Building balance is a significant component of child development and relies heavily on the growing internal balance centers (proprioception and vestibular center). Children need to learn to balance before they can progress to higher level gross motor skills like going up and down stairs, skipping or hopping. Having good balance is also important for building running strength as it prepares the leg in flight for landing, therefore enabling a better take-off again for the next step.
Here are some walking balance exercises to build up your child’s movement balance. To support these exercises you can use anything from a fallen log, a balance beam, a wooden plank, a concrete edge at a playground, a skipping rope laid out, or chalk line drawn on the ground. With all balancing exercises, you want your child to be challenged to the point of almost falling to make the most improvements.
Start by having your child practice walking forward along the line with a space between each foot. As their confidence and balance grow, begin to reduce the space between each placed heel and toe.
Once mastered, try these additional exercises to progress and challenge their internal balance centers:
- Have your child turn their head slowly from side to side as they walk the line
- Introduce catching a ball whilst they balance walk
- Have them try walking along the line backward
- Try placing toys or other objects like bean bags at a few points along the line. Have your child either reach down to pick them up or jump over them
- Move super slow, imaging they are on the moon with no gravity
To find more exercises to help improve your child’s balance and running ability check out our Running Skills for Children book.
Or if you really want to improve your child’s running, sign up for our six-module running program.