One of my most favorite memories as a young child was walking to the neighborhood park with friends on cool, summer days. (Those days actually do exist in Pennsylvania where I grew up!) Once there, we would race to see who could make it to the merry-go-round first, bypassing most of the other structures like slides and swings. Then, with squeals of delight, we would spin and spin and spin, seldom stopping unless one of us fell off (and even that was debatable). Not once did we ever stop because of feeling queasy.
Now, however, as an adult, I can barely watch that same spinning motion from the sidelines without immediately feeling seasick and dizzy. One would think this would deter me from allowing my own children to play on such a structure. However, I still find great joy in watching them twirl and whirl on the merry-go-round at our nearby Phil Hardberger Park, a favorite here in San Antonio.
Thanks to several generous donors, SAA celebrated the opening of our brand new primary playground this school year. In addition to fresh slides, monkey bars, and climbing ropes, there is also a structure known as “O’Tannenbaum”, a tree-shaped merry-go-round that allows children to both climb and spin simultaneously. This new item is sure to be one of our boys’ most favorite activities during afternoon recess.
To them, it will quite simply be a fun, adventurous activity. In reality, though, their bodies actually crave that movement in order to further develop their nervous systems. In a 2017 article published by The Pennsylvania State University, it was noted that:
“Spinning in circles is one of the best activities to help children gain a good sense of body awareness. Through spinning they figure out where their 'center' is and then are more able to coordinate movement on the two sides of the body. Rather than making children susceptible to falls, spinning actually improves a child’s surefootedness, and it also improves their ability to concentrate in the classroom.”
So the next time you see your sons spinning incessantly in your living room, feverishly rolling down a tall hill, or racing to get the best spot on “O’Tannenbaum”, sit back (likely from afar if you get lightheaded like me) and smile. Yes, they are having fun! However, they are also preparing their mind and bodies for the magic that will happen within the classroom walls as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- how boys learn
- outdoor learning