A strong sense of balance helps kids confidently master everything from sports to putting on her socks. Start playing these games to set her up for success.

By Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Thayer Allyson Gowdy

A strong sense of balance helps kids participate confidently in a wide range of activities, like riding a bike, blocking a soccer ball, or putting on socks while standing. Research has shown that it can also help protect kids against sports injuries and may even improve math and science skills because both depend on spatial awareness.

You can help your kid stay upright with these activities from Anna Friedman, a pediatric occupational therapist and director of therapeutic services at Total Kids Developmental Pediatric Resources, in New York City.

Pick up your toys.

On a low or an unelevated balance beam (4-inch-wide painter’s tape stuck to the floor also works), place small stuffed animals or little toys at intervals. Then ask your child to walk from end to end and pick them up without toppling over.

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Host a tossing competition.

With your child standing on a pillow, give her beanbags or sock balls to throw into a container. For younger kids, start out with a laundry basket set about 3 feet away. Up the difficulty by progressively moving the container farther away or by changing its size.

Set up hopscotch.

The one-foot, two-foot pattern provides a good test of balance. The board can have up to ten squares to jump into: Begin with a single square; top it with two connected ones and then another single until you reach ten altogether.

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Do a tree-pose challenge.

Have your child stand straight with feet slightly apart and arms raised over his head. Start by asking him to stand with one foot flat and the other with just his big toe touching the floor. Once he’s mastered that, increase the challenge: Keep one foot flat and lift the other higher and higher until he can stand still with one foot resting flat against his inner calf. Try it together or with siblings to see who can last the longest.

Have a dance party.

While playing tunes, tell your kid to freeze in place when the music stops and hold the pose until it starts up again (about five seconds or a bit longer, depending on age and ability). Stopping abruptly like this changes her center of gravity and tests her ability to maintain different positions.

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Parents January 2019
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