BRING BACK THE MERRY-GO-ROUND: It is a therapeutic tool

Originally Published on

BRING BACK THE MERRY-GO-ROUND It is a therapeutic tool
Playgrounds have drastically changed over the years and it is affecting child development in ways that would surprise most seasoned professionals. Due to increasing liability and safety concerns over the years, we’ve replaced the metal playground equipment that towered over us as young children with brightly-colored plastic chaos.

We’ve taken away merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters. Swing spans have decreased and slides and climbing structures are surprisingly close to the ground. Kids appear to master the equipment at a young age. When the equipment no longer presents an age-appropriate challenge for the children, they quickly become bored and indifferent to the plastic play pieces.

However, this problem goes even deeper than simply offering an appropriate level of challenge and letting children take risks. Changing the playground equipment actually affects children on a neurological level. Think about it. It really goes back to your basic physics classes. If you shorten the length of swings and slides, children are naturally going to be receiving less sensory input; specifically what we pediatric occupational therapists like to call vestibular (balance) input.

Children need rapid, changing, and accelerating movement on a regular basis. They need to swing high up into the air, they need to sled down large hills, they need to spin in circles just for fun, and even hang upside down from tree limbs. These types of movements are very therapeutic to the growing child and supports attention and school-readiness. It is when children’s movement is restricted or limited that we start to see problems in sensory integration, body awareness, self-regulation, and simply focusing in the classroom.

Not only are children not moving enough throughout the day, we’ve gone and changed a good thing: their playground equipment. Believe it or not, the metal playground equipment of the 1960s and 1970s were actually highly therapeutic to children. One great example is the merry-go-round.

As a child, I loved the merry-go-round! It was such a thrill. I remember holding on to the metal posts as we ran around and around, finally jumping onto the merry-go-round at the last second, hanging on for “dear life” as we experienced the thrill and funny sensation only the merry-go-round could provide. As a therapist, I believe the merry-go-round is one of the most powerful therapeutic pieces of playground equipment ever invented.

Pediatric occupational therapists use special equipment and swings to create a centrifugal force during treatment sessions very similar to what a child would experience if they were to ride a merry-go-round. We do this to maximize activation to the vestibular complex found in the inner ear, to help improve self-regulation and sustained attention to task in children. This is a very powerful tool, and if done on a regular basis, would strengthen that child’s vestibular (balance) system and improve their attention span over time.

I’m constantly hearing from teachers that attention in the classroom is a problem. One teacher told me that on average, eight out of her twenty-two children have trouble with attention on a good day. Veteran teachers are also complaining that kids are falling out of their seats at school, running into walls, and are overall clumsier than they were thirty years ago.

In the days when playground equipment actually provided a thrill and a challenge, children were getting powerful sensory input on a regular basis. Kids were able to focus for longer periods of time and had better strength and stamina. You have to wonder if taking away equipment like the merry-go-round was really a good idea.

Merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters, tall swings, and slides all help children establish strong balance systems. They give us our “center” and allow us to move through space safely. By taking these away, we are exposing children to less vestibular (balance) input on a regular basis. In the meantime, children are becoming increasingly unsafe on the equipment. What do we do when kids become unsafe? We limit their exposure to risks–risks they actually need in order to develop a healthy sensory system. It is a vicious cycle we need to stop.

If our goal is to do “no harm” to our children, we need to re-evaluate our perception of playground equipment. We need to start providing equipment that will actually challenge and stimulate growth. It is time we brought back some of the thrill-provoking playground equipment of the past – for our children’s sake.


Ayres, A. J. (2005). Sensory Integration and the Child: Understanding Hidden Sensory Challenges (Rev. ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.

Frick, S., Kawar, M. (2005). Astronaut Training: A Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol. Vital Links, Madison, WI.

Jensen, Eric. (1998). Teaching with the Brain in Mind. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.

Lundy-Ekman, L. (2002). Neuroscience: Fundamentals for Rehabilitation. New York: W.B. Saunders Company.

