Tuesday 22 May 2018

'Balance is not just about trying to stand on one leg'

Part four: LGFA star Orlagh Farmer — The concluding part to the fundamental movement skills for kids series

Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

Over the last few weeks, we've been exploring the many different types of movement that children need to master. Research says that children should master these skills by the age of 10, but it's important to remember that every child develops differently. This week, we are focusing on balance-based movement skills.

Balance and stability isn't just about trying to stand on one leg. Children are using balance from the moment they learn to crawl, just as we use it when we stand up on a moving bus or Luas. It's more relevant to our daily lives than we may think.

As always, the exercises I've provided are fun for children, and easy for parents to orchestrate. However, balance-based FMS (fundamental movement skills) can also be practised in playgrounds, which are the perfect environments for introducing children to movements like swinging, turning, transferring body weight, climbing and balance.

As I've said before, our bodies are designed to move. We just have to help children perform these movements competently and confidently so that they get a strong foundation for later life.

* STATIC BALANCE - This is the body's ability to maintain a static position while performing a task. This could be as simple as balancing on one foot and maybe experimenting by trying to keep another object, like a beanbag, on their shoulder or head. Older children can try closing their eyes; younger children can hold their parent's hand for additional balance.

Another fun game involves spreading out a full sheet of newspaper on the floor. The child has to balance on the paper for a certain period of time and, with each successful balance, you fold the sheet in half. The objective is to get as many folds as possible. Older children can try closing one eye or two, lifting their arms or standing on one leg.

* DYNAMIC BALANCE - This is when the body is moving while trying to maintain balance. The concept of tightrope never fails to amuse children, so you can use it to help them practise dynamic balance. Draw a line in the garden, with chalk, or tape or even a line of beanbags, and challenge them to walk along it. Children of all ages, love this exercise but you can make it harder for older children by challenging them to walk backwards.

* TWISTING & TURNING - Children will also love this game, which helps them explore twisting and turning movements. I like to use socks and string or wool. You tie a sock to one end of the string and the other end is tied around the waist so that the sock is just dangling. The idea is that you have to twist and turn your body to try and hit your opponent with the sock. You can tie the sock higher up on the body to make it easier for younger children.

* TRANSFERRING WEIGHT - To stimulate your child's imagination, and teach them how to transfer body weight, try playing a game where they have to pretend to be various animals. This will help them learn how to move their body at different angles and, because they'll likely end up on all-fours, they get to explore their contra-lateral movement too.

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