A balance board – sometimes called a wobble board, Waldorf board, or Montessori board – is an excellent addition to a toddler or young child’s Montessori-based play. The use of balance boards improves a child’s awareness of his body, called proprioception, which in turn helps develop stability and good posture.
Balance boards available on the market are often made of wood, but other materials like hard, heavy plastic are sometimes used as well. While balance or wobble boards fit the definition of fitness equipment due to their use in developing a person’s core strength, they also integrate well into a child’s imaginative open-ended play.
In this article, we will explain how balance boards work and their benefits for toddlers and kids, then take a look at some great options for parents looking to add balance boards to their playrooms.
How Do Toddler Balance Boards Work?
Balance boards work by challenging a person’s sense of balance, regulated by the inner ear or vestibular system, body awareness, and by strengthening and stabilizing the core muscles. Balance boards can be used when standing, while in a tall knee position, or sitting.
Toddlers learn about balance and body awareness on a balance or wobble board as they shift their weight. The resulting movement of the board stimulates a child’s ability to then respond to the changing movement. At first, a child will react to these stimuli, but eventually he will learn to control the movement of the balance board to produce the stimuli he wants to experience.
Check out this cool video for some creative ideas of how to use your toddler balance board
What are the benefits of a balance board for kids?
As stated above, a balance board can help a child develop his sense of body awareness, balance, and core stability and strength. These are all important elements that go hand-in-hand with major movement milestones as a toddler grows, from walking and running, to hopping, climbing, and even swimming.
In addition to these fitness and motor skill benefits, a curved wooden balance board can also be used as part of open-ended play in a Montessori playroom. Even an older infant can benefit from practice crawling over or under a balance board, and toddlers and young children may use the balance board as a base for stacking toys or experimenting with how rolling toys are affected by gravity.
Because toddlers and young children should be supervised and may need assistance while using a balance board, there is also the added benefit of quality time with a caregiver. Children and parents can come up with unique ways to incorporate balance boards into meaningful play.
The Best Balance Boards for Toddlers
Now that you know about the benefits of balance boards for toddlers, here are some recommendations of our favorite balance boards that you may want to consider for your child.
This simple curved wooden balance board is a great option for toddlers and young children. Its smaller size keeps the rocking action from being too much for small children, while still stimulating the vestibular system, the muscles needed for good posture, and body awareness.
This natural wooden Waldorf board is built for heavy duty use by everyone in the family, from the youngest toddlers to the adults in the household. In addition to the physical and creative benefits, this board is also environmentally-friendly, using stains, lacquers, and timber that meet ecological standards in Australia, the European Union, and the United States.
Made from heavy-duty plastic, the Teeter Popper provides the same benefits as a traditional curved wooden balance board. But it also provides other sensory engagement, as the strong silicon suction cups on the bottom adhere well to any smooth, hard surface, providing both resistance and fun noises as a child rocks.
Shaped like a skateboard with three half-sphere balance points, this balance board is a great option for older children who wish to be a bit more experimental with their play. The design allows not only for the typical rocking motion of a curved balance board, but the child can also rotate 360 degrees on the large balance point, as well as the two smaller balance points.
Like the Whirly Board, the Revolution 101 Balance Board Trainer is shaped somewhat like a skateboard. This unique balance board comes with a separate roller that challenges balance, posture, and body awareness. The top of the board is lined with a soft cushioning, so it can be used with or without shoes. Its small size makes this board transportable and lightweight, despite the heavy duty composite construction.
The StrongTek Wooden Balance Board is another compact choice and also features a slip-resistant surface that is safe for bare feet. The board and base are both made from sturdy commercial-grade multilayer hardwood, is able to hold up to 350 pounds, and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee from the company.
Similar to the Whirly Board, Spooner Boards are designed to allow even beginners to practice spins, twists, wobbles, and slides. A good option for school-aged children in particular, this board is a popular choice for physical education departments. But even preschoolers and toddlers can enjoy the Spooner Board, as the curve allows for comfortable play while the non-slip strips prevent falls.
Do balance boards really work to improve your toddler’s balance?
The short answer is: yes.
Practice with any balancing activity will help a toddler develop his sense of balance and improve motor skills related to standing, walking, and even jumping. But balance boards in particular develop the muscles a child needs to react appropriately when he becomes unbalanced, such as when he trips and falls. Strong core muscles and a well-developed sense of balance and body awareness helps prevent injury, as well.
Are balance boards worth it for toddlers?
Anyone with children knows that babies are born with relatively poor muscle control. This is why it is so important to provide opportunities for your child to practice various developmental skills as early as possible
For toddlers, the motor skills of walking, running, standing, climbing, and hopping all require strength and stability in several different muscles groups. We have talked already about core strength. But strength and stability in the ankles, legs, and hips also contributes to good balance, posture, and body awareness.
Balance boards provide lots of opportunities to build those muscles and body awareness. With consistent practice, a child’s balance, posture, and coordination can improve in just a few months.
Does a balance board improve cognition for kids?
It may be surprising for many parents, but the use of balance boards can improve a child’s overall cognitive abilities. Balance training in general improves a person’s memory and ability to understand spatial relationships, as well as the speed with which a person’s brain processes information.
Children who use balance boards exhibit more focus and attentiveness at school, learn at faster rates than peers who do not use balance boards, and have better responses to sensory learning.
Will a balance board improve my child’s posture?
Just standing on a balance board automatically engages the muscles a child uses when in what’s referred to as a natural posture. A natural posture is one in which the spine is straight, the shoulders are back and down away from the ears, and the core muscles tighten to maintain balance. Any movements performed on a balance board, whether intentional or not, serve to further strengthen these muscles and promote good posture.
How to Use Balance Boards: Safety Tips
Any equipment that is used to develop and practice balance comes with risks and safety considerations, and balance boards for toddlers are no exception. If anything, it is even more important to carefully follow safety precautions when your child is using a balance board.
There are several safety tips you can easily implement when your child is using his balance board, especially when it is first introduced or when your child is very young.
- Hold your child’s hand to provide additional stability while he learns how to use the balance board and builds up his confidence.
- Make sure the area around the balance board is clear of items that could cause injury if your child falls, such as toys, furniture with sharp edges, or even the fireplace.
- When your child is first learning the balance board, placing it on a carpet will slow its reactions and make it easier for a toddler to work with confidence.
- Place the balance board near a wall so your child can keep one or both hands posted on the wall while rocking; this may be more to the liking of an older child who wants more independence than a toddler might.
- Only use the balance board on smooth, hard surfaces that are clear of debris, whether inside or out, to prevent damage or instability.