Children love hammocks. The Joki hanging nest and hammock chairs have gained popularity among the younger crowd as a great way to relax. But what what people might not know is that hammocks are also an excellent tool for developing a child’s brain. We sat down with Dr. Dieter Breithecker, head of the Federal Institute on the Development of Posture and Movement, and talked about how he uses hammocks as a tool for child brain development.
- Why did you decide to pursue child health care? The problem at hand is that more and more children have a lack of physical skills, which have an impact on a wide range of psychosomatic health disorders. An increasing inactivity with a sedentary lifestyle in the western cultures is mainly responsible for that. To get that under control, we have to invest into health preservation in early childhood when children are passing a sensitive and critical period of development processes.
- How did you hear about hammock therapy? Why did you choose to use it? To use a hammock as a therapeutic measure is not really surprising. It is well known among scientists that swinging and rocking are basic activities that children carry out regularly to support developmental processes. It has a similar effect as swinging on a swing or balancing on fallen tree trunks. Developing physical, mental and emotional interdependencies are done through balance.
- What do children think of the hammocks you use? They enjoy it. You can notice the smile on their faces, the alert eyes and very often you can hear enthusiastic and joyful cries. That shows how they absorb those important stimulations.
- What happens to a child’s brain when they use a hammock? Swinging, rocking and balancing are basic activities that stimulate our sense of balance, which is controlled by an important part of sensory system located in the inner part of our ears. As mentioned, kids have to do those activities for development. Those activities are based on supply requirements. The developing processes of the brain—the growth and the synaptic switching of nerve cells—require physical activities particular to those which stimulate the sense of balance. This sensory system has a high impact on the quality of neuronal processes.
- What difference do you see in a child after using a hammock? Basically they are more mentally balanced.
- What is your message to people wanting to use hammocks with children? Children are growing up in environments with a lack of natural physical stimulations. Hammocks are a good investment for homes because of their stimulation of balance. It is not necessary that hammock activities are always organized by adults. Hammocks themselves are movement temptations, which means they stimulate children to carry out a wide range of self-organized activities which go far beyond our ideas of application. We always should have in mind that children are equipped with intelligent natural behaviors which are always heading forward to satisfy developing supply requirements. So we should also give them the chance to move with hammocks rather always move them on hammocks.