Body awareness provides children with a perception of the dimensions of their bodies -- the shapes their bodies can make and spaces into which they can fit, what movements their bodies can accomplish and what their body parts actually are. Body awareness relies on tactile and vestibular position senses. There are several exercises children can do to help improve body awareness.
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Before starting with dynamic balancing moves, have your child try to balance on one foot for up to 20 seconds. Once she masters static balancing moves, move up to dynamic balancing activities. Stick a long piece of tape to the floor and have your child walk along it. You can lay a ladder on the floor and have your child walk along it, on or inside the rungs. She may also walk on or straddle the edges of the ladder. If you have access to one, a balance beam is an advanced dynamic balancing activity. Make sure you have sufficient padding under the beam in case she tumbles off. These exercises teach your child to focus on her body as she moves through space and require her attention in order to be successful at negotiating the course.
Make sure you child knows all of his body parts. One fun way of teaching is to give your child colorful stickers and ask him to place a sticker on certain body parts. Once he successfully places the sticker, move on to the next body part. It is easier if you sit or stand your child in front of a mirror so he can see his reflection. Another touch activity is to ask your child to touch his fingers to his toes. Next, ask him to touch his elbow with his nose. See if he can touch his nose to his tummy -- he should figure out that this is a silly assignment! These activities provide body awareness by teaching him his body parts and where they are on his body. They also teach him how certain body parts move.
Set up an obstacle course. Use a chair, different sized boxes, tables and blocks. Create it so your child has to move in and out, around and over and under the items. If you are setting up outdoors, incorporate things, such as tricycles and skipping ropes into the obstacle course. This teaches her to judge the size of spaces and how her body will fit into spaces and objects, and will help improve her awareness of her body.
Signs of a Problem
All children develop body awareness at different rates and should improve as they mature. Compared to other children his age, you may notice your child seems to avoid moving in certain ways like jumping, hanging, bouncing, crashing, pulling or pushing. Conversely, he might crave these motions and seem to do so excessively. He might chew on clothing or objects. He may seem to move stiffly or awkwardly. He might trip or fall a lot. He may constantly watch his feet when he walks or runs. If you notice he does any of these things more compared to his peers, speak to his pediatrician or family doctor.