Balance is a vital gross motor skill and forms the foundation for most other movement activities.
Your child's balance development starts as early as a month old when they begin to gain head control. As your baby grows and learns to sit, pull themselves up, cruise and eventually walk, they will be constantly increasing their balance skills and this continues up until the age of 12 when a child is considered to be balance mature. In this article, we will explore what is balance, why it is so important and some of the stages your toddler will go through in developing their balance .
What is balance?
To balance is basically to control your body, specifically to remain in control when doing an activity without swaying or falling. There are two different types of balance, static and dynamic. Holding a pose or position and staying still is static balance. Staying upright when moving is dynamic.
Why is balance important?
Marjorie Woolacott is a Professor of Human Physiology at the University of Oregon and with all her knowledge and experience, she couldn’t be clearer about the significance of balance when she says, “Balance is the pillar beneath every skill we have.”
An Active Lifestyle
We know the importance of physical activity and we are constantly told that it helps to fight obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Good balance is an important building block to developing and enjoying a healthy active lifestyle.
Children who have good balance tend to have better levels of concentration too. It may seem odd to connect these two key skills, but if you think about it, learning to balance takes a significant amount of energy and brain power. Imagine how you would feel if you tried to walk a tight rope; you wouldn’t be able to think about anything else. You certainly wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a book or a learning task. Once you have balance mastered, it becomes second nature and your brain is free to focus on other higher level activities.
Balance also improves thinking skills. Catherine Jackson, Chair of Kinesiology at California State University in Fresno states that “when kids stabilise themselves from an unstable pose, they learn how to focus faster and more efficiently.”
Strength of Character
Good balance also gives your growing children the opportunity to access new skills, building upon their developing motor skills. Engaging in new activities builds confidence, resilience and strength of character. Remember, part of learning to balance is learning to fall. Allow your child to fall safely as they learn because they have to learn to manage their own bodies. If an adult protects them all the time, then not only do they not learn to gain control, but they also don’t build up resilience. It’s also worth remembering that you will not always be there to catch them, and allowing them to develop these skills in a safe and nurturing environment will benefit their future.
How does your toddler develop their balance?
Like many things in life, practice makes perfect. The most valuable thing you can do for your toddler to help them develop good balance is to encourage them to be active. According to a 2014 study published in the Medical Daily, inactivity leads to poor motor skills, cognitive function and academic performance. So the main thing you need to do with your child is to keep moving!
Every child develops differently and there are no set rules for the rate and order that your toddler will gain their balancing skills. Here is a simple guide though, showing the typical progression from bouncing baby to toddling toddler:
Balancing Beginner : 1 year +
Pulls and pushes toys while walking
First steps (in-between cruising)
Gains in confidence and gets faster
Kick a ball in any direction
Better balancer : 18 months +
Can balance on one foot for a couple of seconds
Climbing more confidently
Can bend over and regain control
Walk up stairs with both feet meeting on each step as oppose to climbing up them on their knees (this will also depend on height)
Can kick a ball forward with purpose
Can throw a ball over head
How can Tots Play support your toddler's balance?
Young children learn best and develop not only their physical, but also social, emotional and cognitive skills, through play. Our structured but fast-paced classes provide the opportunity for you and your little one to engage in a variety of physical activities that give your child fabulous balancing opportunities. While doing yoga stretches, action songs, playing with small equipment such as balls and beanbags and even reaching for bubbles, your child will be practising the art of balancing without even knowing it! You will pick up lots of ideas to carry on the fun and learning at home too.
Tots Play aims to be every class your child needs in one, with a unique, multi- activity programme packed with opportunities for your little one to develop and practise a wide range of skills, including balance, in a warm and welcoming environment where you can share special time together. Why not come and join us?
Learn more about our programme HERE, then find your nearest class and book a trial today.
You could even run your own Tots Play classes through our fantastic franchise programme. Find out more HERE.
Whether at class, at home or out and about, if your little one is playing then they are learning, so whatever you are doing to practice those balance skills today, happy playing!
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