Balance and coordination improve as we grow and develop. By providing the right challenges, we can actually improve our balance and coordination throughout our lifetime. We need to be “balanced” and “coordinated” to thrive on our own, to experience new things and to stay fit!For children with sensory processing challenges, balance and coordination may be delayed or feel unnatural at best. Whereas for most children, picking up a ball and playing catch, twirling a hoola hoop, walking on a beam, playing sports may be gratifying; for other children it may be something so unnatural and difficult that they avoid it. As parents, therapists and teachers our job is to provide the right “challenge for the child.”Here are some tips that might help…
1) Motor Planning and coordination. An obstaclecourse can be used to encourage balance, motor planning and coordination. It can be made as simple or as complicated as you like. You can incorporate swinging, stepping, jumping and crawling all into your obstacle course. Be creative and use whatever you have nearby.
2) Balance. Therapy balls are terrific for working on balance reactions in sitting, supine (on the back) or prone (lying face down). They can be used during homework, schoolwork or mealtime too, as a chair, all the while working the trunk/core muscles. Don’t underestimate the power of a therapy ball used even a few minutes each day. In addition, you can use balance beams and balance boards to improve dynamic balance reactions (balance while on the go!).
3) Eye- hand coordination. Kids love balls. Balls can come in all different weights, sizes and shapes. For more challenged children begin with rolling a ball back and forth and then progress to bouncing, catching and hitting. Weighted balls are terrific for providing deep pressure into the joints. In addition to using balls, eye-hand coordination can be stimulated with scarves (tossing them), balloons and bubbles. Beanbags are also terrific for eye-hand coordination. By tossing a beanbag to a student, for example, to answer a question, a teacher can keep their kids focused on the lesson at hand.
4) Up Down and All Around. Swinging can promote strengthening, relaxation, social skills, verbalization and happiness! Swings can be categorized as “active” (those that require activity from the user) and “calming” (those that relax and provide a filter for a sensory overload). Using a swing for a “sensory break” can turn your little Tasmanian devil into the teacher’s pet.