I think balance beams are a lot of fun and really useful. You can use store bought ones (like we have) or you can use ledges and curbs out and about in your neighborhood or community or you can create your own such as Growing Play does! I have simulated balance beams with tape lines as well however there are pros and cons to having an elevated line versus having a line flat to the ground.
When you are on a balance beam you get to work on body awareness, depth perception, attention to task, balance, foot placement, coordination and motor planning to name a few. You can also work on these with a tape line however if you step off the line you don’t get the instant feedback that you get from a misstep on a balance beam.
Recently I have been using the balance beam to work on various walking skills that are a little more challenging to practice on flat ground. I have been practicing walking backwards and walking sideways (left and right). Its been a little easier for me to encourage the kiddos to move in these walking patterns because they have a set path they need to follow. I usually have to start with hand hold assist so that I can guide the movement and they can mirror what I am doing but eventually I transition down to one hand and then no hands.
To make it even more fun I added a crash pad at the end of the beam and of course I had to add a song to it. The song was not creative at all although it went to the tune the lost boys song ‘Following the Leader‘ in Peter Pan. Basically I repeat, whatever direction they are walking such as ‘forward, forward, forward-forward-forward or sideways, sideways, sideways-sideways-sideways and then reverse, reverse, reverse-reverse-reverse’. For some reason the kids think its hysterical!
I also added in toe walking and attempted heel walking as well as heel to toe walking and backwards heel to toe walking to make it more challenging.
Why would I use a balance beam for these skills? Well for a lot of the kids I work with it helps them to get the concept of paying attention to where they put their feet when walking so that we can work on higher level skills of walking on a tape line and not stepping off (in all directions). It also helps their balance as well as provides me with the help of boundaries to where they have to step!
What are other ideas you have used a balance beam for?