Learn more about how kids develop body awareness and how you can help them work on this important developmental skill.
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The child that bumps into other kids or the walls when walking in the hallway.
The child that is constantly falling out of her chair or breaking her pencil when she writes.
The child that hugs tightly, trips constantly or just can’t seem to get himself into his coat.
All of these kids are struggling in one very important area…body awareness.
What is Body Awareness?
Body awareness, or kinesthetic sense, is having a sense of where all of your body’s parts are in space, how each of those parts work together or separately and even how they feel. It is a skill that becomes innate. Something that doesn’t need to be thought about as we move through the day. It is a skill that is generally developed in the background as a result of motor skill practice through play and repetition.
Newborn babies learn about body awareness when they first discover their hands. It is fascinating to watch as a child notices those five fingers for the first time and is mesmerized by the movements they make. As a baby grows and develops, her proprioceptive system helps her understand that she can hold a rattle, shake it, and bring it to her mouth. She may miss and bonk herself in the eye a time or two, but she quickly learns and becomes acutely aware of how her body works.
As this baby grows, she encounters even more experiences with movement that help develop body awareness. Rolling from her tummy to her back, balancing on hands and knees, moving from crawling to sitting, and sitting to standing. All of these skills come through exploration, practice, and perseverance.
Once they’re up and running, toddlers often move too quickly until they develop the body awareness they need to grade their speed appropriately for the movements they are performing. They refine their ability to run fast in a wide open space or walk slowly to stay balanced on a curb.
As kids get older, body awareness allows them to complete complex motor skills like jumping jacks, carrying a heavy backpack through crowded hallways, or competing in organized sports. At this point, body awareness has developed into an ability to recognize distance, direction and location.
Sometimes body awareness doesn’t come naturally to kids. In these cases, there may be an issue with their proprioceptive system. This complex sensory system sends messages from our joints and muscles to our brain to help coordinate movement. It allows us to learn to pick up a light fork and move it to our mouth to savor that bite of chocolate cake without smearing chocolate icing on our nose or stabbing our tongue with those sharp prongs.
Problems With Body Awareness
Poor body awareness can lead to all kinds of problems in school, at home and in the community including:
-Difficulty with handwriting, including pencil grip and writing pressure
-Problems with word spacing and writing on lines which are visual perceptual skills that are directly related to body awareness
–Poor posture in a classroom chair
-Difficulty walking in line with classmates
-Difficulty applying directional concepts like over, under, left, right, up or down which translates into issues with following spoken directions
-Bumping into objects
Working on Body Awareness With Kids
The good news? In most cases, body awareness can be improved with practice. We have lots of fun ways to work on body awareness with kids:
1 || Mirror Mirror – Kids work with a partner to imitate movements and improve awareness of their movements.
2 || Rabbit Hole – A fun team game where kids have to work together to fit into a tight space.
3 || Heavy Work – Activities where kids have to push, pull, and lift against resistance.
4 || Targeted Strengthening – Using weighted objects, body weight, or resistance training.
5 || Core Strengthening – Having a strong core foundation is important for building control of the movements of the rest of the body.
6 || Spatial awareness games: put the pillow “under” the table, go hide “behind” the chair, etc.
7 || Practice touching body parts with eyes open and closed using a Simon Says style game.
8 || Hand Clapping Games – Kids can play with a partner to improve timing and control of their movements in a fun way. Using music and rhythm is a great way to support body awareness.
9 || Games of Tag – Using different variations of this classic game is a great way to hone in on different movements.
10 || Yogarilla – Show cards and ask a child to make their body mimic the image on the card.
11 || Balloon Play – Because balloons float and move in unpredictable ways, they can be tricky to catch! Have the child try to tap the balloon with different body parts to keep it from touching the floor!
What are your favorite ways to work on body awareness at home, in the classroom, or in therapy? Share them in the comments below!