The older I get, the more I seem to be falling over – my sense of balance seems to be departing and fast. However, children have it the other way around – balance is one of those skills that is so central to so many activities that children love to do. Riding a bike is clearly a firm favourite and a milestone in most young lives, but there are so many other situations where fine motor skills are crucial.
We’ve been looking at some of the toys in our shops and thinking about how children can use them to not only improve their own balance, but to have fun in the process and hopefully feel confident as well.
See what you think of our choices…
There are lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) and they all want to climb to the top, but holding hands is also fun. This set of 9 chunky animals are beautifully drawn and will build into a tall tower that may well wobble and fall over – a major part of the fun! However, if you find ways of linking the pieces together, they will build a sturdy wall of fun animals. Then you can knock them over – they won’t mind!
These are prickly porcupines and because they are so prickly, they stack together easily. Start by building a wall of creatures – how high can they get? There are no rules as such so you can invent your own game, or just have fun making rows of them. Really cute.
This one is all about balance and counter balance. With a set of 9 wooden robots, and some challenges on the back, explore which combinations will lock together and make a stack – you will not believe just how many combinations there are. Knocking them over is part of the fun! If you are feeling adventurous, try using more than one pack at once and see the amazing towers that they can build.
These monsters will also stack, but they are lots of very unusal shapes, as monsters often are!
Can you find the ways to lock them together to make the strongest shapes and build a tower. This is a great set – made from rubber wood which is sustainable and never chips, they come with a useful bag as well. This takes the balancing challenge up a level as the shapes are not so obvious and they will work in many different ways.
This cute game is about spatial awareness as well as balance. Solve the challenges to find how the cats cuddle together on the boards, or balance them in your own stacks! Look out for the Dog Pile game as well – both great fun for slightly bigger fingers.
A more advanced challenge here. Gyroscopes are the science behind flight, spinning so fast that it can spin rapidly about an axis which is itself free to alter in direction. Wind up the string, give it a really good pull and time for tricks! This one comes with a stand, but what else can you balance it on? I tried the washing line as a child and also my mother’s best glasses – I was never forgiven!
Now go for a real stacking challenge. Cubissimo has 30 different levels – start with a guide showing you where some of the pieces go and then add the remaining ones to make a 3D cube. You will need to turn and twist to make the pieces fit and try many different combinations. A real challenge for those who can make shapes work.
And the ultimate balance challenge, as old as the hills themselves, is a classic kite. We have a wonderful range from Brookite who have been making kites for over 100 years. A great challenge to balance both at take off and landing, but once you are up there, well, nothing compares!
Our Top Tips:
- Balance takes time – start off with lots of success and don’t expect too much too soon
- Children can notice the improvements they are making – be clear about what they have done and what they will be able to do in the future – they are well aware of their progress
- Small things are not good for small fingers – as they get bigger, make the toys smaller
- Show that you can still balance – if you still have a handstand within you, time to show off – children will want to succeed with you
- Look out for successes – when they first balance on the scooter, maybe it is time to introduce a new toy at a higher level
- Enjoy the feeling – balancing is fun – make sure you laugh!