Currently, in Tatty Bumpkin Classes, children will be focusing on two Yoga activities:rowing and mouse.
Both of these poses will stimulate your child’s proprioceptive sensory system, helping them to become more aware of their body position and to manage their emotional state, especially their ‘level of alertness’.
What is Proprioception?In 1826 Sir Charles Bell described proprioception as a sense - he called it the sixth sense! He defined it as the sensation which makes us aware of our body position both when we are still and when we are moving.
More recent definitions of proprioception include 'our awareness of any changes in the length and tension of our muscles when we move our joints'. This means our proprioceptive sense is stimulated every time we move a muscle or push or pull on our joints - even against a very slight resistance.
The specialised cells that pick up proprioception- our proprioceptors – are found deep in our muscles, tendons and joints.
To become more aware of your proprioceptive sense and how amazing it is – try this game:
Take one hand above your head, carefully bring your index finger of that hand down to touch your nose. No problem? Now try it with your eyes closed – be careful not to poke your eye! You may be amazed at how accurate you are even though you cannot track the path of your finger with your eyes – this is your proprioceptive sense at work!
|Touch your nose with your eyes closed!|
- It is our proprioceptive sense which will help us to use just right amount of force to pick up a heavy bag of books or a lighter piece of paper.
- Our proprioceptive sense works with our sense of touch to help us to grip a pencil or a glass with just the right amount of pressure.
- Our proprioceptive sense works with our vestibular sense (movement sense) to help us move and explore in a safe and coordinated way.
A Healthy Proprioceptive System and your ChildA healthy proprioceptive system will allow your child:
- To write efficiently and smoothly with a pencil - without pushing so hard that they break the tip or go through the paper.
- To drink from a paper cup without crushing it.
- To hold a family pet gently!
- To actively play and explore in a coordinated and efficient way – not being too rough with their friends or bumping into too many things!
|Children using their proprioception to play together in a Tatty Bumpkin class|
The Regulating Role of ProprioceptionSo far I have talked about how the proprioceptive system helps us to be more aware of our body and so co-ordinate our movement – whether we are looking or not – but proprioception also has a wondrous effect on our emotional state and hence our behaviour.
Proprioception is the sense our bodies will accept and tolerate the best-along with deep pressure touch for this reason it is often called the ‘safe sense’ by paediatric occupational and physiotherapists. Proprioception has regulatory influence over all our sensory systems and helps us to manage our ‘level of arousal’, this is especially true for children.
Proprioception can have
- A calming effect on your child. For example if they have become:
- Very excited as a result of movement e.g. after jumping up and down or visiting fairground or soft play areas.
- Very anxious or upset as a result of touch e.g. they have felt something they dislike – scratchy clothes!
- An organising effect on your child. For example if they are finding it hard to sit still - constantly fidgeting.
- A gentle alerting effect on your child. For example if they are finding it hard to wake up in the morning!
Providing your child with appropriate amounts of proprioceptive rich activities throughout their day, as often they need or desire them, could have a very positive effect on their behaviour.
Movement and Proprioception – The 'Hard Work' senseFor our proprioceptive sense to be fully stimulated we need to actively move or work our muscles hard! Therapists also call this sense the ‘hard work’ sense!
For example, if we wrap our arms around us we will put pressure on our skin, muscles and joints – but this would largely stimulate our touch receptors. To stimulate our proprioceptors we need to actively squeeze or muscles!
Similarly someone can give us a hug – again this would stimulate our deep touch receptors but if we actively pushed against the hug (in a calm way!) or squeezed our own body ourselves we would also stimulate our proprioceptors.
Now let’s look at our two Tatty Bumpkin Yoga activities and see the how they can give your child a rich proprioceptive experience.
Tatty Bumpkin's Rowing Yoga ActivityRowing pose is a great activity for your child to do with you – do respect your body though - if you know you have any health issues i.e. back, neck problems always consult a health professional first.
- Find a clear place on a mat or carpet where you can both do the pose without bumping into anything.
- Remember to take off socks and shoes – this will enable you and your child to use your feet effectively as you move in rowing pose.
|Row.row the boat!|
- Start by sitting opposite your child – with your legs spread apart out in front of you. Guide your child to position their legs inside yours. If you have tight hamstrings you may have to bend your knees a little so you don’t strain your back.
- Gently hold each other’s wrists - this is much more comfortable than holding hands.
- Now rock backwards and forwards – working together - one person rocks back as the other comes forward. As you rock sing ‘Row, row the boat!’ This will help you keep a steady rhythm which is important – see below.
