If we asked the children what our senses are, I bet that most of the older children would tell me that there are 5 of them; we hear, we taste, we smell, we touch, we see. But, did you know that there are a 6th and 7th sense that are vital for a child’s development? We often forget that there is the Vestibular System and Proprioception…the 6th and 7th senses. Just as our ability to smell helps us navigate new experiences or the ability to hear helps us communicate, the Vestibular System and Proprioception help us navigate the world around us.
The Vestibular System is responsible for helping us keep our balance and for staying upright and Proprioception helps us orient ourselves in space and in relation to others/objects. Young children are still developing their sense of balance and sense of place and orientation which is why they can appear to be clumsy.
Young children can often be climbing up and down, spinning in circles, and experimenting with the ways they can move their bodies. These movements are telling the child’s vestibular system what “in balance” looks like for them and helping them navigate in space and in relation to people and objects.
Young children need a lot of opportunities to explore these big body movements to build their balance and sense of space. In turn, children need to find their balance and ability to navigate in space before they are able to develop fine motor skills that will help them perform later academic tasks.
At school, we help the children develop these 6th and 7th senses by providing multiple opportunities to climb up and down ladders and steps, to rock in our wooden boats, to swing on the circle swing, to build with blocks and other larger objects, and so much more.
By helping the children develop their gross motor skills, the Vestibular System, and Proprioception, we are helping set them up for the later demands of elementary school.
For more information on how movement builds the brain, you can read A Moving Child is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think by Gill Connell.