The Proprioceptive System
By Yi Chen, PT, DPT
“A child’s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has acquired.”
The proprioceptive system is a system that is in charge of unconscious awareness of body position. There are receptors in muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which tell us about the position of our body parts, their relation to each other and their relation to other people and objects. These receptors send messages to the brain to help coordinate movement.
The proprioceptive system allows us to know how much force is necessary for the muscle to exert and allows us to grade our movement for various tasks such as holding a cup and writing with a pen.
The proprioceptive system works closely with the vestibular system, (check our previous article on vestibular system.) A healthy proprioceptive system helps children to develop motor planning skills and move in a smooth, coordinated, and efficient way.
Some examples of things you may notice if a child has difficulties with proprioception:
Bumps and crashes into objects and people (children who appear as clumsy)
Appears weak and is resistant to participating in heavy work activities
Messy handwriting (i.e. writing/coloring with heavy pressure or barely visible writing /coloring on paper)
Demonstrates poor body awareness and motor planning skills (i.e. playing with a ball, riding a bicycle etc.)
Activities that can help promote a healthy proprioceptive system:
Pulling or pushing a shopping cart
Playing tug of war
Jumping rope or on a trampoline
Climbing activities such as climbing walls, ladders and ropes
Sandwich games with pillows
Moving/lifting heavy laundry baskets
Playing with theraband /rubber band and stress balls
Animal walks (check our previous article)
Kids yoga (check our previous article)