My spirited toddler is all about gross motor activities, and balance is a key skill that serves as a foundation for many of his physical activities. The more we practice his balance, the faster he can run, the higher he can jump, and the better he can climb. All around our home, we have found ways for him to work on his balance.
In front of the town hall where we live, there is a low retainer wall about 2 feet off the ground and 8 inches thick. When we walk up to pay the water bill, he practices his balance by walking on the wall. I used to hold his hand, but now he cruises so fast that I just walk along side in case he missteps.
Down the street, there is a retirement community that has a curb that winds its way around the parking lot and down in between the buildings. Because it is so long and continues with few breaks, it is a great way to practice balance and gross motor skills. Since it is only about 6 inches high, my toddler can run free with little risk.
Home-Made Balance Beam
When the weather is poor, we can still practice balance with a home-made balance beam. We just grab a piece of sturdy wood from out back (a plank from an old fence, a 2×4, or whatever we find.) Then, we make a few piles of books the same height. Obviously, you need a stack at each end, but we generally have to put one in the middle too because wood can bend under his weight. Be careful with your home-made balance beam though. Wood can slip off the books or have splinters. Check for nails too, and make sure that stacks at the ends are right at each end so that it doesn’t turn into a catapult.
Walk the Line
One of the least dangerous ways to practice balance is to use masking tape to make a path on the floor. Encourage your toddler to put one foot in front of the other to stay on the line. If you are really ambitious, you can make the path go through several rooms and put a surprise at the end.