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Dynamic Standing Balance Activities

May 08th, 2020 | by Micayla Pedrick, PT, DPT
Micayla Pedrick, PT, DPT

Micayla Pedrick, PT, DPT

May 08th, 2020

What is the difference between static and dynamic standing balance? 

A child’s static balance refers to his or her ability to maintain a position without moving, such as sitting or standing independently without falling. Dynamic balance refers to the ability to maintain a position while moving, such as while walking, running, or standing up and throwing a ball. Both static and dynamic balance require the child’s center of mass to be balanced over his or her base of support. If the center of mass moves too far out of the child’s base of support, there are 3 main systems within the body that work in harmony to assist in correcting or “righting” the body— the proprioceptive, vestibular, and visual systems.

Proprioception refers to the ability of joint receptors in all joints of the body to tell your brain where your body is in space. The vestibular system involves small structures in the inner ear and the  “Balance Center” of your brain, the cerebellum. Your vision is crucial to know what type of surface you are walking on, the depth of that surface, the direction you are moving in, and more. That is why standing with your eyes closed or walking outside at night is so much trickier! The input from all of these systems are sent to the brain and in turn, the brain adjusts by turning muscles on and off so that the child is able to remain balanced. 

Why is dynamic standing balance important? 

As humans, we are often moving and multi-tasking. Think about how many times a day you have to step over an object, squat down to pick something up, walk across different outdoor terrains, walk up and down the stairs, or carry something while walking. All of these daily tasks involve dynamic standing balance. If your child demonstrates impairments in his or her visual or vestibular systems, muscle strength, body awareness, joint mobility, or has high or low muscle tone, dynamic standing balance may be more challenging. This is where physical and occupational therapy come into play. Therapy can help your child develop balance reactions by training the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems, build muscle strength, practice whole body coordination, and task specific training for improved static and dynamic standing balance. 

Dynamic standing balance activities to practice at home 

In order to develop your child’s dynamic standing balance, practice a few of the following exercises both indoors and outdoors. Be sure to practice in an open, safe environment so your child does not get hurt if he or she loses his or her balance! 

1. Stand on a dynamic surface 

  • You can use a pillow, foam block, bosu, dynamic disc, or any other compliant surface you can find around the house. Try it outside in the grass, sandbox, or on an inclined hill
  • Have your child reach in all directions to pop bubbles, squat to the ground to pick up puzzle pieces, rotate and reach to give you high fives, or play toss and catch with a ball!

2. Modified single limb stance 

  • Practice balancing on one foot by lifting the other foot to place on a step stool or a ball. See how long your child can balance! 
  • To make it harder, have them practice alternating toe taps on the step, a ball, or a cone 

3. Tandem walking 

  • Practice walking with one foot in front of the other, as if you are walking on a balance beam. You can use tape on the floor to make lines— start with a straight line or make a zig-zag or curved line to make it more challenging— or use a curb outside 

4. Bean Bag Bucket Game 

  • In standing, place a bean bag (or fill a plastic bag with beans, beads, or rice) on top of your child’s foot. See if he or she is able to balance while lifting his or her foot to place the bean bag in a bucket on the ground

5. Obstacle course 

  • Create an obstacle course inside or outside. Have your child practice stepping over small obstacles, side stepping around structures, squatting to the floor, or stepping up and down on blocks,

Looking for more dynamic standing activities?

Try out these 3 exercises by NAPA PT Lauren!  

For more creative ideas, visit our Instagram page @napacenter

About the Author 

Micayla Pedrick is a pediatric physical therapist at NAPA Center Boston. Micayla’s favorite springtime activity is growing fresh vegetables and herbs in her garden to cook with in new recipes. Her 2 year old Husky, Theo, loves to keep her company while frolicking through the yard and gobbling up delicious zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes!

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