Monday, August 24

Rocking, Swinging, and Brain Development

I am currently reading Sharifa Oppenheimer's book, Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children. In it she talks about outside activities. (The book, by the way, is great for anyone interested in Waldorf education in the home). She writes: "Swinging and rocking motion both gentle and vigorous, stimulates proper brain growth and "wires" the different areas of the brain together." After reading this statement, I recalled the time during my Montessori internship when I was told about the positive effects that rocking chairs can have on children. We had a rocking chair in the room that was frequently used. Children sat in it at anytime during the day when they wanted to and it was enjoyed by everyone. My professor always said it slowed the heart rate and released endorphins which elevate the child's mood. Rocking chairs also have been shown to provide a calming effect and relieve pain. In Sharifa's book, she suggests having a swing, hammock or seesaw outside and a rocking chair inside.

Here are two examples of activities we have available in our home which involve rocking. This first is a balance board. Balance boards come in different styles and some are easier than others. This one is great for my "nearly" two year old. It is too easy for her older sister so eventually I would like to get a more advanced one when this one is outgrown.

We also have a fantastic rocking moose that gets used almost daily by both children. They do some vigorous rocking on it and it nice to have on those days when we are stuck inside due to the weather.

...And of course, there is always holding them and rocking. They never seem to tire of that =)


Gypsy said...

Sharifa's book is wonderful isn't it - I love it. I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts on it from a Montessori teacher perspective, is there anything you really disagree with or do you find you can work with both approaches without conflict?

Anonymous said...

I have just read her book and thought it was beautifully inspiring... and to Gypsy I would say that her 'rhythms' are so similar to the structure encouraged in Montessori, providing secure, predictable, loving and respectful routines for children.. I'm putting many of her chapters into practice bit by bit in my mainly montessori home-ed home, including her ideas for open-ended play as home-based children can't JUST be exposed to a 'classroom' type environment for the entire day!!

Best Wishes, Jenni

sunnymama said...

This is really interesting, thanks for posting this! I haven't read Sharifa Oppenheimer's book, but would love to.

Teri Selbher said...

Would you be willing to share where you found both items in the pictures please?

Making of a Montessori Mum said...

this makes so much sense to me. My girl did and still does LOVE rocking and will ask for it when very upset.

She can be on a swing in the playground for up to an hour non-stop, loves her rocking horse at home.

When she was in her first year we actually had her in an Amby baby hammock which rocks them as they sleep, just as they rocked and moved in the womb prebirth. She loved it!

will check out that book. Thanks.

boatbaby said...

Funny because when my son was a babe he was as mellow as they come and everyone said "well you all live on a BOAT and he's rocking ALL the time, of course he's mellow." I've often wondered how living aboard a boat continues to impact him in those subtle ways, both in utero (he was transverse breech) and as he grows.

Darcel said...

I'll have to add that book to my reading list. We have a bouncy/rocking horse. I would love to get the girls some rocking chairs.

BabyParentingCoach said...

Very inspiring and beautiful blog! I'm so glad to have found it, and will pass it along. Thank you!

Amy said...

Gypsy- I enjoy your blog also. I find that I appreciate everything I have learned about Waldorf and agree with Jenni when she says there is need for both on a daily basis. I only had issue with one aspect and that is the Waldorf indulgence in fairies, gnomes, and other imaginative things that don't exist. I don't mind my child playing with them but it seems like waldorf endorses these creatures so much, almost to an extreme. I have issue only because a young child will believe what he/she is told and later won't they have trust issues because of this? So, the Montesorian in me is still coming to terms with this idea. I can appreciate the limitless creativity waldorf inspires and understand that these magical elements are part of it.
Teri- I got the balance board from Magic Cabin and the rocking moose from LL Bean,but it is made by Radio Flyer.
I have really enjoyed reading these comments and everyones thoughts on the subject of rocking and swinging!

Gypsy said...

Interesting comments Amy, I do sometimes wonder if Waldorfians actually believe in gnomes! There is a hilarious (although meant to be serious) article by a Waldorf teacher who is concrned about a song sung in many Waldorf kindergarten a dusty gnomes - apparently they can't be dusty becuase of the very nature of gnomes. Just if you or anyone is interested - in the Waldorf philosophy the 0-7 age is the 'sensitive period' for fantasy, when reality and fantasy are one. Feeding fantasy with talk of gnomes and fairies is seen as beneficial for keeping children in their 'dreamy state'. Using 'archetypal' images like fairies and gnomes is considered immportant for childrens development, in the same way that Fairy Tales are. (I don't agree - that's just the theory, I'm working on a post on the whole fantasy issue but its so complex trying to compare the two schools I'm going a bit nutso!).