Q:   What is the role of movement in development?
A:   A young developing brain requires various types of motion to develop important foundational skills for learning. The sensory system that responds to movement helps to coordinate the eyes, hands and body for fine motor and gross motor activities.

Q:   What are the benefits of rocking in the classroom?
A:   Many people move or fidget unconsciously when they are working. Some people tap their foot, shake their legs, or change positions when seated. These are all unconscious strategies we use to help us pay attention. Some children may need more movement than their peers to help them organize their bodies for school work. The rhythmical sway of a rocking chair can have calming and organizing effects that will help a child to “settle in” and be ready to work.

Q:   Will constant rocking upset my classroom management?
A:   After an initial adjustment period, studies have shown that dynamic seating (such as sitting on exercise balls) improves a student’s ability to participate and engage more effectively in class. Children who appear to have disruptive behaviors, such as tilting in their chairs or standing up, may, in fact, may be unconsciously providing themselves with movement or other sensory input (i.e. heavy work, touch, fidgeting, chewing) in order to learn.

Note: The rocking chair should be on a flat surface. Carpet tends to muffle the sound a bit more than linoleum; however, even on a typical hard floor the sound of the rocking chair is minimal.

Q:   Why should I have rocking chairs in my classroom and how many are appropriate?
A:   Active sitting leads to active learning. Depending on the individual needs and age, every child may learn differently. While some do well in static chairs, others may do better in seating that provides movement. Think of the students that sit on their feet, rock back in their chairs, are constantly out of their seat, fidgeting or who are impulsive. These students may be seeking movement needed to better attend to their lesson.

In a typical classroom of about 30, about 10-20% of children have a difficult time remaining seated or paying attention. While the learning styles and need for movement varies among each child, it seems that having at least 3-5 rocking chairs available to the students is a good starting point. In younger grades, it may be beneficial to have more opportunities for dynamic seating as the sensory systems are still developing.

In one study, by occupational and physical therapists, about 70% of children preferred using dynamic seating. The study saw benefits for children with diagnosis of ADHD, oppositional defiant, and severe behavior disorder. Although students, without diagnosis, rated dynamic seating as preferred or comfortable, the impact on their learning is unclear in this study.

Q:   Can rocking chairs be used with ordinary single pupil desks or activity tables? Are they interchangeable with normal chairs? What are the trade-offs, if any?
A:   Depending on the height of the classroom tables, the rocking chairs can typically fit under a desk like any other chair. It is recommended that a foot stool be made available so that the children’s feet may be grounded. It is important to ensure that the size of the rocking chair is appropriately matched for the size of the student and the desk height.

PTN Logo The responses to the questions above were provided by Pediatric Therapy Network (PTN), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the community with high quality early childhood and therapy programs, research and education as it relates to fostering the best possible outcomes for children. In 2010, Virco hired PTN to study the use of ZUMA rocking chairs in the classroom. PTN relied on the results of these studies in preparing its responses to these questions. Visit www.pediatrictherapynetwork.org for more information on PTN.