Move, rock and swing! The body's vestibular system is behind the motion, providing balance and spatial orientation. As a therapist, I am often called upon to help adjust a child's balance reactions, which begin at birth and evolve to support sitting, kneeling, and standing.
We need both static balance reactions for staying in place, and dynamic balance reactions for motion when you're traveling in a car, standing in an elevator or riding an escalator, for example.
Mobility, the use of wheels, helps children learn dynamic balance -- a source of pleasure and play as well as real life skills for navigating the world. Assess your child's abilities with the help of a therapist to determine which type of mobility device can offer the safest challenge. When your child is learning a new device, it's best for their feet to be firmly on the ground, providing security and safety. Remember, they will lose their balance as they learn to gain it.
Scooter boardsThese 4-wheeled platforms are great for encouraging motor planning while either sitting or prone (belly down). Scooters can be used in conjunction with sensory integration therapy. You can even place a large cardboard box or laundry basket on top and use it as a floor ride. Scooters are not for standing but can be for gliding indoors, using all-fours in prone for heavy work.
TricyclesOften a first bike, tricycles can help integrate both sides of the body. The pedaling stimulates muscles, coordination, balance and direction. A first time on a trike can be like a first time driving a car. First you learn to control and then you learn to navigate, so walls beware! Be sure to use protective headgear and start either indoors on a flat surface or in an open outdoor area free of traffic.
Walking BikeBefore using a bike, I like to suggest a balance or walking bike. This is a bicycle without pedals. Once again be sure the child's feet are resting flat on the ground. Allow the child to walk the bike. A slight downhill will make it easier and they will eventually learn to glide on the two wheels. Once the walking bike is mastered, they can progress to a regular 2-wheel bike, no training wheels needed.
BicyclesSome parents prefer training wheels to a walking bike, though the learning curve is much longer. Either way, biking means learning balance and control as well as how to navigate a street safely. Be sure your child understands directions and right from left, and wears protective headgear. In addition to coordination and balance, biking can be a lifetime activity that promotes endurance, health, and well being. Plus it is a great precursor to driving a car.
Skates and SkateboardsMany children like skating and using skateboards. For sensory seekers, skating can provide a great outlet and really challenge vestibular and balance reactions. For children with motor challenges, skating can boost confidence and skills. In addition, skating can use up a lot of energy! For a warm-up inside the house, try Floor Sliders.
Remember, practice is the key with any wheeled activity. Be sure all body parts are well padded and protected. Supervise children at all times. And bring the whole family for a wonderful bike outing, free of cell phones and other distractions.