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Why children love to rotate: Let’s talk about the vestibular system.

child roatating

One of our most popular lesson plans with primary school children is our lesson centred around rotation. Why is this particular concept so popular? We need to look no further than the vestibular system.

What is the vestibular system?

The vestibular system is our body’s internal GPS. It sends sensory information such as motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation to the brain via the inner ear and the nervous system. As the vestibular system develops it helps tell the body how and where to move, and where it is currently in space. It’s vital for balance, hand-eye coordination, and making sense of our surroundings. Engaging the vestibular system is imperative for brain development.

Why are kids craving rotation?

Children born in the 2010’s have been lucky enough to become part of a world packed to the brim with technological innovation. However, this innovation has come at a cost for our children’s vestibular system. Higher curriculum pressures and more screen time had led to a decrease in physical activity levels for children under 12. Currently only 29% of children aged 5-12 years undertake the recommended amount of physical activity per day (60 minutes of high or moderate intensity activity).

Children don’t go outside and play like they used to. They no longer hang from trees and roll down hills in their free time. This means the vestibular system is not developing the way it used to and the brain craves this development. Some children will rock on their chair in class, teachers can find this frustrating but often the child can’t help it, their brain simply needs this vestibular input.

What can we do?

Lucky for us, there is a very simple solution to this problem. Gymnastics is one of the few sports that requires and encourages children to rotate on all 3 axis of the body. It also involves kids turning themselves upside down and pushing them out of their comfort zone in spatial awareness. Gymnastics doesn’t have to be done only at school or in a gym. Get down to the local park with your children, find a big hill to roll down or a playground to hang from. Get them turning, spinning and rolling. They’ll have a blast and their brain will thank you as well.


Department of Health 2014. Australia's physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines for children (5–12 years). Canberra: Department of Health.

ABS 2013. Australian Health Survey: physical activity, 2011–12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.004. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Balter, S. G., Stokroos, R. J., Akkermans, E., & Kingma, H. (2004). Habituation to galvanic vestibular stimulation for analysis of postural control abilities in gymnasts. Neuroscience letters, 366(1), 71-75.

Garcia, C., Barela, J. A., Viana, A. R., & Barela, A. M. F. (2011). Influence of gymnastics training on the development of postural control. Neuroscience letters, 492(1), 29-32.


Author: Genevieve Gibson, 25-Aug-2016