Looking for ways to work on balance control with your child? These activities will challenge your child’s static and dynamic balance, in turn helping them to maintain appropriate control of their body during stationary and movement activities. Improved balance will help your child become more independent with daily functional activities and will progress their ability to complete age appropriate gross motor skills.
- Standing with one foot on a small bench or weighted ball. As a great way to work towards standing on one foot, have your child stand with one foot on the ground and one foot on a small bench or stool. Have your child try holding the position for 10 seconds. If this skill becomes easy, progress the activity by playing a game; such as playing catch with a ball or tapping a balloon back and forth with a partner. You can also challenge your child by replacing the small bench with a weighted ball.
- Standing on 1 foot. Once your child has mastered standing with one foot on a small bench, have them try standing on one foot. Make sure they practice standing on both legs. You can make this activity more fun by making it into a game; such as a contest for who can balance the longest on each leg, having your child pop bubbles while standing on one leg and or having them try to reach in several directions to tap targets on the wall while standing on one foot. You can also make this activity more challenging by having your child put their hands on their hips and or having them close their eyes while balancing on one foot.
- Walking forward on a line or balance beam. Walking forward on a line works on your child’s dynamic walking balance. To encourage walking forward in a narrow stance, you can place a long piece of tape on the floor and encourage your child to try walking forward on the line. To progress this activity, have your child try walking forward on a straight curb and or using a slightly raised balance beam. You can also make this activity more challenging by having your child walk with their hands on their hips, walking heel-to-toe, and or walking sideways or backwards.
- Walking forward on a zig-zag line or figure 8 line. If your child has mastered walking forward on a straight line, try having them walk forward on a zig-zag or figure 8 line. You can also make this activity more challenging by having them walk on their toes or heels and or trying to walk backwards or sideways.
- Standing with one foot in front of the other. Another balance activity to challenge your child includes having your child try standing with one foot in front of the other on a line. Have them start off with their feet slightly spread apart and progress towards having them stand with their feet heel-to-toe. You can make this activity more challenging by having them stand with their hands on their hips and or with their eyes closed.
- Standing on a soft surface such as a pillow or balance mat. Another simple way to work on balance with your child, is having them stand on an uneven or soft surface such as a pillow or soft mat. You can make this activity more challenging by incorporating a game while standing on the pillow such as playing catch, doing a board game on a high surface, and or having them close their eyes.
- Stepping over small objects or barriers. One fun way to work on standing on one foot is stepping over small objects or barriers. Try making a small obstacle course in your living room or outside using whatever objects you have available at the time. Start off using small (1-2”) objects such as pool noodles or pillows and progress to higher objects as your child’s balance improves.
- Sitting on a therapy ball. Try having your child sit on a therapy ball. You may need to help them at first by giving them support at their hips or legs. To make the activity more challenging, try having your child lift one leg up off the ground and or playing catch with a small ball while they are sitting on the therapy ball.
- Standing on a balance board. A balance board is a flat board made of wood or plastic with a rounded or curved bottom. Try having your child stand with their feet spread apart on the board. As they progress, have them try rocking side-to-side or forwards and backwards while standing on the balance board.
- Hopping forward on 1 foot. For an increased balance challenge, have your child try hopping in place and/or forward on one foot. You can make this activity more challenging by having them try to hop forward multiple times in a row, hopping back and forth over a line, and or hopping backwards and sideways.
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- Susan Deutsch, PT, DPT- Physical Therapy, Lifescape