Calm Down By Hanging Upside Down – The Power of Inverting The Head
Hanging upside down stimulates our vestibular system. But, what is that?
To be brief, our vestibular system is in our inner ear. This sensory system is responsible for our sense of balance, spatial orientation (knowing where our bodies are in the world), and coordinating our balance with movement. Every movement we make stimulates our vestibular system.
Related: How The Vestibular System Works
If your child exhibits vestibular seeking behaviors, then planned sensory activities that involve hanging upside down (inverting the head) can provide them with the stimulation needed to reduce sensory seeking behaviors throughout the day as well as dysregulation and sensory related meltdowns.
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Vestibular Seeking Behaviours
These behaviors may include:
- Unable to sit still
- Hyperactivity -Needs to be in constant motion
- Impulsive actions
- Moving Quickly – Running, jumping, spinning
- Rambunctious play/ roughhousing
- Constantly sitting in unusual positions on couch or chair (upside down, sideways, feet against the wall, etc)
- Bumping into others – not aware of how rough they are
Kids (like mine) who excessively seek vestibular input can have it seriously interfere with their functioning on a daily basis. You can imagine how difficult it would be to sit still in a classroom for a child whose vestibular system is
The good thing is there are certain activities that can provide a powerful dose of sensory input which can have effects lasting hours!
Plan to do these activities with your kids for a few minutes periodically throughout the day.
Related: 25 Vestibular Input Activities
Hanging Upside Down
My children hang upside down off the couch all the time. There are some serious sensory benefits to inverting the head.
In fact, we could all benefit from hanging upside down for short increments during the day.
It helps to regulate and organize our nervous system. The unique experiencing stimulates the vestibular system, and the positive effects can be long-lasting.
It can actually be calming or alerting, depending on your child’s current state of regulation, making it helpful when a child is recovering from a sensory meltdown, and useful in preventing meltdowns.
Your kids can hang upside down as often as they like. Just follow their cues. However, if they don’t like it, or they become lightheaded, you should stop.
Activities That Involve Hanging Upside Down
There are a lot of different ways you can fit inverting the head into regular play with your kids. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Hanging from the couch (like mine)
- Children’s yoga
- Hanging from the monkey bars
- For younger children, you can set them on your lap facing you and hold their hands while you let them drop back upside down over your knees, and then pull them back up.
- Lean backward over a large exercise ball.
- Get an indoor trapeze bar – so your kiddo can hang upside down in the house (mounts onto door frame) as much as they like! (Seriously, this thing is AWESOME and will help save your sanity if you feel as crazy as I do when you watch your child leap and roll all over the sofa.)
Being upside down is not the only thing that stimulates the vestibular system – although it is one of the most effective and unique experiences.
Other activities and games you can play throughout the day include:
- freeze dance (one of our favorites) – everybody dances really fast to the music and then when the song pauses you freeze! no matter what silly position you were in.
- Riding a bike
- Playing on the swings and slides at the playground
- Swimming (also a great proprioceptive activity)
- Rhythmic bouncing or rocking on your lap
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Pulling your child around the floor on a blanket
- Playing ring-around-the-Rosie
- Basically, anything that involves moving your body, especially your head.
We went to the park on the weekend and rolled down the hill over and over! The kids had a blast and it was the calmest, most well behaved they have been in ages.
Spinning is another activity that stimulates the vestibular system. It can be helpful for some children. Just remember, the way your child spins can have a different effect on their state of regulation.
Calm, slow and steady spinning in a single direction can be calming and help soothe and regulate your kiddo.
But fast spinning and quickly jolting around can be over-stimulating or be arousing and lead to
If your child doesn’t enjoy or react well to an activity like spinning or hanging upside down, don’t force them to participate.
One of the best ways to avoid sensory seeking behavior, and meltdowns, is to be proactive. Regular sensory breaks can improve your child’s focus and prevent excessive hyperactivity throughout the day.
Check out this 7-minute morning activity for kids that can help improve self-regulation. Plus discover some more excellent strategies for proactively preventing meltdowns here.