Swing & Sway: How Rhythmic Movement Builds Children's Brains

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Brain Gains:

Swing and Sway Your Child to Sensory and Neural Integration

Here is a sweet and simple blog:

Rhythmic movement facilitates

neural-motor integration.

If you want to know more, read on…

Rhythmic movement is good for soothing the sympathetic branch of the nervous system; the branch that is responsible for fight, flight and freezing coping strategies and responses to stress and trauma.

Rhythmic movement invokes the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system; the branch that is responsible for rest and digesting, for calming, grounding and centering.

Rhythmic movements train the vestibular system; the branch of the sensory system that helps us to balance, understand our spatial orientation in order to coordinate movement with balance.

Rhythmic movements train the proprioceptive system; the branch of the sensory system that helps us to understand a ‘sense of self’ in relation to where we are in space. Proprioception orients us to where we are and helps us to get to where we want to go or do.

Even more simply, Rhythmic movement helps young children with:

  • Stimulation and organization of the whole brain

  • Increasing the connections between the major discreet areas of the brain (brain stem, cerebellum, limbic system and neocortex)

  • Integration of primary reflexes

  • Integration of nervous system functions

  • Integration of neuro-motor skills

  • Encourage the growth of nerve nets that connect the brain stem, cerebellum, and neocortex to proliferate

  • Improvement in body posture, breathing and endurance

  • Improvement of attention, focus and memory recall

  • Regulation of activity and sensory integration

  • Soothing sensations, feelings of well-being and interconnectedness

Do you remember when you first held your precious child in your arms, and do you also remember an imperceptible beckon to sway when holding your dear one? It is the most natural posture when holding a newborn, to rock back and forth. Without knowing why, we as parents are helping our children to build their brains through rhythmic movement. Children learn by moving. Children’s brains are built through movement and sensory processing.

So, if you want to keep this robust growth going with your toddler or preschooler, one of the simplest ways is to continue to rock that child! A lovely way to achieve this is for 2 adults to hold the short ends of a folded blanket, with the child lying in the middle, like a hammock. The adults lift the child up gently, and then begin a slow rock from side to side. Check in with your child, to adjust the swing tempo to their particular needs. You may have one child who wants to swing swiftly, while another may like to sway more slowly. And, please remember to ask each and every time, because your child may like to explore shifts in their preferences, as day to day these may change.

Because your child is very vulnerable in this activity, and they will have no control over the experience, it is crucially important that it is carried out with warmth, love and without any violations in their trust. Please do not ever play games with your child by swinging faster than they want to go, as it will negatively affect your bond with them. Instead, focus on the myriad benefits for you both by keeping the exchange gentle, warm and loving.

Ms. Christine and I have been swaying children with amazing results. We find that they are calmer and they enjoy the experience tremendously. We even notice that some children like to pull the blanket in and around themselves, recreating a womb-like cave.

This activity will have many blessed effects for your child and your family, increasing the bond between you through sharing an activity that is not only joyful but also resourceful. Just please be mindful of your own spinal health during this activity. For the adults or older children holding the younger child in the blanket, be sure to bend your knees slightly so that the effort is transferred to your legs, and not burdening your spine. And only a few minutes are most beneficial. In fact, it is preferable to do this for a short time more consistently, then to have long sessions occasionally.

If it is not possible for you to share this activity with your child, then a second best option would be to take your child to a park and share swinging with them. Sit beside them and swing away! Refamiliarize yourself with this incredible kid-sport. Your brain and your nervous system will thank me!

May you enjoy the sweet sensations of swinging and swaying with your child.

References:

H. Blomberg. (2015). The rhythmic movement method: A revolutionary approach to improved health and well-being. Morrisville, NC: Lulu Publishing.

H. Blomberg, & M. Dempsey. (2011). Movements that heal: Rhythmic movement training and primitive reflex integration. Melbourne, Australia. Beyond the Sea Squirt Publisher.

S. Goddard. (2005). Reflexes, learning and behaviour: A window into the child’s mind. Eugene, OR: Fern Ridge Press.