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Monday, October 20, 2014

Are Bouncy Balls the Answer to "Fidgety" Kids?

From the TimberNook Blog

By Angela Hanscom, MOT, OTR/L
August 28, 2014

The article, WHY CHILDREN FIDGET: And what we can do about it, captured the attention of millions. This started a heated discussion aimed at finding solutions to the growing concern of more and more children having trouble paying attention in school and the lack of movement that is causing the problem in the first place.

Many said, "This is great knowledge. But what do we do about this?"

Here are the solutions our readers suggested:

  • Jumping Rope
  • Reflex Integration
  • Yoga
  • Sitting on Balance Balls
  • Using Special Chairs that Allow Children to Wiggle
  • Playing with Fidgets
  • Elastic bands on the chairs
  • Taking quick breaks throughout the day to move
  • Longer Recess
  • Play outdoors after school

What do you think? Will this be enough?

Some of these are pieces to the puzzle, some are ideas or different ways of compensating for an existing problem. The important thing here is that we step back and look at the whole-picture.

In order to create change, we need to first address the underlying issues and to understand them well.

We know now that movement plays a big part in why children are having trouble paying attention and even learning in school. Now we need to understand what type of movement is going to help children develop a fully functioning and capable physical, sensory, and neurological system.

This leads me back to the ball question: Does bouncing on balls help with the fidgets?

Yes and No. Bouncing on balls will help activate the brain to pay attention. It will also work on core strength. However, it is really more of a compensation technique. A temporary solution to a much greater problem.

Children need rapid vestibular (balance sense) movement in all planes on a regular basis. They need to truly move their body in all directions in order to stimulate the little hair cells found in their inner ear complex to develop healthy sensory systems.

This means things like: going upside down, spinning in circles, doing cartwheels, and climbing to new heights. This will not be accomplished while sitting on a ball, playing with fidgets, or kicking an elastic band. Although, great compensation techniques, they don't address the underlying causes to the sensory disorganization in the first place.

In addition to our adult ideas and strategies, let us not forget what it is like to be a child. If you were a child, what changes would you like to see? I can guarantee that play - true play, where you get to decide the rules, would be a top-priority. In fact, PLAY is the key to healthy sensory, social, physical, and neurological development.

Through play, children naturally move their bodies in all different ways as they run, spin, jump, crawl, climb, and play chase. They activate all of their senses when this play is brought outdoors - further enhancing sensory development. When you add peers to the mixture, they get to practice and fine-tune their social skills.

Play time is not wasted time. It teaches them invaluable life skills and gets their minds and bodies ready to learn. Lets find a way to let children play for hours everyday and break down any barriers that stand in the way.

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