top of page

Rocking and Rolling to Early Writing: How Vestibular and Proprioceptive Development boosts Literacy

As early childhood professionals, we know that early writing skills are critical for a child's academic success. But did you know that the development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems can play a significant role in supporting early writing skills? In this blog, we will explore the relationship between vestibular and proprioceptive development and early writing skills, and provide practical strategies for supporting the development of these systems in young children.



The Vestibular Sense

This sense is responsible for our sense of balance and spatial orientation. It is located in the inner ear and provides information to the brain about the position and movement of our head and body in relation to gravity.


The vestibular system is critical for the development of many important skills, including balance, coordination, spatial awareness, and postural control. Children who have difficulty with their vestibular system may struggle with basic movements, such as walking, running, and jumping. They may also have trouble sitting still or maintaining a stable posture, which can impact their ability to engage in learning activities.


So, how can we support the development of the vestibular system in early childhood? Here are a few specific examples of activities that early years professionals can use:

  1. Balance activities: Activities that challenge children's balance are excellent for developing their vestibular system. For example, educators can set up a balance beam, a wobble board, or a balance cushion for children to practice walking or standing on. Encourage children to move in different directions and on different surfaces to challenge their balance and coordination.

  2. Spinning activities: Spinning is another excellent way to stimulate the vestibular system. Children can spin on a tyre swing or a round-about, or educators can have them spin around in a chair or with their arms extended. Make sure to monitor children closely during spinning activities and stop if they show signs of discomfort or dizziness.

  3. Inverted activities: Inverted activities, such as hanging upside down or doing somersaults, also stimulate the vestibular system. Encourage children to hang from a bar or do a forward roll to provide sensory input to the vestibular system.



The Proprioceptive Sense

Now, let's move on to the proprioceptive sense. This sense provides information about the position and movement of our limbs and joints. It is located in the muscles and joints and helps us to coordinate our movements and sense where our body parts are in space.


The proprioceptive sense is critical for the development of many important skills, including gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and body awareness. Children who have difficulty with their proprioceptive sense may struggle with basic movements, such as catching a ball or tying their shoes. They may also have difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as handwriting or buttoning clothes.



So, how can we support the development of the proprioceptive sense in early childhood? Here are a few specific examples of activities that educators can use:

  1. Heavy work activities: Heavy work activities involve pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy objects. These activities provide sensory input to the proprioceptive system and help to develop the muscles and joints. Examples of heavy work activities include carrying a filled backpack, pushing a shopping trolley, or pushing a wheelbarrow.

  2. Resistance activities: Resistance activities involve applying pressure to the muscles and joints. These activities also provide sensory input to the proprioceptive system and help to develop the muscles and joints. Examples of resistance activities include squeezing a 'stress' ball, pushing against a wall, or using resistance materials such as lycra.

  3. Body awareness activities: Body awareness activities involve helping children become more aware of their body and its movements. These activities help to develop the proprioceptive system by providing feedback about the position and movement of the body. Examples of body awareness activities include yoga, dance, and stretching.



The Relationship Between Vestibular and Proprioceptive Development and Early Writing Skills

The development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems is critical for the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of young children. But how do these systems support the development of early writing skills?

  1. Fine Motor Skills: Fine motor skills are critical for early writing, as they involve the small muscles of the hand and wrist that are required for gripping and manipulating writing tools. The development of fine motor skills is closely linked to the proprioceptive system, as it requires an understanding of the position and movement of the fingers and hands. Activities such as finger painting, squeezing playdough, or picking up small objects can help to develop fine motor skills, which are important for early writing.

  2. Hand-Eye Coordination: Hand-eye coordination is essential for children to accurately guide their pencil or pen across the page. The development of hand-eye coordination is closely linked to the vestibular system, as it requires an understanding of spatial orientation and balance. Activities such as balancing on one leg or walking along a balance beam can help to develop hand-eye coordination, which is important for early writing.

  3. Spatial Awareness: Spatial awareness refers to the ability to understand the position of objects in space and how they relate to one another. This skill is critical for early writing, as children must be able to understand the relationships between letters and words on the page. The development of spatial awareness is closely linked to the vestibular system, as it requires an understanding of balance and spatial orientation. Activities such as drawing simple pictures or copying shapes can help to develop spatial awareness, which is important for early writing.

  4. Attention and Memory: Attention and memory are critical cognitive skills that support the development of early writing. Children must be able to focus their attention on the task at hand and remember the shapes and movements required to form letters and words. The development of attention and memory is closely linked to the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, as they require coordination between the body and the brain. Activities such as movement breaks or sensory play can help to develop attention and memory, which are important for early writing.



Practical Strategies for Supporting the Development of Vestibular and Proprioceptive Systems

Movement activities are an excellent way to support the development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Activities such as running, jumping, skipping, or dancing can help to develop balance, coordination, and spatial awareness. Incorporating movement breaks throughout the day can also help children to focus their attention and improve their memory.


Tactile activities are another way to support the development of the proprioceptive system. Activities such as playing with playdough, molding clay, or digging in sand can help children to understand the position and movement of their fingers and hands. These activities can also help to develop fine motor skills, which are important for early writing.


Sensory play involves engaging the senses in various ways, such as exploring textures, smells, and sounds. Sensory play can help to support the development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems by providing children with opportunities to move their bodies and explore their environment. Activities such as playing with water, sand, or sensory bins can help to develop balance, coordination, and spatial awareness.


Outdoor play provides children with opportunities to engage in movement and sensory experiences in a natural environment. Activities such as climbing trees, playing on swings, or exploring nature can help to develop balance, coordination, and spatial awareness. Outdoor play also provides children with opportunities to explore their environment in new and exciting ways, which can help to support their cognitive and emotional development.


Writing activities provide children with opportunities to practice and develop their early writing skills. Activities such as tracing letters or shapes, drawing pictures, or writing simple words can help to develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and attention and memory. Incorporating writing activities into daily routines can help children to build the skills they need for early writing success.


Incorporating these strategies into daily routines can help to support the development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, which can in turn support early writing skills. As educators, we can play a critical role in supporting the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of young children by providing them with opportunities to engage in movement, sensory, and writing activities that promote the development of these systems.


Conclusion

The development of the vestibular and proprioceptive systems is critical for the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of young children. These systems support the development of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, attention and memory, which are all important for early writing skills. As educators, we can support the development of these systems by incorporating movement, sensory, and writing activities into daily routines. By providing children with opportunities to engage in these activities, we can help to support their early writing success and set them on a path towards academic achievement.




bottom of page