Activities for Improving Balance and Coordination in Children
Balance and coordination are highly important skills that typically develop throughout childhood. These skills impact many aspects of our day-to-day lives, from playing competitive sports to getting dressed in the morning.
With practice, kids can improve their coordination and balance and learn to keep their bodies more stable while completing a task. There are many activities kids can participate in to work on both these skills and have fun while doing so. Learn more about activities for improving balance and coordination in kids!
What Are Balance and Coordination?
Balance and coordination are critical gross motor skills. The two help kids develop controlled body movement while performing physical tasks.
Balance refers to the ability to keep your body in a controlled position while performing an action. There are two types of balance, dynamic and static:
- Dynamic balance is when a person is able to stay balanced during body movement.
- Static balance is when a person holds a stationary position with control.
The two types of balance are essential for comfortable and safe everyday living because they allow kids to function in various environments and participate in many activities while maintaining control over their bodies.
Coordination is slightly different. It refers to a child’s ability to move their body parts in a functional and harmonious manner. The brain receives multiple signals when the body is completing complex tasks. Coordination helps process those signals to move specific body parts effectively.
Hand-eye coordination is a great example of using visual messages to inform physical controls and reflexes. Physical activity is the key to improving both balance and coordination in kids, especially as they age.
The Importance of Balance and Coordination in Children
Balance and coordination are two essential skills for child development. Here are the key reasons why these skills are crucial for kids:
Making Everyday Tasks Easier
Balance and coordination skills allow kids to build their physical endurance and minimize fatigue. With a lot of practice and effort, kids learn how to perform tasks like walking and getting dressed. These tasks then become automatic and require less energy. This benefit helps kids manage stable body movements and makes everyday task performance easier and safer.
Avoiding Injuries and Accidents
As kids master balance and coordination, they become more steady and in control of their bodies, potentially reducing the likelihood of accidents and injuries due to imbalance. A kid with strong coordination can perform tasks such as walking on uneven surfaces or participating in sports without easily losing their balance.
When a child recognizes their ability to perform tasks requiring balance and coordination, this can enhance their self-esteem and confidence in their bodies. Developed balance and coordination allow kids to participate in activities and take carefully calculated risks to improve other physical skills and talents.
Developing Interpersonal Relationships
Self-confidence helps kids establish healthy interpersonal relationships. Building on their balance and coordination skills allows them to establish trust with their own bodies and participate in activities with others without self-doubt. This will enable kids to create a network of friends and peers and enhance their social skills.
The Building Blocks of Balance and Coordination
The following are building blocks that allow kids to properly develop and improve balance and coordination:
- Attention and concentration: Maintaining attention to a particular task for a long time with no challenges to the core strength, like focusing on standing on one leg.
- Body awareness: Understanding the body’s movement and space in relation to other body parts and objects in the surrounding environment, like when sliding down a slide.
- Bilateral integration: The ability to utilize both sides of the body at once, such as hitting a baseball while holding the bat with both hands.
- Crossing mid-line: Being able to cross a leg or an arm over the midline of the body to perform a certain task.
- Isolated movement: Having control and stability in the remainder of the body while moving an arm or leg for an activity like swimming in a pool or tossing a baseball.
- Hand dominance: Using one hand for the majority of task performance, which develops refined skills, often in the dominant hand.
- Hand-eye coordination: Processing visuals to inform and guide hand movement for the performance of a specific task, like catching something.
- Muscular strength: A muscle’s ability to exercise force against resistance to do activities like climbing or jumping.
- Muscular endurance: A muscle or muscle group’s ability to exert force against resistance continually, like pushing against something.
- Proprioception: Being aware of body movement and position, enabling automatic task performance.
- Postural control: The ability to stabilize the neck and trunk while performing a controlled task with the limbs.
- Self-regulation: Maintaining the appropriate level of alertness for a specific scenario or task.
- Sensory processing: The ability to respond quickly and accurately to the surrounding environment, like moving out of the way of a dodgeball.
Signs a Child Is Struggling With Balance and Coordination
While some kids can improve these skills through regular practice, balance disorders can make mastery more challenging. Parents and guardians should pay close attention to the following signs that a child is struggling with their balance and coordination:
Experiencing Poor Balance in Everyday Activities
If a child is often off-balance and experiences difficulty remaining stable during everyday tasks like getting dressed, this could indicate they are struggling developmentally. Other examples include tripping frequently or having difficulty recovering from being off-balance.
Another sign of a child potentially struggling with balance and coordination is stiff movement when they do physical tasks. Their body does not move in a fluid manner. It may even seem robotic and uncomfortable.
Avoiding Physical Activities
Some kids who feel off-balanced or uncoordinated may avoid participating in activities like playing with others on the playground or joining a physical game. They may experience fear over tasks like climbing a playground ladder or swinging.
Meeting Developmental Milestone Later Than Peers
One of the most common signs that a child struggles with coordination and balance is meeting developmental milestones after their peers. These milestones may include crawling or walking later than other kids. Kids may also experience challenges when mastering physical skills like riding a bike or climbing a tree.
Difficulty Controlling Their Body
If a kid experiences a hard time not invading other people’s personal space or they move more aggressively than they try to, this could indicate balance and coordination struggles. They may often bump into other kids or have a hard time slowing down and controlling their limbs.
