Balance And Coordination Go Hand In Hand
Balance is the ability to maintain and co-ordinate a controlled body position no matter what activity we are doing. We need to be able to maintain our balance and co-ordination whether we are still or moving. Balance and coordination are multi-sensory skills requiring proper functioning of the vestibular system. It allows the body to maintain controlled positions when performing tasks.
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Balance and co-ordination utilise a multi-sensory network in conjunction with visual acuity in how eyes take in the environment; motor skills to carry out tasks; body posturing to maintain balance; tactile feedback for sensory tactile input; motor co-ordination for proficiency; and visual processing input to understand processes of what needs to be carried out.
Effective balance and coordination are necessary to aid fluid body movement; performance of tasks; and prevent injury. Static balance is holding a position while staying still like when we play statues or freeze games. Dynamic balance is the ability to keep our balance when we are moving.
Development of balance and coordination in learners is vital for them to maintain appropriate controlled body movement while performing tasks. To maintain balance and become co-ordinated learners need a stable foundation of alertness and attention; muscle control and strength; and body awareness with good alignment.
Assess a learner’s level of development in these areas by observing for clumsiness as some learners will falling easily and have slow recovery when off balance. They may have non fluid movement and avoidance of physical activity such as climbing ladders to get in a tree house or peddling a bike. You may observe that they invade the personal space of others by pushing them instead of moving out of the way themselves. A learner with balance and co-ordination skills, which are still developing, may show fear and reluctance to try new activities.
Learners may display a tightness or floppiness of muscles and have difficulty planning how to play a game. They may tire more easily than their age appropriate peers and seem to have poor understanding of game rules.
What do Learners Need to Develop Their Balance and Coordination?
Learners need the ability to maintain attention and concentration where they can carry out tasks for extended periods of time. They need to be able to use both sides of their body and be able to cross their body line to carry out tasks. The acquisition of left or right hand dominance and developed hand/eye coordination assists in self-regulation for staying on task. Body awareness and control, team with sensory processing, to maintain and develop balance and co-ordination.
How to Help Learners to Develop Their Balance and Coordination?
- Balance beams of differing widths, inclinations and heights is an effective activity as you can increase or decrease difficulty. Assisting the learner to advance from holding your hand to walking on their own.
- Unstable climbing equipment. Rope ladders, swings, steps, jungle gyms, stilts, and balance boards all aid in building balance skills.
- Unstable surfaces. Bean bags, obstacle courses, and undulating terrain all assist in learners acquiring stability of balance and co-ordination.
- Hopscotch, skipping, twirling, jumping, and standing from a sitting or kneeling position using ‘no hands’.
- Games with stepping stones, blind man’s bluff, rolling hoops, pin the tail on the donkey, and charades all help to develop good balance.
- Different sized balls and bats to play throwing and catching games.
- Swimming; bikes and scooters; and jumping on pogo sticks or trampolines are also encouragement to improve balance and co-ordination.
The aim of activities to develop balance and co-ordination are to strengthen muscles especially core muscles to encourage good body alignment. The activities should also encourage sensory processing and maintaining alertness to stay on task. Never frighten a learner with an activity you know they are unable to carry out. Be sensitive to the learners learning style and personal and emotional make up.
Encourage and praise but don’t push. If learners are afraid to practice they will not be able to develop the skills needed to fit in socially and participate in activities which encourage their social growth.
Some learners may need the help of a therapist in an organised program if they are challenged in their balance and co-ordination. Seek help if you feel a learner would benefit from professional input.
Be a role model and join in the activities so you can assist learners still developing their balancing and co-ordination skills. You joining in will give them confidence to have a go. Have fun!
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