How the Inner Ear Helps Kids Try New Foods
By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP
Every parent knows the importance of a balanced diet, but what does the sense of balance have to do with trying new foods? Our sense of balance and movement, originating in the inner ear and known as the vestibular system, is the foundation for all fine motor skills. When your child picks up their first roly-poly pea with a tiny thumb and forefinger, that’s demonstrating some very fine “fine motor” skills! But, did you know that biting, chewing and swallowing are also fine motor skills and a child requires adequate balance and stability to perform those skills effectively?
Try this: Sit on a high bar stool at the local diner and order a piece of pie. Let your feet dangle – absolutely no resting those feet on the foot rest. Keep one hand floating in the air to help maintain your balance, but do not touch the counter. Now, pick up your fork with the other hand and eat the pie. Feel those abs tighten to hold your trunk in place? Can you feel your shoulders tense to provide stability for your arm and hand as they move through space? How well can you cut, stab and lift the piece of pie on your fork without any spilling onto your lap? Getting tired?
If you are like me, the fact that you love pie certainly helps in this scenario! But, if you were presented with a new food, one that you were not sure of, would you be as patient to try it? No, because most of your energy is devoted to maintaining your balance and monitoring how well the fork moves through space so that you don’t stab yourself in the cheek. It’s exhausting!
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