Gym ball sitting, peanut ball or bouncy animal sitting!

by Louise O'Reilly

We love this exercise at Tots2Teens Therapy….. it is good for the core muscles, balance skills and saving reactions! For information on how to choose your ball and ball activities keep reading.

You need to choose a ball tall enough to slightly tip your child's hips forwards, this will engage their core and get them sitting upright. Inflate the ball so it is slightly higher than a regular chair for your child. 

As a general guide an under 3 year olds needs a 30 cm ball, 45cm for 3-6 year olds, 55cm for 7-10 year olds and 65cm for 11+ year olds. Measure from your child's heel (shoes on) to the back of their knee, and add a couple of cms. The bouncy animals are great fun and more stable than a gymball for a younger child. I would opt for a peanut ball for a child who requires more stability from the ball to achieve the starting position!

Independent Sitting on the Ball

Start with the feet flat on the floor, shoes and AFOs on. Stabilise the ball so it can't move, either wedge in the corner of a room of between the sofa and a wall. Support your child at their thighs to start with and then gradually move your support lower to your child's knees, then their shins, their AFOs then just their feet. When they have got their balance, progressively start this process again with the ball only against one surface.

Weight Shifting

While seated, you can improve the control of your center of gravity by practicing weight-shifting balance exercises. By moving your pelvis in different directions -- forward, backward and side to side -- and away from a centered position, you can work on your balance as well as strengthen your core musculature and lower body. You can also increase the flexibility of your hip joints. For example, sit on a stability ball with your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Slowly move your hips forward, holding the peak position for a count of three, then return to the starting position. Next, shift your weight backwards for a count of three. Repeat the exercise again with your eyes closed.

Progressions

Upon mastering basic weight-shifting exercises, you can advance balance training from a seated position in various ways. Change arm positions or introduce movement -- reaching out to grab an object -- to make balance exercises more difficult. You can also change the way you use vision, transitioning from having your eyes open to wearing dark glasses to closed eyes. You can transition from single tasks requiring simple movement to multi-tasking exercises and games.

Bouncing

When bouncing on an exercise ball, you’re forced to control your center of gravity in a dynamic way. You can bounce up and down, forward and backward, side to side or diagonally. While honing your balance, bouncing exercises also strengthen the muscles in your lower body -- hip flexors, thighs and ankles. For example, sit upright on a ball with feet hip-width apart and flat on the ground. Lock your gaze on a target at eye level. Start by bouncing vertically, increasing the height of your bounce incrementally until your sitting bones lift off the ball. Perform 10 bounces, then close your eyes and repeat the exercise. If you experience discomfort in your knees or hips or start feeling dizzy, stop bouncing.

Adding Resistance

By adding resistance, such as a medicine ball, to an exercise while sitting on a stability ball, you'll build core muscles and the upper body. For example, sit on the ball with only your toes touching the floor. Have a partner also sit on a ball across from you. Perform a game of catch in which your partner tosses a medicine ball to you at different angles. The more you have to move in different directions to catch the ball, the more you hone your sitting balance. To decrease the difficulty or load of the exercise, replace the medicine ball with a smaller and lighter rubber ball.