Young children need to develop balance to be safe. Before they can safely walk on a balance beam, let them balance on these “pretend balance beams.” Those can be a length of folded newspaper, a wide masking tape line on the floor, cardboard, or a piece of yarn on the floor. Later they can graduate to a piece of rope or board on the floor. Let them go barefoot whenever safely possible. It strengthens the toes and foot arches.
- Demonstrate how to walk carefully on the pretend balance beam, holding your arms out to each side for better balance.
- Hold the child’s hand and help him or her walk the full length of the “beam.” Say, “Good balancing!”
- If the child accidentally steps off of the “beam,” don’t worry about it, just point to the tape and help them get back on it.
- As soon as your child is ready, encourage her to walk without your help.
- Preschool aged children and older can learn to stand on the beam, bend and pick up items (bean bags, stuffed animals) that you placed beside the beam.
- They can learn many true gymnastic moves such as dips, walking backwards, leaps, turns, scales, forward rolls, and even cart wheels on the “beams” that are flat on the floor, before trying them on raised beams.
- Encourage children to jump, balance on one foot, hop on one foot, walk side- together-side-together, and other balance-developing moves, on the “beams.”
- Help them jump sideways over the “beams” from one side to the other in a zigzag pattern. Changing directions develops dynamic balance and coordination.
- Make a straight line or zig-zag line on the floor with tape. Show children how to balance as if they were on a balance beam walking forward, walking backwards, and walking on their tip-toes on the lines.
- Walking on tip-toes builds calf muscle strength as it develops balance.
Bonus: A swim noodle also makes an excellent beginning balance beam. Cut into the center hole (but not through the entire noodle), and slit down the whole length on one side only. Open it out to have two rounded beams next to each other, still attached. This beam is excellent for trying many moves i.e. forward roll. It is squishy, so no pain!