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April 19, 2022

The Modern Playground Problem

A carousel of memories plays in your head, you and your friends are running around the metal based playground having what you have proclaimed the best day ever (over and over again!) When you think back to these days, you can almost feel the thrill of spinning round and round on the merry-go-rounds that were the highlight of the playground. You chose a spinner who would stand on the outskirts and work hard to push you and your crew in a circle as fast as you possibly could. You would spin so hard and so fast that the world around you became a blur and you had trouble walking when it stopped which would send you all into fits of laughter. You swore you couldn’t handle being dizzy but seconds later, you were ready to go again!

Unfortunately these merry-go-rounds are almost impossible to find at today’s neighborhood playgrounds. Nowadays, playgrounds are very linear. They are equipped with slides that go in one direction, swings that go back and forth, and wobble bridges that do give kids the slight thrill of an off-balance base, but kids can only go straight across (aka linear). The opportunities for kids to get that spinning sensation is now limited, which is unfortunate because spinning is an extremely important motion in properly developing your little one’s vestibular sense.

Why exactly is spinning so important?  

Rotary (spinning) motion plays a very important part in the development of body awareness, balance, and a strong vestibular sense. It is imperative for kids to move their bodies in all directions for the sensory system to develop an understanding of the body in relation to its surrounding space. When your child spins, their body learns about gravity, the cause and effect of motion, and how to keep their balance in response to this dizzying motion. All of these skills are important to help kids learn to walk in line without touching peers (knowing their spatial awareness) and how sit properly at school without falling out of their chairs (keeping their balance).

It was the thrill of a lifetime to run around the merry-go-round as fast as you could and then jump on without falling. And while your younger self thought this was such a risky thrill, you were really teaching yourself timing, momentum, and how to use those little muscles. Experiential growth is what childhood is all about and helping our kids develop confidence to take risks can begin on the playground when all of their senses are working simultaneously.

What are the consequences of the missing merry-go-rounds?

When children do not engage in enough rotational movement, they can develop issues with lack spatial awareness that can lead to bumping into friends or objects in their paths unintentionally. They may also struggle to sit still in class and fall off their chair or appear uncoordinated. Because these “risky” playground attractions are hard to find, we may have to actually seek out these types of sensory experiences for our kids.

 

BOTTOM LINE:

While we cannot imagine spinning in circles for an extended amount of time (cue motion sickness!) it is imperative that our kids get that rotational or spinning motion practice to develop their body awareness, spacial awareness, and balance. The opportunity for this type of activity has practically been eliminated from most playgrounds today because of safety reasons. While your kid may not get to experience the same joy you had on those nostalgic merry-go-rounds, make your own at home and encourage your child to spin as fast as they can in your office chair or roll down the hills outside over and over again to encourage that rotational movement! Your memories may be different, but the thrill (and dizziness!) will be the same! 

 

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Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

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Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Trusted by 100K parents and counting.

 

@totsontarget

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