You may be thinking that this is a very specific task, but in reality, you are momentarily standing on 1 leg every time you take a step.
If a child has poor balance, they are increasing their chances of falling with walking, but also with any other standing task that involves moving, these include:
- walking and turning
- catching their balance if they are thrown off balance
- quickly lifting their leg if they step on something painful (this is a safety reflex, where are body naturally puts wait on the opposite leg and lifts the leg that experienced something painful)
In addition to balance, your child also needs to have good awareness of where their feet are when they’re walking. I discussed strategies to address body awareness in a previous post here.
Here are some strategies to help improve single limb balance:
- The most common method is having a child copy your movements, such as “stand like a flamingo like me!” or “simon says, stand one leg!”
If you work with children who don’t understand commands, usually children under 2 years of age, then you have to be more creative with getting them to practice standing on 1 leg. The best way to work on standing balance is by creating obstacles for your child to step over. The higher the obstacle or the farther apart the steps, the more time they will have to spend standing on 1 leg to get over the obstacle. Here are some strategies you can use:
- stepping over pool noodles on the floor
- stepping over a hose outside on the grass, you can also arch the hose a little to make it higher
- stepping over a broom stick on the floor, or you can raise the broom stick by laying it across 2 pillows, or have 2 people hold it.
- stepping across stepping stones outside, or stepping across couch cushions inside. Couch cushions also challenge ankle strength since they are harder to balance on since they aren’t as firm. You can make couch cushions farther apart to make it more challenging.
- stepping over a hula hoop, which can also be raised. I also have children hold the hula hoop while they’re standing in it so they can problem solve how to step out by themselves while they hold it.
- stepping over hurdles, which you can purchase on amazon
- kicking a ball also works on balancing on 1 leg.
Ways to make these activities harder:
- make the obstacles higher
- make the obstacles farther apart
- put pillows/ couch cushions on the floor to make it harder to stay balanced
- encourage your child to go faster
- have your child hold various objects while they step over the obstacles
- have them talk to you or answer questions while stepping, to encourage them to multi-task
- once your child has mastered stepping, you can progress to jumping over the above obstacles. This will usually be after they’re 2 years old
- with kicking, you can try kicking a very small object to work on accuracy with balance. I also place a ball on an elevated surface, like on top of a cone, to work on coordination and balance at the same time
quick milestone information on balance:
- by about 2-2.5 years your child should be able to stand on 1 leg for 1-2 seconds
- by about 3 years, they should be able to stand for about 5 seconds
- by about 5 years they should be able to stand on 1 foot for about 10 seconds
any parents or therapists have other creative ideas to work on single leg balance??