What’s inside this article: A brief overview of the vestibular system, which is stimulated by hanging upside down, followed by the benefits of hanging upside down and a list of child-friendly activities you can try.
Hanging upside down is one of the most powerful ways to stimulate the vestibular system. This type of sensory input may be vital for self-regulation.
It’s important to know what the vestibular system is before explaining the benefits of hanging upside down.
What Is The Vestibular System?
Basically, our vestibular system is one of our sensory systems, just like sight, taste, etc.
This lesser-known sensory system plays a role in:
Every movement we make stimulates our vestibular system, which is located in our inner ear.
If you’re interested in reading about how the vestibular system works in depth you can read all about it here.
If your child shows signs of vestibular seeking behaviors, then planned sensory activities that involve hanging upside down (inverting the head) may benefit them.
Hanging upside down provides a
Vestibular Seeking Behaviours
How can you tell if your child is seeking vestibular input? Here are some behavioral clues to look out for:
- Can’t sit still
- In constant motion
- Acts impulsively
- Always moving quickly, for example never walks, only runs
- Plays rambunctiously or rough
- Sits in unusual positions, for example, feet up in the air over the sofa, sideways, upside down in their chair, etc.
- Bumps into things and other people, seemingly unaware
- May seem to “not know their own strength” and accidentally hurt others
- When trying to sit still, constantly fidgets or rocks in their seat
Kids who excessively seek vestibular input (my own child included) can have it seriously interfere with their functioning on a daily basis.
It’s nearly impossible for a child to sit still and concentrate at school when their vestibular system is under-responsive.
Benefits of Hanging Upside Down
My children hang upside down off the couch all the time. They are literally just hanging there, watching TV, talking to each other. As it turns out, there are benefits to hanging upside down.
Activities that involve hanging upside down are the most effective when done for short periods of time throughout the day.
For example, you could try planned sensory breaks every two hours that last 5 to 7 minutes each (they don’t need to be upside down that whole time, but these short breaks have their own benefits)
Plus, the benefits of hanging upside down can last for hours. In fact, we could all benefit from hanging upside down for short increments during the day.
Benefits of Hanging Upside Down
There are many benefits to hanging upside down. Including:
- Regulates the nervous system
- Provides unique vestibular input
- Can be calming, or alerting
- Prevents meltdowns
- Relieves back pain by taking pressure off the discs
- Improve spinal health and flexibility
- Some small studies also suggest it improves brain function
Although there can be risks involved if inverting the head for extended periods of time, generally speaking, kids can hang upside down as often as they like. as long as you are following their cues.
If at any time your child indicates that they don’t want to be upside down, or they complain of feeling dizzy, you should stop immediately.
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 upside down from the couch
- 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.
- Gymnastics and tumbling
- 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.)
Other Vestibular Input Activities
Hanging 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 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.
- This 7 minute HIIT workout
- 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
- This morning workout for kids
- Basically, anything that involves moving your body, especially your head.
If you’d like even more ideas for sensory activities, read: 52 Vestibular Input Activities for Sensory Seekers
What About Spinning?
One of my kids’ favorite outdoor activities is to roll down grassy hills over and over. Afterward, they are the calmest and most well-behaved versions of
That’s because spinning is another activity that stimulates the vestibular system.
This, too, can be helpful for some children. Just remember, the way your child spins can have a different effect on their state of regulation.
For example, calm, slow, and steady spinning in a single direction can be calming and help soothe and regulate.
But fast spinning and quickly jolting around may be over-stimulating or be arousing and lead to hyperactivity or dysregulation.
My son can’t get enough vestibular input. He can spin forever and never feel dizzy.
But, if your child doesn’t enjoy or react well to an activity like spinning or hanging upside down, don’t force them to participate. Everybody processes input differently.
One of the best ways to avoid sensory-seeking behavior, and meltdowns, is to be proactive. Regular sensory breaks and hanging upside down 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.