Early Years News and Events
- Friday 27th March Baby Unit ‘Stay and Play’ session 9am-10am.
- Friday 27th March last day of Spring Term-Pre-School only
- Monday 30th March until Thursday 9th April –Scamps for Pre-School
- Friday 10th until Monday 13th – Babies, Nursery and Scamps closed for Easter Weekend
- Tuesday 14th until Friday 17th –Scamps for Pre-School
- Monday 20th April- Pre-School and School inset Day
- Tuesday 21st April- Pre-School and School back to school.
Defining Agility, Balance and Coordination
Agility simply means the speed with which a child performs a movement. Balance means poising or standing still on a point or a small base. In other words, when a child is standing still on their tiptoes, they are balanced. Of course, in order to balance, they must have the strength to get up on their toes and the coordination to remain there in order to be balanced for any length of time.
So why are agility and balance important? Think about how closely related agility is to strength: The stronger and more under control one’s muscles are, the more agile one is. So, too, with balance and coordination. They aren’t distinct from one another, but rather interrelated. The more a child can coordinate their movements, the easier it is for them to “balance.” Age appropriate balance and coordination allow a child to participate with a reasonable degree of success as it will help physical skill performance, for example, when walking a balance beam or playing football. It also helps limit the energy they require to maintain controlled body movements. In short children will be less tired carrying out these skills. With good balance and coordination there is less likelihood of a child getting injured as they will have appropriate postural responses when needed, e.g. putting hands out to protect themselves when they fall. The physical attributes of balance and coordination also allow appropriate posture for table top tasks and subsequent success at fine motor tasks.
Alongside acknowledging that agility and balance are interrelated Silverhill Early Years also understand how interlinked music is with movement. This knowledge is therefore a great asset in our activities and can make learning more fun from the children. Children can practice moving slowly and ponderously to slow music, using their balancing skills in a different way. Having children move on tiptoes to music with a faster tempo challenges agility and balance in still other ways.
So what are the building blocks necessary to develop agility, balance and coordination?
- Attention and concentration: The ability to maintain attention to a specific task for an extended period of time as the core strength is not challenged.
- Body Awareness: Knowing body parts and understanding the body’s movement in space in relation to other limbs and objects for negotiating the environment or ball and bike skills.
- Bilateral integration: Using two hands together with one hand leading: e.g. holding a tennis racquet with the non-dominant hand with the ‘helping’ non-dominant hand holding and stabilising only between hits.
- Crossing Mid-line: The ability to cross the imaginary line running from the child’s nose to pelvis that divides the body into left and right sides, which also influences hand dominance.
- Hand eye coordination: The ability to process information received from the eyes to control, guide and direct the hands in the performance of a given task such as handwriting or catching a ball.
- Hand Dominance: The consistent use of one (usually the same) hand for task performance which is necessary to allow refined skills to develop.
- Muscular strength: A muscles ability to exert force against resistance (e.g. when climbing a tree to push or pull up).
- Muscular endurance:The ability of a singular muscle or group of muscles to exert force repeatedly against resistance to allow sustained physical task engagement.
- Self-regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change alertness level appropriate for a task or situation which then allows better attention to the task.
- Postural Control: The ability to stabilize the trunk and neck to enable coordination of the limbs for controlled task performance.
- Body Awareness: The information that the brain receives from the muscles and joints to make us aware of body position and body movement which in turn allows skills to become ‘automatic’.
- Sensory processing: The accurate processing of sensory stimulation in the environment as well as in our own body for quick and physically appropriate responses to movement.
- Isolated movement: The ability to move an arm or leg while keeping the remainder of the body still needed for refined movement (e.g. throwing a ball on handed or swimming freestyle).
It is important to remember that children develop at different rates and in differing orders. Some children talk before they can walk, some never crawl while others are dry at a very young age. But how can we tell if a child has a problem with agility, balance and coordination? If this is the case they might:
- Fall easily, trip often or can’t ‘recover’ quickly from being off balance.
- Move stiffly and lack fluid body movement (e.g. run like a ‘robot’).
- Avoid physical activity (e.g. playground use, sports participation).
- Be late to reach developmental milestones (e.g. crawling and walking).
- Be slower than their peers to master physical skills (e.g. bike riding, swimming or tree climbing).
- Be less skilful than their peers in refined sports participation (e.g. team sports).
