This post was written in collaboration with GOMO Balance Bike, however, all opinions are my own.
Balance and coordination have always been challenge areas for our little guy. He has generally been more cautious and slow to warm up to many a gross motor task than other children his age. Because of that, as a mom, I am always on the lookout for purposeful activities to incorporate throughout our days to help build his skills in this particular area of development. Whether balance and coordination are a challenge area for your child or something they excel at, all children can benefit from activities that promote these skills.
The following are 10 different ways for children to practice balance and coordination while simultaneously enjoying some play time and fresh air outdoors.
1.Walk on a variety of different terrains. Walking in the grass feels different than walking on pavement. Trudging through the snow in a pair of boots feels different than puddle jumping in the rain. And going on hikes in the woods or for a walk on a sandy beach, can provide a whole host of new experiences for levels and textures below one’s feet as well. Give your child opportunities to walk in different spaces and places to foster their skills on a variety of terrains.
2. Play hopscotch & jumping games. Hopscotch is still a tricky one for Asher as going from one to two feet while jumping takes a great deal of coordination for little ones! While we continue to work up to it, for now, we are focused on jumping on two feet or leaping from one space to the next. Often times to give him opportunities to do this, I love writing numbers or letters in chalk on our driveway and calling them out one-by-one as Asher seeks to jump on top of each one. Its a great way to build basic jumping and literacy/numeracy skills all in one shot.
3. Throw, kick or roll a ball. Don’t underestimate the power of some of these age-old “ball basics” when it comes to promoting coordination and balance. There is a lot of skill that goes into coordinating oneself, for instance, when kicking a ball. You have to locate the ball, lift up and prepare a leg to kick, make contact and safely place your foot back down after, etc. Heck, as an adult this can even be a challenge!
4. Climb stairs and ladders. Stairs and ladders are something I try and give Asher opportunities to navigate daily. Whether it be the two steps up and down our front porch or the ladder leading up to his favorite slide at the park, they provide a variety of authentic opportunities for him to get from point A to point B while simultaneously fostering his motor skill development.
5. Walk a line. Draw a line in chalk, in the sand or lay down a piece of rope or wood, for that matter, and ask your child to “walk the line”. This helps them learn how navigate placing one foot in front of the other in a not so intimidating way. Once they get better at it, encourage them to try out some of those wiggly balance beam looking things at the park or even your street curb (with supervision, of course).
6. Go for a bike ride. Does your child have a balance bike? Not only do these training wheel-less bikes make it easier to transition to a pedal bike in the future, but their name says it all – they seek to promote balance in a developmentally appropriate fashion for toddlers and preschoolers. Asher absolutely loves his new GOMO Balance Bike that he received this spring. We easily adjusted to fit his little frame, and he still has plenty of room to grow into it for years to come. Not only that, but I love that unlike many other balance bikes, it even has custom footrests to help him safely practice coasting when he is ready simulating what it may feel like to do so with pedals. Plus, it helps him to feel like one of the “big kids” as his bike doesn’t look so obviously different from the rest – which I don’t know about your child – but mine is always more apt to use something over and over again if he sees the neighbor kids doing so too!
7. Run. The majority of the time when Asher tumbles, it’s because his little feet just couldn’t coordinate with how quickly his mind and body wanted to go. Giving kids opportunities to run in the yard, at the playground, or with a mission in mind only enhances their ability to do so effectively.
8. Get in some wheelbarrow walking. This one builds muscles and coordination! Not to mention, it also serves as a great way to wear kids out and help them calm their bodies quickly if they are in need of getting some wiggles out as well! We love wheelbarrow walking through our grass in the spring and summertime, but this one is nice as you can take it into the house in the cold winter months as well.
9. Do yoga. Not only are balance and coordination at the heart of many a yoga practice, but yoga also requires us to have a deep focus on our bodies and their position in space. An exercise involving focus on balance – sign us up! We try and get a little yoga practice in on the daily, whether it be a few minutes or a simple “tree pose” as we hang below the shade of ours in our yard.
10. Create an obstacle course. You can get as basic or creative with this as you’d like. Use natural items like sticks, logs and stones or snag some cones, a balance bike like our favorite from GOMO, a ball and basket or even a mini slide to set up your course. For an added element of fun, encourage your child to help you create it!
Do you have any other ideas you use with your child(ren) that you think I should add to the list? Is there an idea above you haven’t thought of before that you think your little one would enjoy the next time you head outside? Let me know in the comments below!
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