Balance is an important gross motor skill for the developing child. Balance helps a child gain confidence and skills with physical movement and coordination. Infants use balance to learn how to crawl, toddlers use it to learn to jump with two feet and kick a ball, preschoolers use it to learn how to skip and dress themselves, and children gain skills in sports and games. Toddlers and preschoolers have a high center of balance and are prone to falls. Whereas the kindergartner has a more central sense of balance and a more proportional body. Gaining skills in balance will aid in developing gross motor coordination, fine motor coordination, and self-care skills. Here are some ideas that caregivers can use to help their child or children develop good balance skills.
Yoga is a popular way to build balance, gross motor coordination, strength and endurance skills in children. You can find poses that are tailored to the age of your child and their physical ability level. To find more information on Yoga for Kids do a general search on the internet or check out Ehow's Yoga for Kids which has free videos of a variety of poses. Yoga requires little to no materials to do which gives a caregiver flexibility to use it in a variety of environments.
Set up an obstacle course at home. Put objects with unstable surfaces such as thick blankets, air mattress, couch cushions, and pillows down on the floor for the child to walk across. Be creative. A game of pirates is always fun where the child has to walk the plank!
There are many good sports that build balance skills including but not limited to: bike riding, rollerblading/rollerskating, skate boarding, dancing, karate and gymnastics that children can participate in. Activities that have twisting, turning, reaching, jumping, and weight shifting are all good balance builders.
There are also many fun toys that help development balance skills including but not limited to: trampolines, pogo sticks, jump ropes, hippy hop balls, scooter boards, jumpolenes, pieces of wood/balance beams, moon shoes, stilts (you can make your own), Chinese jump ropes, and balance boards.
Games such as Twister, Hop Scotch, Mother May I (take three jumps forward or two large steps, skip two times), and Simon Says (stand one foot, spin two times, touch your foot to your hand) are all fun ways to improve balance using age appropriate activities.
Anytime you lift up one foot you work on balance! Games such as popping bubbles with your feet or picking up balls of crumbled paper or koosh balls to score baskets help work on balance in fun ways. Painting with your feet is always fun too!
Going to a playground or park is a fun way to get outdoors and work on balance as well. Run through the sand. Make up an obstacle course- climbing up and over the gym equipment. Try to walk up the slide. You can have lots of fun as long as your safe.