing ride, and although this may seem simple, there is an easy way to get provide great movement with little effort. All you need to know is the Sensory Movement Hack!
I can assure you these smiles you see are the real deal. Baby loved her time in the swing, as did my first grader, but having a developmental therapist as a mom, well, you get a little more bang for your buck!
The official name for movement input, in sensory integration theory is “vestibular” input. (OT Nerd Alert! 🙂 The term was first coined by Jean Ayres, Phd., OTR/L, an American occupational therapist, educational psychologist and pioneer in sensory integration theory. She wrote many books and published many research articles in her day, as well as made great contributions to the field of occupational science. She was the one who started it all. Without her, we might not think about sensory play in the same way we do today.
Her groundbreaking book in the 70’s was entitled Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders.
I was fortunate to have one of her colleagues as my master’s thesis advisor. My advisor worked with Dr. Ayres in California for years before switching to University life. I somehow won the lottery to get her as my advisor! Jackpot!
And so began my complete obsession with all things development and sensory. I have been learning ever since, and have enjoyed applying my findings to thousands of kiddos. Let me share my #1 favorite sensory hack for movement play so you can indulge yourself in a little movement play geek-dom too!
Movement Hack for Brain/Language Development
When you are providing linear movement for your baby or child (like swinging!), make sure you stop every 30-60 seconds to ensure that you re-activate the brain. After approximately 1 minute, there is a brain habituation process that happens. Habitu-what?? Brain habituation means that the brain detects the sensory input coming, but quickly gets used to the input and stops sending signals to the higher brain centers. To short circuit this habituation process, you simply have to change the movement.
Remember to keep the movement linear, and simply stop the movement and restart the movement. That’s all you need to do. Tell the brain movement is starting. Then tell it that it is stopping. Then tell it again it is starting over and over, every 60 minutes or so.
Do this in a consistent manner, and bingo, you have sent the upper centers of the brain all kinds of great movement input that not only is calming and organizing for your little kiddos, but also great for developing their gross motor skills. Plus, calm and organized kids = healthy emotional development.
2 common questions I get from parents:
1. Do you have to change the direction of movement? You can if you like. But stop and go movement works the same way.
2. Should I add some spinning or circular movement? Well, you can, but for truly calming and organizing input you want to keep it linear.
So, try this on your backyard swing. Try this playfully in a swimming pool as you play tug boat, or in a wagon on a trail. Just remember this hack is a simplicity hack. Simple is best.
For even more giggles for babies, I usually add the game of “stop” and “go” with sign language to engage language skills. I have noticed significant increases in how my baby initiates sounds and words during this type of play. This actually makes sense scientifically because the movement receptors are located in the inner ear, so, of course we see greater language engagement! Movement and language play- all in one!
For my older kiddo, I usually play “red light/green light”. Giggles ensue, I promise you.
One last piece of advice, be sure to have fun!! Make memories with this simple hack, that you will remember long after your kids are grown.
For more fun outdoors, try to design some fun outdoor time with your kids. It’s Easy!