When we think of senses, the first thing that comes to our mind are the five senses. The ones we learn at school and carry with us throughout our life.
But did you know that there are actually seven senses directly related to everything we do daily in our lives? Each one of them is just as important as the other and together they work to send signals to our brain, assisting us to navigate and find our place within different environments.
So what are the other two senses that we use each and every day?
When do they typically develop?
These both begin to develop in the womb – in fact the vestibular system is the first sensory system to be fully developed. However, we don’t start to see the signs of this until 6-8 months old as babies begin to imitate, experiment with cause and effect and begin to experiment with motor planning to successfully roll, sit and crawl.
What are some signs my child might be having difficulties?
Sensory processing difficulties can present themselves in many ways and can affect each person differently. Some children exhibit clumsiness, poor coordination and are prone to accidents; others show concern with memory, sequencing, timing and understanding verbal and non verbal communication. Some children need to move their body to listen and comprehend, while others exhibit exaggerated emotional reactions to situations. This just means that the child requires a little bit of extra support and input to learn and engage in the world around them.
So what can we, as parents, carers and educators do to support these little ones in our care?
- Educate ourselves in sensory processing and how each sense develops. By doing so, we are more likely to notice difficulties at a younger age and seek the assistance needed.
- Let them explore and play! We need to provide the opportunity to risk take and engage in play requiring balance and spatial awareness. Provide open ended opportunities for this through climbing, swinging, obstacles and other activities that allow that risk taking play.
- If you have any concerns about your child, see your local health professional to gain a second opinion and access any supports you may need – early intervention truly does make such a huge difference for children’s development.
What kind of activities are good for the development of the vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems?
- Tummy time and floor play
- Playgrounds with seesaws, swings, monkey bars, climbing frames and slides
- Obstacle courses (these can be more advanced for older children or by simply placing items in the child’s way during tummy time/floor time and seeing how they navigate around it)
- Walking over uneven surfaces – take a walk on the sand, over rocks, bush walks etc.
- Crashing and wrestling – done safely these are amazing activities for children to not only gain sensory input but understand the amount of force needed for play before it becomes hurtful.
- Gross motor activities that require a range of movements such as animal walks, jumping and crawling – our Gross Motor Discs and Tiles are perfect for this!