Balance is a critical skill that helps us walk and run. It is the sustaining control of the body when using both sides simultaneously, individually, or alternately. Balance is necessary for all large muscle activities.
According to One Step Ahead, a company that aims to help make life easier, safer and more fun for both parents and kids, “When it comes to kids and physical activity, few skills are more important than balance control. Whether learning to crawl, walk, ride a bike, or play sports, kids can’t get very far until they can keep those little bodies properly balanced. While a lucky few are born with an intuitive sense of balance, most children need time and practice, practice, practice. The more often they’re required to stabilize their bodies, the quicker they will develop good balance control. Only with repetition does the neuromuscular system learn to recover its equilibrium when in motion. Over time, those little corrective movements will become embedded in muscle memory, and stabilizing becomes an automatic process. But for many kids, getting there can be a long, frustrating process.”
Mastering the act of balancing can be a challenge because it requires many of our sensory systems to work together. Balance is based on the proper functioning of the vestibular system in close conjunction with our visual, motor skills and proprioceptive systems.
Playgrounds are great places for children to practice balancing. However, until a year ago, the most balance activities were geared toward typically developing children. Recently, Playworld Systems introduced Balance Trax to encourage children of all ages and abilities to practice their balancing skills. Particularly children with delayed gross motor skills benefit from this new product.
Balance Trax was developed in coordination with a physical therapist who works with children with autism, cerebral palsy and spina bifidia, just to name a few. He lamented that when people develop equipment for children with disabilities they make it so easy there is no challenge to push the child to the next step. Challenge is important for all children.
Balance Trax provides of the following balancing experiences.
- Do you need to hold on with both hands?
Try: the snake
- Can you hold on with only one hand?
Try: the boomerang
- Are you ready to try to balance without any supports?
Try: the pond
- Are you ready to go up and down?
Try: the dunes or the mountain
Are you ready to try and jump?
Try: the dunes and the pond
By putting the different pieces together you create a series of challenges for young children and children with balancing issues. The textured Balance Trax pieces provide a tactile grip so children can better sense the surface. What type of balance activities exist at your local playground?