This week’s DevelopmenTip: A fun and easily accessible activity for balance development.
Sometimes I meet with parents who want to consult with me about their children's difficulties with balance. A common example they use is that their child is unable to ride a bicycle without training wheels, unlike other kids their age. I encourage them to practice the very popular (but underrated) activity in which children walk along a line or beam with the toes of one foot touching the heel of the other. This basic activity develops the skill of balancing in general, and simulates the act of cycling without training wheels in particular.
In this activity, we take the vestibular system (responsible for balance) out of its “comfort zone,” that is, from a broad-based balance (standing on two legs or riding a bicycle with training wheels, for example) to a narrow-based balance.
Photo caption: A great opportunity to develop balance
This activity is readily available; you can easily find opportunities to do it both outdoors (safety first!) and indoors (along lines between tiles, for example). In my meetings with kindergarten teachers (for ages 4-6) I always advise them to include this activity in their daily agenda, as part of the transitions between areas or activities, by affixing a strip of adhesive tape (the kind used for electricity), in either a straight line or in the shape of a number, letter, or shape that the children are learning about (so that they can learn them via sensory processing, "feeling" the letters and numbers).
An experiential bonus: While the children are walking along the line, you can instruct them to stop or go. When they are told "Stop!” the children will freeze in a position in which their toes are touching the heel of the front foot. At this point, some children will begin to move around and make various noises, at which point you can say, "What's this? Who said to dance? I don’t hear dance music!" And the giggles will be contagious.
Guy Yaakov Yekutieli, Occupational Therapist specializing in child development