We recently had a child come in who needed a lot of work on balance (static and dynamic). In addition to the balance deficits, the following areas were also challenging: body awareness, weight shifting, single leg stance, motor planning, and visual and auditory processing. We were looking for an activity that could begin to work on some of these activities and we came up with this toe tapping activity using spots.
We chose to use a different color or style spot for each location to help with following commands and processing the request. This way we didn’t have to rely on using right foot and left foot which were challenging commands. The task still required scanning of the environment as well as knowing where her body was in space in order to complete the request.
If you watch the video you can also see that she struggles with tapping the spot and returning back to the starting position. There are many factors influencing this. Some of it is the motor planning. How does she switch between reaching her foot out and then bringing it back without pausing between the tasks. Combined with the motor planning is her stability. She struggles to maintain her balance on one foot in order to complete the task of tapping and returning to center in order to do it as one fluid motion. She needs to break it into two distinct tasks. The heavier placement of the foot also helps her to know where her foot is after each movement.
By having to ‘tap’ her foot in various directions she is also working on weight shifting. It’s difficult to see in this video but she has trouble with small motions or grading the size of her movements. (You may be able to see it slightly in the photo) She often needs to move her whole upper body and her leg in a large motion to complete a small task. By clearly defining the parameters of this task we were hoping to help her to practice smaller more refined movements.
Even without all these challenges this is a great activity to work on single leg stance and balance. By adding in the toe tapping it can help some kids to maintain their balance better because they are keeping their muscles ‘turned on’ during the activity which improves their stability.
What other ideas do you have?
As I was writing this I had the idea of using balls hanging down and asking her to kick them instead of having a spot to ‘tap’ to see if there wasn’t a distinct stopping point if she was able to change directions of her motion and bring her leg back to the middle. We’ll have to let you know how that works out!