As an Early-Childhood Educator for 20+ years, I have always had a handle on the developmental stages and capabilities of my very active little learners. Even so, if I had a nickel for every time I pleaded, “Honey, please sit still” or “Can you try to control your body?” or even “Sweetheart, tell your feet (or arms or hands or legs) ‘not now feet, I’m learning!’ ”, I would be one wealthy lady! While I have been keenly aware that this notion of being able to show a little bit of self-control was all part of a child’s natural development, what I didn’t know reaches far beyond that and is more scientific in nature than I realized.
According to an article in the Washington Post, it seems that in 2015, school aged children throughout the world are very often walking around with an “underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system due to restricted movement.” Factors contributing to this phenomenon can range from too much screen time (computer, video games, movies and television) parents keeping children indoors for safety reasons, lack of scheduled recess or sports time, and more. The article explains, “In order to develop a strong balance system, children literally need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.”
According to Pediatric Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscom, the implications are this, “Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With underdeveloped sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs, but is not getting enough of, to ‘turn their brain on’.” Unfortunately, this fidgeting or moving around can sometimes be construed as misbehavior, which can lead to being sent out of the classroom, being made to apologize to the class, visiting the principal’s office and more.
Thankfully, our GrapeSEED instruction provides for lots of action and movement, all within the context of learning! When children are invited to “hop like a rabbit”, “run like a zebra”, “move to the right/the left/up and down” and so forth, they are not only learning various actions, visualizing, demonstrating Total Physical Response and learning to respond to commands all while having fun… they’re also exercising and maturing their entire vestibular system, which will, in the end, allow for success in the classroom and beyond. And isn’t that the point?