Our Head of Learning Support – Jade Browett – is a passionate advocate for moving and learning and explains here why the two are so closely linked.
“Body awareness and movement – and in particular, proprioception and vestibular sense – is something that really resonated with me both at Uni and when I started delving into attention interventions for our children at school. They are really important and essential parts of childhood physical development, and something I know I work on with my own children at home.
Proprioception is essentially our hidden sixth sense.
It is what tells you where our body is within space. It is how our body parts move without having to look at them. It makes our bodies make sense of gravity. It’s the reason you can kick a ball without looking at your feet or being able to touch your nose with your eyes closed or even shovel popcorn in your mouth without taking your eyes off Chris Hemsworth whilst watching Thor.
Without properly developed proprioception, kids can push too hard during play with others. They may lack balance and fall off their chairs in class or at the dinner table, or trip up stairs constantly. You’ll often see this as toddler behaviour as they haven’t had the opportunity to develop it correctly yet. These difficulties could also be underlying issues, if extreme, so these are some starting points.
Vestibular sense is also important. This provides information about where the body is in relation to its space around it.
This is the sense that helps you understand balance, and it connects with all the other senses. Without a strong vestibular sense, kids will have no choice but to fidget about, bump into people, get frustrated, experience more falls and aggressive outbursts, get too close to people when talking, and struggle with focusing and listening. Because they literally cannot help it. This needs to be practised – and practised a lot.
In order for your children to learn to listen to instructions, focus on a task and follow directions, they need to develop proprioception and vestibular sense.
This can be achieved through many physical challenges. Hence why health experts bang on constantly about children needing physical exercise in a world surrounded by screens (even screens that we use sometimes to help our children learn.)
Without it, kids find it so difficult to pay attention in school because they are simply too distracted by their own bodies and how they work. Putting clothes on, trying new foods, finishing homework all become insurmountable tasks when children don’t have a strong vestibular sense or well-developed proprioception.
Kids need to play, and need to play with risk involved, to support their need of understanding their bodies and its relation with its surrounds.
They need to climb trees, hang upside down, go rock hopping at Narrabeen pool, push and pull objects, carry heavy loads (shopping bags from car to kitchen is fantastic), jump on a trampoline and get used to how their body can move. Some children will need more of this than others, and you know your child better than anyone.
You’re probably wondering why I am banging on about getting your kids moving when you may want them to sit still and listen! They will do that – but only once their body has had time to regulate and move. Only then can you put the next crucial steps in place and have your child focus.”
At St Joseph’s, the days of sitting still on the mat or staying in your chair behind a desk are long gone! We understand the importance of children being able to exert their physical energy to allow them to focus on their learning. We regularly get the students up and moving (getting the ‘wiggles out’) and our teachers are all keenly focused on the individual and whole class requirements in terms of how often that takes place.
All our teachers are passionate advocates of children starting the day right and continuing it with consistent energy. Year 4 teacher Miss Britton works with her students to run a few laps around the playground before most school days, and everyone is left smiling and refreshed – ready to kickstart their day!
Tools such as break out portable workspaces, stand up desks and wobble chairs all also help children be able to move and think in partnership.