Here are 10 of our favourite balancing activities in our backyard play space. Most of these can be provided with little or no cost, and often make use of items that you may already have in your home or outdoor playspace. And they all provide the hooligans with plenty of opportunities to develop their muscles, gross motor control and balancing skills.
String 2 lengths of ropes between two trees, fence posts or deck rails to create a tight-rope. Our ropes are looped several times around a couple of trees and secured with a few good knots. Place one about a foot off the ground, and the other high enough up that your child can hold onto it while walking across or balancing on the bottom rope. It will be shaky going at first, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly your little ones will get the hang of it. Even our one year old loves balancing on ours.
If you’re looking for a TRUE tightrope experience for kids AND adults, Amazon.com has these awesome things called slacklines. Challenging at first, they’re supposed to be really fun and quite easy to catch on to, and they provide the real deal when it comes to walking and performing jumps and tricks on a tightrope. See how we use pool noodles to turn our tightrope into a backyard abacus too!
When my Dad took down a large tree for a neighbour, I asked him to set aside a few pieces of the trunk so I could add them to our backyard play space. I placed three upright, close enough for the hooligans to step or jump from one to another. The other stump, I placed on it’s side. This one is a little trickier to balance on, but even some of the youngest have mastered it.
This rock actually sits near the bus-stop in our neighbourhood, but if I ever had the opportunity to get one for my yard, I wouldn’t hesitate. Not only is a rock like this great for standing and balancing on, it provides endless opportunity for imaginative play. Over the years it’s been a pirate ship, airplane, rocket-ship, diving board, restaurant counter, horse, an elephant… It’s been a gathering place, a podium for singing and speech-giving, a trading post where we examine and swap the treasures we find on our nature walks… A rock like this is truly priceless.
Smaller rocks in the form of “stepping stones” can help to develop a little one’s sense of balance. The hooligans spend lots of time following this short path of stones from our porch to our front yard, and circling back to do it again. I’ve always found that there’s something quite magical about a stone path set into a garden or forested area.
Chalk or Rope Lines:
Lay down a long, winding piece of rope, or draw a curving chalk-line in the driveway for your child to walk along. Have fun with different styles of lines: zig-zags, long and winding, or a circular labyrinth for example. In the photo above, our chalk line just happens to be drawn a long a low brick wall, which also serves as a perfect place to practice a balancing act. See more of our creative chalk activities here.
Climbing the slide:
Supervision and common sense are called for here, but as long as no-one is waiting to go down the slide, I’m all for this activity. Core strength, balance, risk assessment and decision-making skills are all challenged here. By the end of June, our 1 year old (seen in this photo) could make it to the top of the slide and into the playhouse.
Standing on the Swings:
Kind of up there with climbing on the slide, you need to exercise some common-sense and supervision here, but this is another activity that helps a child to develop his or her sense of balance. Standing on a moving object is tricky, but a steady and slow-moving tire swing is the perfect place to practice such a trick. One look at these faces gives you an idea of how proud these little ones are about their accomplishment.
Balance on a Bench:
Relax your rules a bit when you’re outside, and let your child climb on the “furniture”. Remember the thrill of walking along a picnic table bench when you were young? I sure do! Just because a bench or stool wasn’t designed with standing in mind, it doesn’t mean a child can’t explore it that way when it’s not in use.
And last but not least…
This is not in our yard, in it’s halfway around the world, and it belongs to Jenny of Let the Children Play. I do believe this old rickety bridge is my absolute favourite pieces of backyard balancing equipment ever!
Maybe, just maybe one day, I’ll make one of my own.
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Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. In 1997, Jackie stepped out of the corporate world to start a family and to open her own home daycare. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.