“Proprioception”: what a mouthful!
Referred to as one of the “hidden senses”, your proprioceptive sense relies on receptors in your joints and muscles communicating to/from the brain to give you feedback about connection. We can think about it like this: if I raise my arms above my head and close my eyes, I still know where my arms are in space, even if I can’t see them. We rely on the proprioceptive system for this information.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, in my field we encounter kids who frequently have under- or over-responsive proprioceptive systems. An under-responsive child is one who is usually seeking more input. This often looks like the “clumsy” child who is “always crashing into things”. This child often moves quickly and seeks opportunities to get more feedback on their body. They do well with climbing, jumping, and crashing activities. They love to move, swing, and rock their bodies.
A child who is over-responsive might have low muscle tone or appear to have difficulty even holding themselves upright against the pull of gravity. They are often slumping over, lying down, and it just seems harder for them than their peers to climb, jump, and run.
Products that enable kids to climb and move are essential elements for children on both ends of this range. A child with low muscle tone who fatigues easily can benefit from navigating across the Wooden Play Cube. A child who is constantly on the move and seeking opportunities for more feedback can benefit from gently rocking in the rocker, using their muscles to climb and traverse the Wooden Rockers, and jumping off of the Rock CLimbing Ramps to crash in Pillows below.
And, of course, all children, including the majority of them who are right in the middle of the curve, benefit from activities which help them solidify these connections between brain and body. Climbing the Climbers, jumping off the Rockers, and navigating from one surface to another, such as on a Playset are fun and important ways to help your child’s nervous system develop.
This article was written in collaboration with our resident Occupational Therapist Rebekah Tolin OTR/L. Have a question for our OTs? Let us know in the comments!