There are 5 main senses everyone talks about; sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. There are also 3 additional senses relative to our bodies we should be talking about more often. These are proprioceptive, vestibular and interoceptive. 

Proprioceptive: "body awareness" 
Our proprioceptive sense helps us know where our body parts are and helps us understand how much force to use when coordinating our movements to work with objects.                        
  • For example, our proprioceptive sense tells us to hold an egg carefully and hold a pencil lightly so that each of these objects stay intact and do not break. 
  • The same sense is used when we try to kick a soccer ball down the field to a player. Our sense is not only responsible for the force at which we kick but the coordination between our foot striking the ball. 

Early Years: 
  • Proprioceptive sense helps us create a map in our mind of where our body parts are
  • Ex: when a baby "finds their feet" this is done because the child has begun to make a map of their body 

Developing Proprioceptive Senses:
  • Swaddling a baby 
  • Baby stretches or baby massages
  • Tummy time- helps to build motor muscles for later skills such as crawling & walking
  • Developmentally appropriate baby games: playing with different textured or weighted objects

Difficulties with Proprioception:
  • may appear as a lack of self-control; difficulty regulating "rough & tough play", pushing or kicking too hard, children who write too hard and break their pencil or crayon. 
  • Proprioceptive issues may appear with children who drop items frequently- a lack of coordination also appearing when children walk into or bump into objects, fall down steps or struggle with standing on one foot 
  • Sometimes, proprioceptive issues appear as a motor skill issue. It's important to talk to a healthcare provider for more information.  

Vestibular: "movement & balance"
  • Helps us move smoothly and maintain our balance. 
  • Vestibular sense comes from parts of our inner ear coordinating and communicating with our brain. 

Developing Vestibular Sense:
  • Baby massages 
  • Rock & swing baby gently 
  • Carry baby in a variety of positions 
  • Baby Games- developmentally appropriate to coordinate balance and help babies move in their environment -- will depend on milestones so speaking to a healthcare provider is helpful! 

Difficulties with Vestibular Sense
  • Children may feel unbalanced (physically) or not in control of their body. This may appear as awkward or clumsy movements. 
  • Children may have a hard time telling if their body is stable or supported and therefore have greater difficulty navigating steps or curbs. 
  • Vestibular issues may cause dizziness or nausea-- again think inner ear! 
  • If you have concerns about your child's vestibular sense, consult a healthcare provider to learn more. 

Interoceptive:  "the internal sense"
  • Helps us know what is going on inside our body- whether we are tired, hungry, cold, hot etc. 
  • Helps us realize how to respond to these internal sensations & control our behaviors

  • Feeling afraid
  • Sensing tiredness
  • Being aware that you need to use the bathroom

Developing the Interoceptive Sense: 
  • Create a routine. Routines help develop life skills & regulate emotions. 
  • Teach children the words for their feelings. Model this language. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Mediate, relax, deep breaths & teach children how to regain control and calm when they are feeling out of control. 
  • Strengthen their proprioceptive sense. When a child is more aware of their physical body they are more equipped to respond to the internal needs of their body. 

Difficulties with Interoceptive Sense:
  • Children with interoceptive issues may have a difficult time determining when they are in pain, tired or hungry. They ultimately have a harder time understanding (and therefore) responding to their body's signals. 
  • Children with interoceptive issues may also have trouble regulating their energy level- they may feel sensations inaccurately too. Children with interoceptive difficulties may have trouble with toilet training because they may feel the sensation to "go" differently. 
  • Always consult a healthcare provider if you suspect your child has difficulty with their interoceptive sense. 

Click here for more information on these 3 senses.