- Push harder, move faster or invade the personal space of others more than they intend to.
- Be fearful of new physical games (e.g. swings) or scared of heights that do not faze their peers.
- Have difficulty getting dressed standing up (e.g. they need to sit down to get put pants as they lose their balance standing on one leg).
- Have trouble navigating some environments (e.g. steps, kerbs, uneven ground).
- Tire more quickly than their peers or need to take regular short rest periods during physical activity.
With your help from home we can work together to help improve all children’s agility, balance and coordination skills by:
- Improving attention to task and alertness levels to support a rapid response when they lose their balance.
- Explicit teaching of mechanics: Correct alignment of the body in order to maintain balance (e.g. aiming at and facing the body towards the target when throwing).
- Strengthen the ‘core’ namely the central muscles of the body to provide greater body (especially trunk) stability.
- Simplify tasks to concentrate on only one movement at a time, until the child is ready to integrate several at once.
- Improve muscle strength to allow for better muscle control for speed and direction of movement.
- Improve muscular endurance to increase the length of time with which the child can maintain balance and coordination.
- Improve sensory processing to ensure the body is receiving and interpreting the correct messages from the muscles in terms of their position, their relationship to each other, the speed at which they move and how much force they are using.
- Social motivators: If a child has a friend or family member involved in a sport, they may be more persistent in participating and practicing those specific skills.
Here are some activities you can do at home to support and help improve your child’s agility, balance and coordination. It is important to join in with them, showing them what to do:
Rapid head turning to follow an object takes time and practice. Start by holding a black and white high-contrast design or toy so the infant can see it. When you are sure the infant is looking at the object or design, move it slowly from Baby’s right to left and back again. With older infants (six to eight months) who can sit in a high chair, hang a moving toy within reach so they can both track the movement and reach with their hands. Remember, things that move too quickly for the eye to follow are going to be too fast for the hand to grab. Begin working on balance with older infants as you pull them to a standing position and hold them at the waist. You’re helping them begin to feel the movements necessary to balance their bodies.
Use a 20-30 foot length of 1/2-inch rope laid out in a zigzag pattern on a stable walking surface (floor or level ground). With your child walk along “the snake” as fast as they can without stepping on or over the snake. The faster (more agile) and more controlled their movements are, the better they’ll be able to balance and avoid stepping on or over the rope. Since toddlers are great at mimicking-everything from facial expressions to sounds and movements perform exaggerated movements such as giant steps or “heavy” walking will encourage them to follow you.
Dances with Scarves
Scarves can be a great tool for promoting agility and balance. Give your child a scarf and let them throw it as high into the air as they can and then run under the scarf ready to catch it as it comes down. Because scarves flutter and fall in an erratic manner, this presents an opportunity for your child to be agile and use balance skills as they twist, turn, and stop to catch the scarf. For an added challenge, encourage them to try to catch the scarf while hopping or skipping. Let them throw their scarf up with one hand and catch it in the other.
Dodge Ball with a Twist
Place a rope on the ground with you standing one side, them the other. Using a large soft ball play a game of trying to hit a moving target. As you or your child dart from side to side the other throws the ball trying to catch that person. Your child will be using a variety of skills in this game, strength (to throw the ball) and agility and balance to avoid getting hit.
Jack be nimble, Jill be agile, both be balanced and neither be fragile. Remember: The more opportunities children have to use their bodies and practice their skills in the context of playful activities, the more strength, agility, balance, and coordination they’ll develop. Here are a few more ideas for you to try at home.
- Unstable surfaces: Walking over unstable surfaces (e.g. pillows, bean bags or blankets on the floor) that make the trunk work hard to maintain an upright position.
- Unstable swings and moving games including suspended climbing ladders and jungle gyms. When swings move in unexpected ways it forces the trunk muscles to work harder.
- Wheelbarrow walking (the child ‘walking’ on their hands while an adult holds their legs off the floor).
- Swimming: Involves the body having to work against resistance of the water, thus providing better awareness of where the body is in space.
- Kneeling (with no hands touching the floor) to tap a balloon back to another person.
- Hopscotch: Requires the child to switch movement patterns frequently and rapidly.
- Stepping stone games with big jumps (i.e. no steps between the ‘stones’) challenge a child’s balance.
- Bike and scooter: Both activities require the child to continually make postural adjustments to maintain balance.