Did you know that doing CARiFiT can help your babies development in a whole host of ways…making them smarter, more confident and more coordinated – who wouldn’t want that for their baby!
Most people learn about the 5 basic extrinsic senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Many, however, are not as familiar with two hidden intrinsic senses: the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. The vestibular sense is one of the first to develop in a growing fetus and is stimulated by the movement of a carrying mother’s body. By only 5 months in utero, this system is well developed and provides a great deal of sensory information to a growing fetal brain. This system is very important to a child’s early development. Its role is to relay information to the brain as to where a person is in space, as related to gravity; whether they are moving or still, if they are moving how quickly, and in what direction. The vestibular system gathers that information from a set of fluid filled canals and a sac-like structure in the inner ear. These structures respond to movement, change in direction, change of head position, and gravitational pull.
4 Ways the vestibular system may impact your child:
1. The vestibular system coordinates eye and head movements. Without this coordination, it may be challenging for children to complete everyday activities such as copying from a white board in their classroom, following a moving object such as a softball through the air; or visually scanning across a page to read. The vestibular system helps the brain to register and respond to whether the object the child is looking at is moving or if their head is moving.
2. The vestibular system also helps to develop and maintain normal muscle tone. Muscle tone is the ability of a muscle to sustain a contraction. Without a proper functioning vestibular system, it may be challenging for a child to hold their body in one position. These children may oftentimes prefer laying on the floor instead of sitting up during circle time or leaning on their elbow or hand while seated at their desk.
3. The vestibular system also impacts a child’s balance and equilibrium. As your child moves throughout their environment, so does the fluid in their inner ear canals. As the fluid in their inner ear moves, your child’s brain is receiving information as to the position of their head in space. Depending on that signal, the brain then sends a message to your child’s body signaling it to move in a way that will help them to respond to and compensate for any planned or unplanned movements. Without efficient vestibular processing, your child may appear to be clumsy and have trouble staying on their feet during routine play.
4. Finally, the vestibular system helps a child to coordinate both sides of their body together for activities including riding a bicycle, catching a ball, zipping a coat, or cutting with scissors.
Simply put, the Vestibular System tells us about our head position related to gravity (which way is up?). It plays a vital role in allowing us to safely move, pay attention, sit still and maintain an appropriate level of alertness for our daily activities. As the therapists at The Inspired Treehouse explain, the vestibular sense contributes to our sense of confidence and security in the world.
Promoting healthy vestibular processing:
1. Have an active pregnancy.
Because vestibular processing begins in utero, mommy’s movements during pregnancy promote healthy development. You don’t have to train for a marathon while growing a baby; gentle activities like walking, swimming, and yoga are great ways give your baby a variety of movement sensations. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to get sedentary when pregnant.
2. Cope with bed rest.
Clinically, there is a correlation between extended bed rest during pregnancy and increased risk of vestibular processing challenges in children. What can you do if your doctor prescribes bed rest?
Ask your doctor about the safety of slow rocking in a rocking chair, glider or swing. Discuss position changes that you can safely make throughout the day – laying on each side, bending forward at the edge of the bed so that your belly hangs, sitting upright.
3. Offer baby a variety of positions in play.
Play for infants can start the first week of life and primarily consists of experiencing the world through the senses while stretching and strengthening out of the fetal position. Even when just laying on a blanket, your little one is actually taking in loads of sensory information and trying to make sense of this new world she’s in.
Place your baby in a variety of positions – on her back, in Tummy Time, and laying on each side – during awake time. These positions allow your baby to experience different head positions relative to gravity – promoting Vestibular System development!
4. Be intentional with babywearing and holding.
Until they can roll and sit up, young babies are dependent on adults for their movement experiences. One of the easiest ways to help your baby learn about movement is to hold or wear him as you move.
Make a point to carry your baby as you move around the house or yard getting things done. Dance with your baby to music. Play gentle rocking games on your lap. Hold your baby in a variety of positions – upright, belly-down, laying on each side, and belly-up.
Do CARiFiT. Each CARiFiT workout moves mum and baby through multiple movement planes all in a low impact environment and a supported position – this is the perfect stimulus to help your babies developing vestibular system – so you are both getting huge physical benefit from the movements we use!
5. Don’t forfeit movement for convenience.
Allowing your baby to experience movement and position changes of every day life, such as getting into and out of the car seat on errands, gives her opportunities to refine her sensory processing and self-regulation skills in response to vestibular input.
Self-regulation is the ability to match your alertness level to the environment and the task at hand. Through her earliest movements experiences, your baby will learn that vestibular input isn’t cause for alarm or distress. As she gets older, she learns that position changes signal a time to be awake and alert to take in a new place. It would be convenient if our 10-month-old babies slept through weekly grocery trips in a car seat carrier, but it wouldn’t be a sign of healthy developing self-regulation skills. Once baby can sit up, sitting upright in a stroller or shopping cart or being worn world facing for your workouts and daily activities are great ways to let her actively engage all of her senses on outings.
By being aware of the importance of early movement and position changes for vestibular development, we can take simple steps from the start that can make a big impact on our babies’ lifelong sensory processing skills.
So CARiFiT is more than just mummy doing something for mummy…it is of very real and important benefit to your baby as well – win win