Developing Stability and Balance Skills in Kids

Young boy riding a scooter

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Stability skills are a type of gross motor skill involving balance and weight transfer. To master these skills, children must be able to maintain various body positions, as well as adjust them, without falling. It takes muscle strength and body awareness (or proprioception) to be able to gain balance and hold it while moving around, or even staying still.

Types of Stability and Balance Skills

There are three different kinds of stability skills, all of which are important and useful for various physical activities. Even though some of them don't involve much motion, it still takes muscle strength, practice, and coordination to master them.

Static Balance

This is the ability to balance in a stationary position. Simply standing in place, on one or two feet, is a stability skill. In static balance, the center of gravity stays stable over the body's base of support.

A larger base—like having two feet on the ground—provides more stability. A smaller base—say, only one foot on the ground—or one farther away from the center of gravity, offers less stability and therefore makes balancing more difficult.

Dynamic Balance

This is the ability to balance while moving. Tumbling, coming to a stop after running, dodging, landing after a jump, and climbing are all dynamic balance skills. Every locomotor activity requires some dynamic balance skill!

Dynamic balance is more challenging to perform and master than static balance.

Unlike static balance, in dynamic balance, the base of support is smaller or narrower, and it is also moving. It often involves weight transfer—shifting the body's weight from one foot to the other, or from the feet to the hands and back.

Axial Stability

This is the ability to balance while turning the body at the same time. The turn could be on the horizontal axis, such as bending over to touch the toes or doing a somersault. Or it could be on the vertical axis, twisting the midsection of the body to the right or left.

Many stretches and movements necessary for sports, dance, and other everyday physical activities require axial stability.

In contrast to static balance, where a wide base of support is helpful, rotating is easier when the base of support is narrow: Think of a dancer doing a spin on one foot instead of both.

How to Help Kids Practice and Develop Stability Skills

Young children will learn stability skills as they master other gross motor skills, like walking, running, and throwing. Playing with ride-on toys, like scooters and bikes, is a great way to challenge and improve balance. (Just remember to scoot safely and always, always wear a helmet!)

By Catherine Holecko
Catherine Holecko is an experienced freelance writer and editor who specializes in pregnancy, parenting, health and fitness.