Movement and Physicality – Balance, Core Strength and Coordination.

Developing young children’s balance, core strength, and coordination is paramount during the critical ages of 3 to 7, as these skills serve as the foundation for overall physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development. 

Balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium and stability while stationary or in motion. Developing balance skills allows children to sit upright, stand, walk, run, and engage in various physical activities with confidence and ease. When children have good balance, they can sit still and maintain attention for longer periods, leading to improved focus and concentration in the classroom. Balance also plays a role in fine motor tasks such as writing, drawing, and using utensils. Children with good balance are better prepared for activities that require precise hand movements.

Core strength refers to the muscles of the abdomen, back, and pelvis that provide stability and support for the spine and pelvis. A strong core is essential for maintaining proper posture, balance, and overall body control. Core strength contributes to stability and proper posture, allowing children to sit comfortably and attentively during learning activities. A strong core facilitates gross motor skills such as running, jumping, and climbing, enhancing overall physical coordination and confidence.

Coordination involves the ability to synchronize movements of different body parts efficiently. It encompasses both gross motor coordination (whole-body movements) and fine motor coordination (small, precise movements). Good coordination enhances spatial awareness, allowing children to navigate their environment effectively and understand concepts such as directionality, position, and orientation.

If young children’s balance, core strength, and coordination are underdeveloped, it can have significant consequences for their learning and overall development.  Children with poor balance and core strength may struggle to sit still and maintain attention during classroom activities, leading to distractions and disruptions.

  • Challenges with Fine Motor Skills: Weak coordination can hinder the development of fine motor skills, making tasks like writing, drawing, and buttoning clothes challenging and frustrating.
  • Reduced Confidence: Children who struggle with balance and coordination may feel insecure and hesitant to participate in physical activities and social interactions, impacting their self-esteem and social development.
  • Academic Delays: Poor balance, core strength, and coordination can impede children’s ability to engage in learning tasks effectively, potentially leading to academic delays and difficulties in school.

These foundational skills provide the stability, control, and coordination necessary for children to thrive physically, cognitively, and socially. By prioritizing the development of these skills through purposeful movement activities and interventions, teachers can support children in reaching their full potential and laying a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

Developing balance, core strength, and coordination in 3-7 year olds requires a variety of engaging and developmentally appropriate activities that promote physical movement and skill acquisition. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Encourage free play in safe environments where children can run, jump, climb, and explore different movements. Outdoor playgrounds, parks, and open spaces provide ample opportunities for active play.
  • Introduce simple games that challenge balance and coordination, such as Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, and Follow the Leader. These games promote body awareness and spatial orientation.
  • Practice static balance exercises like standing on one leg, walking along a straight line (e.g., drawn on the ground, playground markings, masking tape line on the carpet and balance beams), or standing on tiptoes.
  • Use balance boards, wobble cushions, or stability balls to add an element of challenge and fun to balance exercises. These tools help children develop core strength and stability while improving balance control.
  • Incorporate core strengthening exercises into daily routines, such as “planks” (holding a push-up position on elbows and toes), “superman” (lying on the stomach and lifting arms and legs off the ground), or “bicycle kicks” (lying on the back and pedaling legs in the air).
  • Include activities that engage the core muscles indirectly, such as climbing on playground equipment, hanging from monkey bars, or swinging on a swing set.
  • There are lots of kids yoga programmes on the internet which they really enjoy
  • Practice bilateral coordination activities that involve using both sides of the body simultaneously, such as throwing and catching a ball, jumping rope, or skipping.
  • Provide opportunities for fine motor coordination development through activities like stringing beads, cutting with scissors, drawing shapes, or building with construction toys like LEGO or DUPLO blocks.
  • Encourage children to participate in dance and rhythmic movement activities, such as dance classes, follow-along dance videos, or creating their own dance routines to music. Dance promotes coordination, rhythm, and body awareness.
  • Incorporate movement-based games like “freeze dance” or “musical statues,” where children must freeze in a balanced position when the music stops, promoting body control and spatial awareness.
  • Be a role model by participating in physical activities alongside children and demonstrating proper form and technique. Children are more likely to engage in activities when they see adults enjoying and participating actively.
  • Provide positive reinforcement and encouragement to motivate children to practice and persevere, even when activities feel challenging.

How often can you provide opportunities in your learning environment that will foster these functions and skills?