There are three primary balance strategies that we use when navigating our environments. The first strategy begins at the ankles. When an individual faces a small balance perturbation the first muscles to kick in to save them from falling are all the muscles that surround the ankles. If the perturbation is too large for the ankle muscles to return the individual to equilibrium, then the body will automatically utilize the hip muscles to regain balance. Finally, if the hips are unable to respond adequately enough to achieve balance, the final strategy that our body’s will use to prevent a fall is a stepping reaction.
Each of these individual reactions should happen quickly and without consciously planning them out. However, for some kiddos these reactions may be delayed or the muscles around the hips and ankles may be too weak to effectively prevent a loss of balance.
Here are some of our favorite interventions to help kiddos strengthen the muscles they need to maintain balance and improve the speed and effectiveness of these balance reactions!
Progressions: add a pillow under back knee and/or front foot, throw/catch a ball or bounce a balloon back and forth
Modifications: hold onto a wall or support surface for stability
Progressions: play red light green light while walking across beam (at red lights stop and pause while balancing for 10 seconds before continuing to walk), add in a cognitive challenge (practice spelling words or playing fun, word games while walking across)
Progressions: stand on a pillow or throw and catch a ball while balancing
Modifications: rest lifted foot on a soccer ball, and elevated step, or a foam roller; use something to hold onto (try to let go for 1-2 seconds at a time to start off)