- You, or your child, might feel some ‘tightness’ at the back of your legs as you stretch out your hamstring muscles. This should just be a gentle stretch, if you feel you are straining your back then do bend your knees some more.
- Watch your child as you do the pose – if they are starting to get too rough or over-excited, stop! Repeat the pose this time offering your child some resistance, so they have to pull more to move your forwards, and keep a steady rhythm. See below on why this can help.
- Do rowing pose for a verse or two of ‘Row, row the boat’ then take a rest. This will ensure your child does not get too excited.
Tatty Bumpkin’s Rowing Yoga Activity and the Proprioceptive SenseAs your child your child contracts and stretches their muscles in rowing pose, working their shoulder and tummy muscles, they will be stimulating their proprioceptive sense. You can gently activate your child’s proprioceptive sense further by:
- Providing them with some resistance as they pull you towards them
- Encouraging your child to gently offer you some resistance as you pull them towards you!
Because of its impact on proprioceptive system, rowing pose is an great ‘movement break’ for your child. You can do the activity to help your child become more alert if they are feeling drowsy, after sitting too long, or to help them regain focus (for homework) if they are fidgeting and wanting to move.
Additional Benefits of Rowing Pose
1. Improves sitting balance and posture
As your child rocks back and forth in rowing pose they will be working their tummy and back muscles. Strengthening these muscles will help your child maintain a good sitting posture. In addition, your child will be refining their sitting balance skills - these will help them be more aware of an upright sitting posture.
2. Develops social and communication skills
As your child does rowing pose with their friends, their nursery worker or you, they will be developing their social and communication skills.
Tatty Bumpkin's Mouse Yoga ActivityMouse pose is another great activity for your child to do with you.
- Find a clear place on a non-slip surface e.g. mat or carpet where you can the pose without bumping into anything.
- Remember to take off socks and shoes so your child is more aware of their feet as they curl them up.
|A tiny, little mouse!|
- Sit back on your heels on the mat or carpet opposite your child and encourage them to do the same. Show your child how to they can curl forwards to bring their head down to the floor in front of their knees. Often the instruction ‘kiss your knees’ can be helpful.
- If your child lies on their tummy instead, reassure them and show them the pose again – you might have to gently guide younger children into the curled mouse position.
- Once curled up encourage older children to imagine they are squeezing their body into the smallest possible space – just like a tiny, tiny mouse! Remember to truly stimulate their proprioceptive sense your child needs to actively squeeze their body and work their muscles.
- Encourage your child to hold the mouse pose for 5 – 10 seconds. Then maybe move up into crawl to scamper forwards like a mouse on the mat!!
- Repeat mouse pose a few times – encouraging your child to curl up and squeeze their body,
|Tiny, little mouse!|
Tatty Bumpkin’s Mouse Yoga Activity and the Proprioceptive SenseAs your child curls up and squeezes their body to be a tiny little mouse they will be stimulating their proprioceptive sense. Because they are not moving their head in this pose your child will not have the added stimulation from their vestibular sense – this makes mouse pose a very calming, organising pose for your child.
Encourage your child to be a mouse if they are finding it hard to settle down after playing with their friends or are needing to calm down for bath and bed after being out shopping in a busy street with you.
Additional Benefits of Mouse Pose
1. Improves muscle strength and co-ordination
In mouse pose your child will be curling up or ‘flexing’ their whole body. Full body flexion requires the brain and body to activate all of the flexor muscles of the body at once, which not only helps your child to strengthen these muscle groups but also helps your child to co-ordinate them as a group.
2. Develops fine motor skills
Encourage your child to move their fingers to ‘twitch their mouse whiskers’ this will help them strengthen their fingers for fine motor skills such as writing and doing up buttons.
Proprioceptive Activities to Help your Child Regulate Themselves over Christmas!Christmas is exciting! So naturally your child may spend a great deal of their day in a hyper-alert state.
In the next post I will suggest some proprioceptive activities which can help your child feel more grounded at this time of year!
Love Tatty Bumpkin x
Find out about your local Tatty Bumpkin class at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/classes/find-class.html. Or, ask your child’s nursery if they are doing Tatty Bumpkin Yoga activity sessions as part of their day.
A New Start with Tatty Bumpkin?Or, maybe, you are thinking of a new career which gives you:
- The opportunity to work with kids
- A great sense of job satisfaction and
- Flexible working to fit around your own family