Balance is key from infancy through childhood and even into adulthood. Good balance is required during sitting, standing, walking, transitions between various positions, during play and sports skills. Your child needs good balance to enhance their safety and prevent falls that may lead to injury. When you think of balance you may think of standing on 1 foot or walking on a balance beam. BUT there are many other exercises you can do with your child to improve their balance.
- Start on a stable surface such as a chair. Have your child reach to give you a high five or have them collect post-it notes from the wall in different directions – above their head, to the right and left, low towards the floor and remember diagonals in different directions! At first you may provide assistance at their side or back if they need, but remove support as your child progresses.
- Once your child has mastered the chair without side or back support, have your child sit on an unstable surface such as a pillow or balance disc.
- Once your child has mastered an unstable surface while sitting on a chair move to an unstable surface such as physio ball or wobble seat.
Static Standing Balance
- Start by putting one foot on a stable surface such as a step stool or bottom of the step. You may need to provide hand support initially, but remove it as soon as you safely can.
- Once your child has mastered that, place a medium sized ball (playground ball, soccer ball or basketball) under their foot and keep the ball in 1 spot without hand support.
- Once your child has mastered holding the ball, remove the ball and have your child stand on 1 foot without hand support.
Dynamic Standing Balance
- Place several cones in a semi-circle around your child while they keep both of their feet together. While holding a ball or stuffed animal in both hands have them touch the top of each cone. The cones should be just outside of their reach so they have to lean to touch the cones.
- Once they have mastered touching the cones with feet together, then have your child stand on 1 foot and tap the top of the cones with the other foot. Remember to switch and use both feet!
- Once they have mastered that, have your child stand on 1 foot while holding a ball or a stuffed animal and lean forward to touch the top of the cones.
Remember to make these exercises fun by seeing how long your child can hold each pose or how many high fives or taps they can get before losing their balance. Or make this a competition between siblings, or between you as a parent and your child! If any of the exercises seem too easy, move to the next exercise or move the object further away from your child.
-Kelly Raines, PT, DPT