Ancient Healing for a Modern World: a Full Color Wellness Gift Book

Originally Published on
Ancient Healing for a Modern World

Discover how the inspired lifestyle teachings of Ayurveda can transform your everyday life. This book offers 108 accessible practices from the Ayurvedic pantheon to help you achieve optimal digestion, improve sleep, diminish stress, and find inner balance. These practices make it possible for you to reclaim, maintain and enhance your health at all levels, on any budget, with any kind of schedule.

The Ayurveda Way presents Ayurveda’s paradigm-shifting holistic health perspective in a way that’s intuitive and easy to follow, allowing even beginners to find it simple to use this time-tested wisdom to awaken to your naturally healthy mind and body.

36 practices promote healthy eating, gentle digestion, and radiant natural beauty.

Ayurveda teaches that food, digestion, and even physical beauty are all key components of health.

1 Eat warm, cooked, gently oiled foods.

To kindle the digestive system and help food travel smoothly through the body.

12 Sleep like a baby with spiced milk.

To give your mind a wonderful feeling of clarity, balance, and peacefulness.

19 Cook with love.

Since your emotions and intentions are transmitted into your food.

34 Oil your hair.

To enhance blood circulation and help drive away stress.

25 practices foster a positive mental and emotional state.

Ayurveda teaches that how anything is done — including eating — can be just as powerful as what is being done.

39 Sit in Thunderbolt Pose after meals.

To support digestion and counterbalance hyperacidity, indigestion, and constipation.

49 Light a lamp.

To epitomize the victory of the light of knowledge over the darkness of negative thinking, addictions, destructive habits, and excess emotional reactions.

51 Do something of service, without strings attached.

Because by helping someone else, we automatically become filled with joy.

57 Let go of shame.

And instead channel that energy into healthier feelings of remorse to fuel you toward acting for your own good.

23 practices develop deeper spiritual connections and personal inspiration.

Ayurveda teaches that loving others begins with loving yourself.

64 Give yourself the gift of silence.

To hear the sound of the spiritual and occupy the space in which your own wisdom can flower.

69 Reclaim your inner power in Cobra Pose.

To channel the strength necessary to thrive on the challenging path toward spiritual awakening.

71 Go outside.

To absorb nature’s medicine and learn to yield gracefully to change.

75 Create a personal sanctuary space in your home.

To connect your spirit to the people, places, and things that are personally meaningful to you.

81 Let go of negative thoughts and emotions with a special water practice.

To visualize navigating personal transitions and letting go.

What People Are Saying

“If you want to change the world, this is the book for you because change starts with ourselves. These 108 steps are simple, clear, and doable. This liberated ancient wisdom illuminates the path with clarity and light.”

– Susan Davis, co-author of Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, Adjunct Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at Columbia University School of Public and International Affairs, founder and former CEO of BRAC USA

“An enlightening and beautifully written book on how to live a balanced life. It’s the perfect gift to type A people like me who think they’re too cool for healthy living.”

– Trabian Shorters, New York Times bestselling co-author of REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading and Succeeding and founding CEO of the 40,000 member BMe Community

“An honest window into Ayurvedic traditions, providing simple, powerful, and effective strategies to choose health.”

– Lara Galinsky, author of Work on Purpose and Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact

Ancient Healing for a Modern World_2

Meet the Author

ANANTA RIPA AJMERA is committed to making Ayurveda understandable and applicable to a diverse, modern audience. She serves as Director of Branding and Yoga Studies at Vedika Global foundation for the living wisdom of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta, teaches at Ayurveda and yoga conferences, and presents Ayurvedic health improvement, stress management, and meditation sessions for corporate clients including ABC News, Stanford University, and California probation departments. Ananta has studied Yoga and Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya, an eminent traditional Vedic spiritual teacher and lineage bearer, and her writing is popular on MindBodyGreen, Elephant Journal, and The Huffington Post.

The Ayurveda Way releases on April 18th, 2017, and is now available for preorder.