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How the community playground develops your child’s vestibular system (or sense of inner balance)


Have you ever noticed how every child approaches playground equipment in their own way?

Some will try to be the first to get to the highest point, be the fastest moving or whatever the most challenging activity is. Others will hold back before heading for an easy climb up stairs to a platform to quietly survey the scene or will just settle for a ride on a lower level play activity.

Studies show that this variation is at least partly due to the way the inner ear vestibular system is formed. 

If your child has a so-called hyposensitive system (or maybe better described as under-responsive) then they need to understand there are limits to what they can do safely, and this is probably only learned from experience (sometimes painful!) 

On the other hand, if you have a child with what’s called a hypersensitive system (or maybe better described as over-responsive) then they are the ones that hold back and will need your patience and encouragement to participate. 

For children like this, first engage them in gentle activities such as a quiet swing without any sudden movement or a walk along some low stepping blocks.  As their vestibular system adjusts, they will move up to more challenging activities (also called heavy work by some occupational therapists). Over a period of time as their confidence increases they will be up there with their more adventurous hyposensitive peers! 

If you found this interesting, we’ve written an article about designing play spaces for kids of all abilities and needs here.

For more personalised information and assistance, contact our team here.

 

 

 

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