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Written by Dr Kathleen Lawson
App.Sc.(Clin), B.Chiro.Sc(RMIT), DACNB, FFAAFN, FACFN, MCAA
As caring parents, our focus is on looking after our kids – giving them lots of learning and growing experiences and as many opportunities as possible to shine. Our other big concern is protecting our children and keeping them safe as they learn resilience. Springfree Trampolines offers families a great resource to nurture and support children as they grow – both physically and neurologically. Let me explain why…
A better brain means a better body and therefore better thinking and decisions, right? And a better brain can be achieved with strategic forms of play – that’s where a Springfree Trampoline comes in! Spending time playing on a Springfree – the safest trampoline in the world – is actually one of the best ways to help build and strengthen a growing brain, not just a growing body. You might think this is a big claim, but here’s how it works…
One of the first things we do with newborn babies (especially when we’re trying to help them bring up wind after a feed) is to rock them, pat their backs or bottoms, or gently bounce on the spot as we cuddle them.
When we’re doing these things, not only are we helping them to feel more comfortable, but much more importantly, we’re stimulating their brains with information which helps them to know “which way is up”. This is one of our most crucial instincts for survival, because our bodies are always dealing with the effects of gravity (though we rarely have to think about it). Your child’s vestibular or BALANCE system is what processes this information.
Your vestibular system includes the cerebellum (the major balance organ at the base of your brain), the 3 tiny semicircular canals inside each ear, and 2 other little guys; the saccule & utricle. All these organs send information to your brain, telling you about all sorts of movements – up, down, sideways, diagonal, backwards – you name it. Your brain then has to match up those messages with information about what you see, as well as what’s happening in your joints and soft tissues, to work out where you need to be, and how to get you there safely and efficiently. All this information has to come together to help you develop a sense of where you are in your world – this is called proprioception. Your child’s vestibular system and sense of proprioception have to grow and develop over time just like the rest of their body. That means lots of practice and lots of experience – and the safer you can make it, the better!
To grow and develop successfully, your balance system needs to be stimulated regularly. This is where everyday play activities such as skipping, jumping and rolling become crucial to a child’s healthy development. The more a child’s balance system is activated, the better they are able to work out what their body parts are up to and how they can negotiate their world. That means better coordination because their brain knows what’s going on and can respond quickly and appropriately.
But there’s so much more to it than just the physical side of moving about. When a child’s balance system is stimulated, their brain begins to make pathways which are used later for all sorts of learning, not just movement. Research now shows us that a child who has progressed through the expected physical developmental milestones appropriately (rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, jumping etc), has a much higher likelihood of academic success. That means you learn better if you can move better! This is because the nerve pathways that your brain sets up for physical learning are later also used for academic learning. More simply – your brain works better when you know where your body is in space and you’re able to control and coordinate your physical movements.
A child’s balance systems need practice to get that right, and one of the safest ways to get that practice is by playing in a Springfree Trampoline. Rolling on the mat, bouncing while sitting, and jumping up and down are some of the most efficient ways to gently stimulate a child’s brain with new information about how, when and where their body moves. And that old saying – use it or lose it – applies too, so this is a great argument for us parents to be out there giving it a go too!
Another very important thing your brain needs to be able to do is recognize the difference between when you are moving vs when something in your world is moving. This is about matching what your eyes tell your balance system. Your brain has to change a whole range of activities to keep your eyes still while the rest of you is moving and vice versa. Your body actually has to work really hard to keep your eyes focused when the rest of your body is moving, or to move your eyes across a page to read when everything else needs to stay still. This is of key importance in early learning! The repetitive action of bouncing on a Springfree Trampoline is great brain training, and may help significantly with eye tracking for reading.
Your Springfree Trampoline is an incredibly worthwhile investment – for your whole family! Because it’s the safest trampoline in the world, it is a great tool to help develop physical coordination, aerobic stamina (healthy lung function and blood circulation through your body), strong bones and connective tissues, and most importantly a brain that is ready to learn and take in new information! Physical coordination HAS to happen before academic learning is going to be successful! For a ‘grown-up’ brain and body, it’s one of the best ways to keep it healthy, adaptable, and well-adjusted!
The take-home message from Dr Kath is simple:
1. A healthy brain requires an active body.
2. Growing bodies and brains need good stimulation to practice making good decisions.
3. Your balance system is a major contributor to brain stimulation.
4. Activities which stimulate your balance system can promote healthy brain function.
5. Academic learning and especially learning to read are enhanced by good physical coordination and balance.
6. Springfree™ trampolines offer your family a safe and fun way to build better brains and better bodies, for better living!
Dr Kathleen Lawson
Chiropractor, Consultant – Functional Neurology