7 Elements of Play: Spinning

June 02, 2016

spinning on playgroundThis month in our 7 elements of play series, we’re focusing on spinning.

Spinning provides children with rich sensory stimulation, thinking while in motion, postural control and social interaction.

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In general, spinning helps kids build

  • Kinesthetic awareness
  • Cognitive development
  • Vestibular system
  • Muscle tone and endurance

Let Me Touch That!

Kinesthetic awareness is the body’s ability to coordinate motion and the body’s awareness of where it is in time and space. For example, kinesthetic awareness allows a group to move in harmony together rather than bumping into each other.

For kids, kinesthetic awareness helps them know where they are or how close they are to other people or things. It helps them understand personal space. Those kids you see walking down the hall with their hands touching the wall or who bump into others while lining up do this because they need this touch – they may have poor kinesthetic awareness.

I had a little girl with poor kinesthetic awareness and sensory processing disorder. She just had to touch and feel everything. She was very tactile. For instance, she would tear the wrapper off every crayon. She would tear things off the wall as we walked down the hallway.  When she went out to the playground, she didn’t enjoy playing on the equipment; she would gather things such as tree bark, or dig in the dirt. Our concern was that she would continue to be distracted by the need to touch when she got to kindergarten and would be unable to stay focused on her school work. I suggested that it might be a good idea to keep her in preschool another year so that she could get more activities like spinning to help develop her kinesthetic awareness.

How Does Spinning Help Children in the Classroom?

spinning helps in classroom

We talked about the vestibular system in our swinging elements of play post. There are many studies that show activities such as spinning or other physical movement through space helps develop a child’s brain and their ability to pay attention. These activities can actually help the senses work better.

A hypersensitive child – one who is extremely sensitive to vestibular input – may fear spinning, getting dizzy within seconds. However, spinning can be used as a tolerance builder. Having longer sessions on a spinner will help them tolerate an increasing amount of vestibular input.

Vestibular stimulation helps the brain decide whether it’s ready for more learning or needs sleep to help process what has already been learned.

I had twin boys in class – one was a sensory seeker, the other pulled away from it. The one who pulled away was also a sloucher, W-sitter and had vestibular issues. When he went to the playground, he literally could not pull himself up on the platform or deck of the play equipment; instead he would just lay his upper body over it. He didn’t like to climb and was clearly uncomfortable on a sit and spin seat. One day, we could tell that he was getting frustrated with his inability to pull himself up on a platform.  We put him on a spinner and gently got him use to the spinning motion. After a few spins in each direction, he jumped off and ran over to the platform and pulled himself up on it.  We continued to use playground activities to help with his vestibular development.

Cognitive Development, Muscle Tone & Endurance

Spinning helps coordinationJust think about when kids are spinning. What a great way for them to understand speed, force and direction. Put a group of children on a spinner and let them feel the motion together. Ask kids questions about their spinning experience, such as what does that feel like? Do you like it? How fast do you think you were going?

  • Spinning promotes social interaction. They learn to take turns and you might hear screams of joy as they spin faster and faster!
  • Spinning is a great activity for those “sloucher” children, helping to build better muscle tone and endurance.

Tip: Be sure to have kids spin both directions; it helps their brains learn how to register rotary input.

And, be sure to read the entire 7 Elements of Play series and related content.

Play Learn Grow TogetherWant to learn more? I give an educational presentation about the importance of playground activities, how these different elements of play contribute to a child’s success in the classroom.

Play, Learn and Grow with Us!
Jami Murdock Jami Murdock

Jami has been an early childhood educator for 25 years. She operated an “in home” daycare center for 13 years and has been teaching preschool for the past 12 years. She has experience working with children on the autism spectrum and sensory processing dysfunction. Jami presents on “How Important are Playground Activities to a Child’s Success in the Classroom.” Her passion is her family and her work with children.

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