It is fascinating to know that apart from the five senses of touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing we have a sixth and seventh sense; the vestibular sense and proprioception which contribute to the sensory development. Let’s find out more about the vestibular sense.
The vestibular sense derives its name from the vestibular apparatus present inside the inner ear. The apparatus consists of hair cells. When movement occurs, the fluid in the ear moves, thereby stimulating these hair cells, which further imparts information to the brain about the position of our body, eyes and head in space.
Interestingly, vestibular sense happens to be the first fully functional system in humans. It starts developing as early as two months after conception and is well developed at five months in utero. The growing foetal brain receives a host of sensory information while it rocks back and forth in the mother’s womb contributing to the development of the vestibular system.
While the movement of the foetus in the womb contributes to its early development, activities thrilling to kids such as somersaults, tumbling upside down, rolling over hills, hanging upside down on monkey bars, twisting the swing and spinning as fast as possible further strengthen the balance sense in children. This clearly explains why kids are drawn to thrill rides at amusement parks. Those kids with a robust vestibular sense are well balanced and better coordinated.
The vestibular system maintains the right balance when a child wobbles on one leg to get dressed by sending signals to the brain. It contributes to visual tracking by maintaining steady sight while watching a moving ball while playing sports. A functional vestibular system will keep the child upright and active.
It also enables the child to be independent to perform day to day activities like dressing up to school by integrating both sides of the body. It helps improve the fine motor skills and read fluently along the lines.
Childhood is the best time to build the vestibular sense and can take place only when the children are moving and not sitting still. Computers and gadgets do not contribute to this type of sensory development, whereas playgrounds do. The small breaks in schools facilitate movement and prepare the brain to learn more in the next class.
Embrace the playground and turn away from gadgets to become alert, attentive and calm.
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