I don’t know about you but balance beams are one of our staples to use with kids. As I was writing this post, I looked around and realized just how many different ones we have, and we actually use them all!
Clearly having a kid walk on a balance beam will work on their balance. If forces them to narrow their base of support which challenges their balance. You can make it as easy or as difficult as you want.
Some things to take into consideration when you are selecting which beam to use:
- Wider is less difficult than narrow
- Firm is less difficult than soft and squishy
- Straight is less difficult than curved or zig zag
- Lower to the ground is less difficult than higher off the ground
That being said, there are times we will use one that is more challenging than you would think appropriate for the child. We might use a higher one, even though the child is still struggling with one low to the ground. This could be because when it is low to the ground they try to go too fast, or step off too easily. When its higher they may slow down and take more deliberate steps.
I’ve been asked why we don’t just use some tape on the ground. Well we do, but that doesn’t have the same effect as being elevated off the ground. When the child is off the ground, most times, they have a sense of it and are more cautious. It can work on their confidence for novel situations, or even help with their fear of falling as they practice being successful over and over.
We have several kids who like to move, and use movement to find their stability. They actually have a harder time doing things that require them to be still. By giving them a balance beam to walk on, they are challenged and most often have to slow down which can help work on their static stability.
Now walking is the easiest way to use a balance beam. Its the most common way we use it, but that doesn’t mean its the only way. Some of the other ways we have used balance beams are:
- Side stepping – Have the child take sideways steps to the left and the right to cross the beam. This works best if they are going out and back so they get both sides, but if they are only going one way, just have them switch the direction they are facing as they walk each time.
- Blindfolded – This helps to work on their awareness of their bodies and decreases their ability to use vision to help their balance. Check out our post on using animal masks to work on balance!
- Squats – As the child walks along the beam they can squat down to pick up treasure in front of them, or they can turn to the side to pick up treasure on the floor. Usually treasure is a bean bag or a puzzle piece or a Squigz or whatever has captured their fancy that session!
- Catch – Have the child stand on the balance beam and play catch with them. If there isn’t anyone spotting them make sure they are in a safe place if they lose their balance
- Backwards – Walking backwards is another challenge to balance and body awareness. A fun way to incorporate it is to have the child go through the ‘adventure’ backwards. Anything novel usually captures their attention for a short period of time!
- Jumping – We have jumped on them like bunnies, jumped over them like obstacles, and used them to practice side to side jumping.
What are other ways you have used balance beams?