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Vestibular Sense: Keeping Us Balanced and Moving Smoothly

Nov 1, 2021

You just woke up, and you find yourself fumbling to get to the bathroom. You run right into the wall, knowing that you’re feeling off-balance. This is a prime example of our vestibular sense as it relates to our sense of balance. Ultimately, our vestibular sense supports balance and muscle tone, allowing us to make smooth movements and have incredible posture. We’ll learn more about how this sense keeps kiddos balanced in their day-to-day lives, including some issues that may occur with the vestibular sense. 

Using Your Head with the Vestibular Sense

Fun fact! Our vestibular system is located inside of our inner ear. When fluid in our inner ear shifts, it can throw us off balance and make for clunky movements. When it comes to our vestibular sense, it has everything to do with how our head position changes. As a result, we’re able to gather information about our head’s position and if we are in motion or standing upright. We can count on our vestibular senses to keep us from tripping, to help us balance, and to allow us to engage our bodies with sitting and standing. Unlike the proprioceptive sense (body awareness), the vestibular sense references our sense of movement rather than our sense of position. Do you need an example of the vestibular sense? Movements like rolling, swinging, riding in an elevator, and running around all have to do with our sense of movement. Even young babies work on developing their vestibular senses like when mom sees her tiny tyke hold up their head for the very first time. Stability and movement are key when thinking about this unique sense.

vestibular sense

Vestibular Sense: Feeling Unsteady and Unfocused

When kiddos are developing their vestibular sense, they can have a few sensory difficulties. Over or under stimulation of the vestibular sense can occur, and your child will be sure to let you know about this in their own way. Children that need to work on their vestibular sense may experience:

      Crawling/walking delays

      Clumsiness and unsteadiness

      Focus issues

      Poor eye control and object tracking

      A desire to avoid stairs

      Feeling dizzy frequently or rarely feeling dizzy even when spinning 

      Wanting to avoid motion and a preference to sit 

Kids who experience issues with vestibular sense need a little extra help. Childhood is meant for playing and lots of movement. If your kiddo has an issue with the vestibular sense, they may be getting too much or not enough sensory input. Additionally, your child may also struggle to focus in the classroom. Physical and occupational therapy for the vestibular sense may be a great option for your child. Physical therapists can improve balance and mobility while occupational therapists can assist with sensory input, sensory activities, and visual tracking. Of course, you can also help your little one by having them practice vestibular stimulation activities at home. 

vestibular sense

Activities for Vestibular Development

If you’re looking for activities that really flex the vestibular system, look no further. There are plenty of activities to try, especially outdoor play activities. Let’s take a look!  

Exercise Ball Play

An exercise ball is an excellent tool to help with the vestibular sense. Encourage kids to practice positions that allow them to practice their balance, posture, and steady movement. We know you may need some game suggestions, so check these out.

Head to the Park

A park is a fun place for kids, but it’s also an incredible way for your child to experiment with their body’s motion. Slides, swings, rocking equipment, and tire swings make motion and balance fun. Make it a goal to try everything out at the park. A word of caution though, watch your child for signs of becoming overly dizzy. If you know your kiddo loves to spin, spin, spin, and spin some more, set limits on when they should stop. Kids can overdo it with the motion and become sick to the point of vomiting. That would be no fun at all!  

Play Pretend with Horse

Kids have beautifully wild imaginations. When it comes to outdoor play, it’s hard to do it wrong. Encourage your little one to play a game involving horses, and introduce the galloping motion to them. Many parents will find that their little one loves to gallop and mimic our horse friends.   

Chalk Course 

Outdoor chalk courses are incredible for so many reasons, and they can help get your child moving in a variety of different ways. Incorporate running, walking, crawling, and standing on one foot in the chalk obstacle course. Kids really seem to enjoy these and will often want to go through them again and again. If you’re daring enough, you can join them too!  

Don’t Forget Baby. Tummy Time is the Best!

If your little one is still doing tummy time, don’t stop! Keep up with tummy time as your little one learns to move their head. Staying consistent with tummy time can really help develop the vestibular sense and may even prevent issues with this sense from developing in the first place. Try out our tummy time activities for even more fun at home.

Vestibular Sense

While watching your little one play, you may notice some of the issues that we mentioned above. Be sure to seek help now rather than later. Contact us today.  

While at the computer, we’re working our vestibular sense with our good posture and balance on an exercise ball chair. You’ve got to come hang out with us on Facebook or Instagram.