Getting the right balance isn't easy. Being able to balance on a bike, or perch on a stool is something we take for granted as adults, but it's a skill that takes patience and practice for children to master.
Earlier this year I wrote about whether a balance bike or regular bike was best way to learn to ride. Besides practicing on a balance bike, there are heaps of other games and activities you can play with your children to help them master their balancing skills.
1. Wobble Board
These boards are a fantastic investment and you can use them indoors or in the garden. Simply standing on them will develop balancing skills and core stability, for children and adults. Once your child is confident on the board, begin throwing and catching a ball or bean bag to really test their balance.
2. Heel-To-Toe Walking
Draw a circuit on the patio, or mark out a route on the grass, and ask the children to shuffle around like cautious penguins. They should put their hands out to the side (like wings), and literally put one foot in front of the other, with the heel of the front foot, touching the toes of the foot behind.
3. Balance Beam
You'll need something long, flat and about 4 inches wide, like a plank of 2 x 4 wood for the children to walk along. For older children who can do this confidently, make the task more difficult by dotting items along the beam that they need to bend down and pick up.
4. Bean Bag Carrying
Bean bags are often used to practice good posture, with children balancing it on their head and keeping it in position with an upright, head forward posture. But perching a bean bag on a shoulder, or an upturned, open palmed hand, is also a good balancing trick.
5. Musical Statues
Play this game just like musical statues, but instead of freezing when the music stops, children must adopt the awkward position that you call out, for example, 'right elbow on left knee', and hold it there while you count down from five. This activity develops listening skills, the ability to follow instructions, body awareness and balance.
6. Flamingo Catch
Tuck one leg up and stand on the other - just like a flamingo. Once your child is able to comfortably hold this position, challenge their balance skills by playing a game of throw and catch with them in this position. Then to really make it difficult, start a conversation. This develops the ability to multi-task, balance, and bilateral co-ordination.
Simple but effective. Draw your hopscotch pattern on the ground then show your children how to hop and jump through it. Add some extra difficulty by tossing a bean bag onto a square, which you then have to avoid.
8. Sit On A Ball
Sitting on a ball, whether it's a football or a gym ball requires balance and builds the core abdominal muscles, which in turn give greater stability.
9. Ride A Horse
Probably not something you can just do in your back garden, but if your child has problems with balance and poor muscle tone across their back and abdomen, horse riding can improve their core stability.
Use some round mats of large circles of paper, or even draw jumbo lily pads on the patio. The idea is to jump from one to the other, making a controlled landing, without wobbling off the pad.