Tiring Quickly From Physical Movement
Some kids with balance and coordination development challenges may also tire more quickly than their peers from physical activities. Because controlling their body requires more thought and energy, kids who feel off-balanced and uncoordinated may have less stamina than other kids.
Games and Activities for Improving Balance and Coordination in Children
There are many fun activities and games kids will enjoy that can improve their balance and coordination. Check out these ideas for balance games for kids:
1. Walking on Unstable Surfaces
One of the best physical balance activities for kids is having them walk and play on intentionally unstable or uneven surfaces. Exploring playground equipment like steppers or bridges allows kids to practice maintaining their stability and keeping their bodies evenly balanced.
Kids should test and work on their balance often to build their agility and reflexes. They should practice tasks like stepping up and down from curbs or stairs to navigate the world better.
2. Wheelbarrow Walking
Wheelbarrow walking is a fun activity to practice balance for kids that requires no equipment. Have the child begin with their hands on the ground. Then, an adult holds their legs, carefully ensuring they support nearly all of the kid’s weight. The child can use their arm to walk short distances.
This allows kids to practice balancing their bodies in new ways from a unique position. It’s also a fun and easy activity that kids will enjoy. Just ensure there is a responsible adult involved for safety and control.
3. Crab Walking
Crab walking is a bilateral coordination activity for kids that helps them develop their core strength and stability. You can do this one anywhere with some space.
Kids can begin by sitting with their bottoms on the floor. Their feet will plant right in front of them, and their arms will plant directly behind them with fingers directed forward so they can lift their bottom off the ground. They can then use their arms and legs to move around, mimicking how a crab walks.
Another game that can improve a child’s coordination is hopscotch. It is one of the greatest balance exercises for kids because it requires them to change movements on the go.
Draw the hopscotch squares with sidewalk chalk or use tape. A player will toss a coin, rock or small sandbag into the first box. If they successfully do so without it touching a line or bouncing out of bounds, this player will jump through the boxes on one foot until they get to the top. As the player returns to the starting square, they must pick up the item they tossed.
5. Standing on One Foot
If you’re looking for easy coordination exercises for kids, standing on one foot is as straightforward as it gets. Kids can challenge their balance and see how long they can remain steady on one leg. They can jump up and down or hop around in all directions, building muscle strength while challenging their balance and stability.
You can begin by letting the child use a wall for extra support. As they become more skilled, have them step away and rely on their own bodies.
Yoga is amazing for improving balance and coordination in children. It allows them to hold different poses and become more aware of how their body works.
There are tons of yoga positions that kids will love trying out. The tree pose involves standing on one foot and bringing the other foot up to press flat against the inner thigh or side of the calf. The bow pose involves laying flat on the stomach then bending the knees and reaching the arms straight back to grab the ankles.
As a bonus, yoga has many additional health benefits, including:
- Better flexibility
- Decreased anxiety
- Boosted concentration
- Enhanced heart health
Twister is a fun and playful game that allows kids to work on their gross motor skills as much as they work on their social and interpersonal skills.
You can use the board game or create a DIY version with printouts of four colored circles spaced out in six rows. Kids will love finding ways to reach each color while remaining balanced. Older kids will likely enjoy this game more because they have more coordination and body awareness.
8. Playing Catch
Playing catch can help build hand-eye coordination for kids. It requires them to use the visual information they gather to inform how they respond physically. They’ll practice reacting efficiently to catch the ball and applying different amounts of force to launch the ball where they want it to go.
Playing catch also enhances concentration and helps kids develop an important skill they can use for sports or games throughout their life.
9. Freeze Dance
Freeze dance is a fun game kids will love. All you need to do is start playing music and have the child dance until you abruptly pause it. When the music stops, kids must freeze in whatever position they happen to be in. This can help them develop balance and body awareness in a playful and immersive way.
Playing on Playground Equipment Promotes Balance and Coordination
Playgrounds are an awesome place for kids to develop their motor skills, including balance and coordination.
Equipment such as the Mushroom Path Stepper from Miracle® Recreation allows kids to challenge their balance by walking on uneven steps. For kids who really want to put their skills to the test, the Champions Trek Breakaways are even more challenging. Practicing staying stable and balanced on uneven surfaces helps keep kids more controlled and ultimately safer in daily life.
Climbing is also beneficial for a kid’s physical development. It helps them build strength and confidence in their body. The Wavy Wedge Wall Walker has eight sides for multiple kids to climb and explore together. Miracle Recreation also has sculpted play elements to make climbing even more immersive and fun. Kids can walk and climb on the Whale Climber and practice balancing on its textured and uneven surface.
Nature-inspired playground equipment is beneficial for balance and coordination because it is often irregular in shape and more challenging to climb and play on. The Lumberjack Hollow Tunnel Climber is in the shape of a wood pile, encouraging kids to carefully stabilize themselves on the rounded surface, while the Water Rock is textured and requires strength and balance for kids to scale it.
Encourage Development Through Play With Miracle Recreation
For nearly a century, Miracle Recreation has provided durable and high-quality playground equipment for various communities. Some of life’s most important skills begin with exploration on the playground.
We understand that play enhances a child’s development and has many other benefits. That’s why we aim to design our equipment to bring the thrill back into playgrounds and outdoor play spaces.