‘Careful, don’t fall!’ How often do we hear ourselves saying this to children? The desire to wrap kids in cotton wool can be strong, but it needs to be resisted. One of the best things we can do as parents are to give kids plenty of opportunities to run, jump and – yes, to fall. It’s all about helping them develop their sense of balance!
Encouraging kids to play on uneven surfaces and tackle steps and different floor levels is one way to build balance skills. Another way is to give them a balance toy, which is perfect when you’re on the go.Balance and gross motor skills
Balance toys are designed to support kids in one crucially important area of development: gross motor skills. These are the skills of control and coordination of large muscle groups, which enable kids to make large movements like walking, running and kicking. Gross motor skills are in play are soon as babies start moving their bodies, and they become stronger and more complex throughout childhood.How balance helps the brain
Gross motor skills are essential in their own right – but they also have powerful effects on kids’ brain development. In a recent Australian study
, researchers tested the skills and abilities of more than 300 toddlers (aged 11-29 months) and found that ‘gross motor skill levels have a significant positive association with cognitive development’. In other words, boosting kids’ physical abilities also helps their intellectual skills. That’s a pretty great payoff!Balance bikes and boards: how they work
So how do balance toys help? You might have seen toddlers scooting about on balance bikes – these are the bikes with no pedals. While it might seem strange, removing the pedals helps little kids to focus on the critical skill required for bike-riding: balance. And as kids get bigger, parents invariably find that the transition to a ‘big bike’, complete with pedals, is a breeze. No wobbling and no scraped elbows!
Balance boards look very different from balance bikes – but they operate on exactly the same principle. It’s all about encouraging kids to challenge themselves, removing the familiarity of having their feet planted firmly on the floor. They may fall, but in doing so, they’re learning valuable skills for the future!