Balance beams are an amazing sensory outlet for all kids! They encourage stability/balance (engaging the muscles involved) as well as body awareness about where their body is in space.
Today Betsy from Betsy’s Photography is sharing her favorite way to get out in nature with the perfect sensory activity… playing on a balance beam for kids!
This post is part of the Sensory Summer series, hosted by The Jenny Evolution in partnership with The Sensory Spectrum. Follow us all summer and visit Sensory Summer to get the latest sensory fun for your kiddos!
We love getting outdoors. Regardless of the weather, I’ve found the simple act of relocating ourselves to nature’s playground has a calming effect on both me and my boys. I’m not sure whether it’s the fresh air, or the sensory aspects of getting into nature, but being outdoors can turn a bad day into a good one for us. The best thing about nature activities, for me, is that they take little planning and usually no preparation.
The activity I’m talking about today is so simple but really engaging for kids who need to be active. No matter where you live, whether you’re in the country or the city, there are naturally occurring balance beams. In our yard, we have fallen logs bordering the playground area (that my husband put into trenches so they don’t roll or wiggle at all). We also have our sidewalk and driveway… and at our local playground my son has found railroad tie borders that will work for balance beams.
If you don’t have a naturally occurring balance beam, simply use chalk to draw a series of lines in your driveway. Or put down tape or string. Then your child can play “don’t fall off” even on flat ground.
How do we play with a balance beam?
Well, it depends on my toddler and his mood. Some days, it’s just a matter of him seeing how far he can walk without tipping off. Other days, he speeds along, trying to cover as much distance as possible while I count steadily. On those occasions, he wants to see how high I count before he makes a complete circuit. Then there’s the fun of jumping off of the balance beam.
The possibilities are endless.
Here are some ideas to help get you started, but feel free to use your imagination to add to the list!
1. Walk the balance beam without falling off.
2. Walk backwards on the balance beam.
3. See how fast you can go the length of the balance beam.
4. Hop along the balance beam without falling.
5. See how far you can jump from a standing start on the balance beam.
6. Count the number of steps it takes to walk the balance beam.
7. Practice heel-to-toe steps on the balance beam.
8. Play follow the leader.
9. Pretend you’re walking a tightrope way up high.
10. Stand on one leg like a flamingo.
One of the best things about this activity? It helps your child develop their gross motor skills and hones their ability to balance. When I assisted at my son’s preschool last year, the children all loved the gross motor activity room — and spent much of their time walking the balance beam. Some kids struggled to keep from falling off — but as the weeks progressed I noticed their balance progressively improved.
Of course, in a classroom setting, there was a real balance beam with tumble mats, but my son loved reenacting the activities from school in our yard — whether he had a raised log to balance on, or even if he was just walking along the edge of our sidewalk where the grass met concrete.
So there you go — a simple nature sensory idea that you can do anywhere, with whatever you have on hand. Low key, engaging and fun! You can create endless variations of this activity, and your child will probably invent a plethora of adaptions too. My rule with things like this is to be flexible and go with the flow. It lets everyone have more fun!
Betsy Finn is an award-winning portrait and fine art photographer. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two boys and two cats. On her blog (http://www.BPhotoArt.com), Betsy covers topics of interest for families, including thoughts on parenting, craft ideas, capturing memories and photography.
Want an indoor balance beam for the winter? Consider the following affiliate links: