Movement of the Month: Why is Balance Important for Kids?
Did you know that there are actually 8 sensory systems integral to a child's development? We are all familiar with sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, but this week we are going to focus on the lesser known vestibular and proprioceptive systems as they relate to balance and coordination!
The vestibular system is the first sensory system to fully develop in children around the age of 5 months. It is responsible for our ability to maintain control of the position of our body, also known as balance. It is the body's inner guide that tells us where we are and where we need to go. It works closely with the visual and proprioceptive systems to accomplish this goal.
The proprioceptive system is located in our muscles and joints. It provides us with a sense of body awareness and tells us about the position of our body parts, their relation to one another, and their relation to other people and objects. All of these systems work together to help develop balance and coordination.
Fast Facts about Balance
-Having good balance and coordination reduces the likelihood of injury
-There are two main types of balance: Static (staying still) and Dynamic (moving) Balance
-Children with good balance and coordination have greater success with daily tasks, participate in a wider range of sports and physical activities, and have an easier time developing fine motor skills.
How can I help improve my child's balance?
Children learn how to balance through continued practice, exploration, and encouragement. The key is providing them with the space and time they need to safely take risks and test their own limits. Before they can walk a tightrope, here are 5 fun activities to try with your little ones!
1. Freeze Tag (Static Balance): A simple twist on the popular game, once a person is tagged, they freeze. To get unfrozen, someone has to crawl between their legs! Have everyone take turns being the tagger.
2. Simon Says (Static Balance): For example, Simon Says: "Stand on one leg, stand on your tip toes and reach for the sky, touch your elbows to the ground, or touch your toes!". Take turns being the leader and see how creative you can be.
3. Kids Yoga (Static Balance): Take turns with your little one mimicking your favorite poses. For example, tree pose, child's pose, or downward facing dog. Or, try mimicking animals such as lion, bear, cat, cow, or bird pose.
4. Movement Sentences (Dynamic Balance): Call out a sequence of words and encourage your child to interpret the words through movement. For example, "Walk fast!", "Run Loudly!", or "Crawl Slowly!" For older children, you can try using action words such as sneak, pounce, and roll.
5. Pillow or Tightrope Walk (Dynamic Balance): Set up a pillow walk, or an imaginary tightrope with a string or tape, and encourage your little ones to step or crawl along the pathway throughout the room. Try adding some toys as obstacle for a bigger challenge.
Note: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Always reach out to your pediatrician, physical or occupational therapist with specific questions and concerns about your child’s development.