1) Ladder Bridge: We snagged this idea from the one, the only, Katie Bowman. All you need is a sturdy ladder (preferably a wooden with rounded, smoothed rungs and laterals); some pillows; and a little space. Just place a pillow or two under each end of the ladder, clear potential obstructions from the space, and let your little ones cross the ladder. They can start on hands and knees and eventually progress to walking. You can take this activity outside too, using rolled-up picnic blankets, hay bales, or even ropes to suspend the ladder at different heights to create new challenges as kids grow taller.
2) Pillow Path: No ladder? No problem! Create a trail of pillows around your living room, doubling-up on some and varying the spacing. Better yet, start collecting smooth stepping stones and create and elevated rock path in your back yard. Stone-stepping encourage balance, strengthens foot grip, and creates a textural sensory experience, all at once! Rock or pillow walking. Of course, you maximize these benefits by doing the walk barefoot.
3) The “Thinker” Pyramid: This five-person twist on the human pyramid is easier seen than described. Shoot for the oldest/biggest kids at the base and the smallest on top. We recommend that you try this activity with supervision, lots of open space, and soft ground. DEFINITELY no heavy shoes for this one.
4) Hopscotch: This playground classic is an excellent balance builder, as well as a great way to build stronger, tougher bare feet! Our advice: think outside the box! Chalk-up elaborate configurations of jumping squares on asphalt, or take the game off-road by creating a course in the lawn with some bright yarn and tent stakes.
Step 1: Stand on one leg, raise other leg to a 90 degree angle (thigh is parallel to the floor)
Step 2: Hold a tennis ball in your hand on the same side of your body as the leg you have raised
Step 3: Toss the ball over the top of your raised leg, and quickly move the same hander under your raised leg to catch the ball.
Step 4: Once you get good on one leg, practice on the other.
6) Tissue Dance: Great game for young groups of all sizes! Just have each child place a tissue on his/her head, then start some dancing music! Everyone should start dancing and moving around the room with one goal: don’t let your tissue hit the floor! If your tissue falls off your head, you can catch it as it drops, put it back on your head, and keep playing. However, once the tissue hits the floor, you’re out!
7) Surf’s Up!: No one said balance toys had to be expensive! All this activity requires is a board wide enough to stand on with a spread stance (snowboards work great, but so do two-by-six planks), tennis ball container (or other comparable cylinder) and a flat surface with open space around it. Place the board on the cylinder, assume a stance a little wider than hip-width, and rock back and forth, working to keep the fulcrum under the board. Note: smaller fulcrums make for easier balancing, and vice versa.
8) Rabbit Hole: Here’s another from The Inspired Treehouse (a WONDERFUL resource for even more movement games!) All you need are some hula hoops and rubber cones (or any slim objects of similar height). Basically, you divide groups of children into teams and suspend the hula hoops above the ground using playground cones. Then, teams compete to first get all of their “rabbits” first into, then out of, the “hole” (hoop). All of the teammates must be in the hole at the same time before any can exit it, and if the hoop is knocked off the cones, the team must start over. Depending on team and hoop size, you might increase the difficulty of the game by requiring all rabbits to hop into the hole, rather than step into it.
9) Walking the Hose: Little ones too young for an elevated balance beam? Just have them practice by walking along your outstretched garden hose! Create waves and turns for a fun challenge.
10) Bonus! Balance Combo Challenge: Choose three to five of these activities and combine them into a daily balance obstacle course challenge! Swap out one or two of the activities each week to switch it up, work different muscle groups, and keep things fun and challenging.