by Bri Dandrea
The vestibular system is made up of receptors in the inner ear. These receptors are responsible for helping the body respond to movement, gravity, head tilts, angular movements, and quick movements of the head. Children with vestibular processing issues may be over-responsive or hypersensitive to vestibular input, refusing to do such activities as getting on a swing, climbing playground equipment, and may even avoid rough-housing activities. Such kids may try to avoid movement that challenges their balance and coordination.
Help for kids with vestibular struggles
Occupational therapists can work on increasing vestibular skills through therapeutic activities that require movement. In general, kiddos can be easily overloaded during activity, so it is important to take new activities slowly, especially for kids that are struggling with vestibular activities.
Vestibular Activities to try at Home
A Day at the Park
The park is a great place for vestibular input activities. Swings, climbing walls, merry-go-rounds, and rocking equipment help engage the vestibular system. These activities may be difficult for kiddos that struggle with balance or visual-motor coordination. Start by going slow, then build up the activity as their tolerance allows. For example, have the child work on sitting on the swing, before moving the swing back and forth.
Pick your favorite music and challenge the child to complete difficult dance moves. To mix it up, I love the game ‘freeze dance.’ While the music is going the kids dance around, then when the music stops have the kids freeze in place.
Set up an obstacle course in the house. You can use pillows to stand on, rolled-up blankets to jump over and a table for the kids to crawl under. I typically start by creating my own obstacle course, then after they finish the first course, have the kids build one of their own. This activity works on building creativity and increasing personal motivation to complete the obstacle course.
These are just 3 of my favorite vestibular activities you can try at home. Remember, if the kiddo is struggling with vestibular activities, it is not helpful to push them into the activity. It is better to start slowly and work up to more challenging activities. If you are concerned about your child’s development or struggles with activity, reach out to your primary care physician or call me for a free consultation.