Ever tried twirling on a playground spinner as an adult? Did it make your stomach turn? It’s not uncommon. When adults spin, the centrifugal motion can make them feel dizzy and uncomfortable, even sick. But spatial disorientation is good for our brain in appropriate doses, which is why sitting at long meeting or on an air plane ride can seem so oppressive. And, for children, spinning is even more important, not only an exhilarating rush, but an important part of motor and brain development.
Spinning helps children develop the vestibular system — the sensory system in the inner ear that helps with balance, coordination, and attention. It also benefits the proprioception system that regulates joint and muscle awareness. In combination with the other senses, these systems help kids maneuver in the world and regulate their emotions. In general, spinning helps kids build:
• Proprioceptive awareness
• Cognitive ability
• Vestibular regulation
• Muscle tone and endurance
The benefits of spinning can manifest in a variety of ways. For starters, spinning is just plain fun. It’s a liberating break from more stationary activities, such as circle time, art, or handwriting. Time spent spinning can help a child who is easily distracted in the classroom be more focused and alert, or recognize the need for rest. Collaborative spinning pieces, such as merry-go-rounds, can be a way for children to work together and interact socially. Spinning can also build gross and fine motor skills, along with core strength.
With the increasing time children spend idly in front of screens, spinning is particularly important. In fact, riding a spinner may be the very antithesis of screen time. Rather than remaining still and focusing your sight narrowly on a two-dimensional screen, spinning finds your body rotating through three-dimensional space: stretching your visual field to measure the expansiveness of the natural world. And you don’t have to strap on a VR headset to experience this pleasure.
For children with sensory processing disorders (SPD), whose need for sensory input might cause them to bump into other children in the hallway or run their hands over fences, spinning can help satisfy an intense craving for sensory stimulation. It can also improve their gross motor coordination and sense of movement through space. After spending time in active, sensory play, children with SPD (an estimated 16 percent of the population)—and, indeed, all children—can be more focused and responsive, and sleep more restfully.
Over the past decade, design innovations have led to smoother, faster structures that invite children to spin in a variety of postures, social arrangements, and settings. Goric, in particular, has led the way in the design of compact modular pieces that can be easily integrated into indoor and outdoor settings with a small footprint, added to established playgrounds, or sited in combination at emerging large-scale playgrounds for children across the development spectrum. Here we look at a few of the spinners that set Goric apart.
The Nest looks a bit like a gyroscope and spins just as smoothly. Built of stainless steel and an EPDM (rubber) inside surface, the Small Nest is designed for children age 2 plus and the Large Nest for 5 plus. Children who desire the security of enclosure or require postural support can nestle inside the cozy hemispheric carriage.
The Giddy Whirligig
Instead of “My turn, my turn,” how about it’s “Our turn.” The Giddy Whirligig is an ideal choice for designers who wish to create opportunities for social, side-by-side play. A brightly colored platform supporting a curved pole rotates radially around the axis. The thoughtful design allows children to accelerate by shifting their grip and body weight. We’re excited about this product and eager to see it in more playgrounds. Orders specified and registered in 2018 are eligible for a 5 percent discount.
The Spinning Clown
This tilted, Saturn-shaped spinner is outrageously fun and a wonderful way to give children reluctant to ride, or sensory-craving children who benefit from heavy work, an opportunity to participate in play and develop their coordination and musculature. With a fall height of just 2.5 feet and a clean, minimalist design, it can be easily installed on rubber surfacing or above sand. A smooth uninterrupted grip allows children to push their friends safely as they gain confidence and enjoy the laughter and smiles resulting from their hard work.
An update of the classic merry-go-round, this ground-level carousel is specially designed to accommodate children of all abilities. In alignment with principles of inclusive playground design, up to two wheelchairs can be docked inside safety bars. A stationary turn-table in the center allows children in wheelchairs to join their friends in a delightful collaborative experience fitting of the name.
Imagine the upper body workout of monkey bars or hand rings, sped along by the pull of gravity and centrifugal force. That’s the recipe for this daring, tilted spinner that can lay claim as the main attraction of a neighborhood park or fit neatly into an assemblage of slides, swings, climbers, and water features that comprise a destination park in the heart of a city. At nearly seven feet at its highest point, the Icarus challenges children ages 5 and up to jump and reach for new heights, empowered by the energy and enthusiasm of their friends.
The Turning Point
Before a child can swing from a seated position, she will often rock across the seat of a swing on her belly. This posture helps children develop leg and core muscles important to maintaining equilibrium. The Turning Point translates this developmentally appropriate behavior to a safer venue. The captivating stainless steel ball invites children to spin on their bellies in a dedicated space free of hazard. It is available for loose fill or unitary surfacing.