We have done a lot of posts recently on core strength for stability. Here is one for standing and here is one for sitting! These are always somewhat ‘easier’ when a child is older and can easily follow directions. However if you read our last post, we talked about the need for stability with kids who are newer walkers. These little ones might have a harder time being kept still because they have discovered the joy of moving and don’t want to be confined. Add to that, the fact that they are less stable and are using movement to find their stability and you will have some challenges! Here are a few ideas that we have used that can work, but as always, I love to hear all the ideas that you are doing!
- Sitting on a Therapy Ball – A therapy ball is a great tool. You can have your child sit on it (they can face you or face away from you) and you can move them around so they have to work on the muscles in their core. You can also have fun with bouncing up and down, and singing lots of songs to name a few things. If you are having them sit, where you place your hands will determine how much support they are receiving. The closer to their trunk you hold them, the more support they are receiving. The further away (e.g. down on their legs) the less support they are receiving. You can also play around with your grip (as long as you are making sure everyone is safe). You can also change how fast you are moving them. If you are going slow, they have more time to react and keep themselves upright, if you go faster, they need to have their muscles react faster or they will lose their upright posture. The same goes for how wide of an excursion you move them. The more you keep them close to center the easier it is to stay upright. If you move further in any direction they have to work harder. You can also hold the position when you are away from center. If they are trying to hold on to you with their hands, find toys for them to hold onto so that they have to rely on their core muscles. You can also make a game out of it with reaching or high fives!
- High Kneeling – High kneeling is when a child in on their knees and their hips are extended so they are up tall and their bottom is not resting on their heels. This requires a fair amount of hip and core stability. In the beginning it may be hard to get them to stay in this position to play. Use a stool (here are a few options – one, two, three – and Ikea has a great one too) that is a little higher than normal to have them use as a play surface. Find toys that interest them, read books and have them turn the page, whatever it takes to distract them to stay in the position. You will also need to use your body to help stabilize them and keep them from getting up and taking off. What is comfortable and works will vary from person to person, I like to kneel and have them stabilized between my knees. As they get better at it you can decrease the amount of stability you are giving them.
- Half Kneeling – Use the same stool and distraction ideas as above, but have them so that one knee is on the ground and the other foot is in front of them. Make sure you take turns with the sides so they spend equal time on both of them.
- Knee Walking – Walking on the knees can require stability and balance. Also, for some of these kids they’d rather just get up on their feet and go. Start with helping them by holding both hands and then slowly decrease your support until they are doing it on their own. You could also have them push a stool that is turned upside down and possibly weighted with something so it doesn’t go flying. Decrease the weight as their stability increases. I like to pretend they are trains or penguins depending on what holds their interest. Use a puzzle to help increase the motivation for going back and forth across the room (or any toy with multiple parts).
- Standing and Playing – The challenge with this one is to get them to stand without leaning all over a support surface. You can use a therapy ball and put a book on it and have them turn the pages. You can control how stable or unstable the ball is depending on how much they are leaning on it. I have also used electronic books and ipads to have them stay engaged and want to turn the page or move to the next screen. I am holding the device while they are standing looking at it. You can try using spots to help give them a visual of where they are supposed to stand but many of these kids are too little for that to make a difference. Bubbles can also be a good tool for them. Catch the bubbles on the wand and have them try to pop it. The goal is to get them to stand still though!
- Standing on an Elevated Surface – If it’s too hard to keep them still standing on the floor, you can also try having them stand on a height, such as a small step stool. They can’t easily step off of it because they don’t necessarily have the strength and control yet, but they can stand still if you have something that is really engaging for them.
Those are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear other ideas that you have.