WHAT ARE VESTIBULAR EXERCISES ?
Considered to be one of baby’s most highly developed senses at birth, the vestibular system is responsible for balance and motion perception. It also plays an essential role in maintaining the head and body posture. Whenever baby is in constant and fluid motion, her vestibular system is being stimulated. Recently, a reader wrote in and asked for some references to vestibular activities in babies. These activities can be categorized into motor skill movements baby creates on her own and movements experienced while a parent is holding her. Research shows that babies may develop more advanced motor skills when they experience vestibular stimulation regularly. Look at the list of below and see if you can add some of these activities to your playtime with baby. Keep in mind that slow moving actions tend to be soothing to baby while faster ones are usually more stimulating. Please send me a comment if you would like to add one to the list!
NEWBORNS AND VESTIBULAR STIMULATION
For many years women around the world have carried young babies in wraps and packs on their backs while they go about their day’s work. Fortunately for babies, that trend has been returning. Research shows that the baby wearing trend helps to reduce crying and improve emotional bonding between the mother and baby. The best-selling parenting book “The Happiest Baby on The Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp emphasizes the benefit of vestibular stimulation on newborns. In fact Karp teaches that newborns need the stimulation to recreate the experience of being in the womb when their mother was in constant motion. This has a calming effect.
BABY ACTIVITIES FOR VESTIBULAR STIMULATION
The following activities are self-induced by the baby and often at around 6 months of age:
- Lifting the Head (several times in a row)
- Rolling (successively, such as log rolling)
- Body Rocking (in a sitting position or on the hands and knees)
- Head Shaking
- Changing Postions with the Head (i.e., going from lying on the back to sitting)
The following activities are initiated by a parent while holding baby in their arms or on their lap:
- Rocking in a rocking chair
- Jiggling while on your lap
- Bouncing your knees rhythmically
- Spinning on a chair (not too fast!)
- Walking with baby in a wrap or sling
- Swaying to music in a dance-like manner
- Pushing baby in a stroller
- Swimming Lessons
For further research on vestibular stimulation in babies, please read:
Eliot, Lise. (1999) What’s going on in there? How the brain and mind develop in the first five years of life. New York City, New York: Bantam Books.
Hannaford, Carla. (2005) Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head. Salt Lake City, Utah: Great River Books.
Karp, Harvey, M.D. (2002) The Happiest Baby On The Block. New York City, New York: Bantam Dell.