What is a Montessori Balance Board?
Montessori balance boards are great for your child’s educational and physical development. This concept however, was developed in the Waldorf classroom to stimulate balance and strength. The balance board helps stimulate the vestibular system and proprioception which is the awareness of the physical body while stimulating the imagination and creativity.
The balance board fits perfectly with the Montessori’s approach of freedom as well as hands-on learning and it can be used both indoors and outdoors.
The Benefits of a Balance Board
The Montessori balance board, also known as a curvy board, is a great toy for toddlers and children for playing and learning. The balance board helps your child gain awareness of their body weight along with their posture, coordination, sensory skills and core strength. It also helps develop their vestibular system, which is related to equilibrium and the inner ear.
The balance board assists children in understanding discipline while learning the boundaries and limits of the board. This helps them to understand what they can and cannot do without someone having to show and teach it to them. They will be able to figure out the limits of the board on their own through trial and error.
The balance board is also a great form of exercise as your child rocks, balances and climbs the board. They are particularly useful at improving balance and reflexes, fostering gross motor coordination and weight distribution.
The balance board is suitable for all ages. Toddlers can enjoy learning to balance and creating new ways to use the board for play. Preschool age children may enjoy using the balance board in creative ways like a see-saw, bridge, ramp or a boat.
In addition, the rocking motion of a balance board can have a calming effect and may be used to help your child relax and wind down.
How Does Your Child Use a Balance Board?
This compact, circular shaped board for kids is usually made from solid wood and may have an anti-skid pad for a secure grip. These boards can normally support up to 300 pounds and has around a 360-degree rotation with a 15-degree tilting angle making it idea for working on movements from side to side, front to back, and circular.
Your child can rock standing up by placing feet at opposite sides of the board or push left to rock left, and push right to rock right. Your child has the option to get on the balance board, on all fours or lay on their back. From here they can push up to rock up, and push down to rock down using their body weight.
You can also add cushions and a blanket to the curve of the board to create a comfortable lounge area that your child will love cuddling in with a good book or even take a nap.
What to Look for When Buying a Balance Board
The balance board material influences the strength and durability of the board, the way the board looks, feels and responds to movement. The best boards use all-natural real wood and should be hard enough to support heavy use, indoors and outdoors. Wooden balance boards are known for their durability and strength. Boards made from synthetic materials may not be as eco-friendly, and they might not last as long.
Plain or Painted
Similar to other wooden toys, a balance board should be painted or sealed. Some may come with an anti-skid traction pad on top. Boards with a grip pad are easier to balance on, and are safer for children to use. Smooth boards are a little harder to balance on, but they are more versatile. They may also be better for development because they offer a greater challenge to use.
Felt or no Felt
Felt definitely gives the board more grip, but removes possibilities of using the board as a slide or smooth car track. If you have carpeted floors you can go either way. If your floors are hard and not carpeted, then you might consider getting a felted board, or put carpet under the play area.
Balance boards differ in size as well as curve. These boards are measured in width, thickness, and length. Ideally, you want a board that is large enough for your child to use, and curved enough for easy rocking. If the board is not curved enough, it will be too stable for your child to develop balance. If it is too curved, the board will rock too much and won’t be able to be used for other activities.
These days there are usually two sizes of balance boards made for smaller and bigger kids. Choosing the bigger size maybe best, because your child can use it and grow into it.
Are Balance Boards Safe?
Active play always means there is a chance for minor injuries, but there’s no safer way to get your child rocking and wobbling. Your child may fall and bump their head, scrape their knees, pinch their fingers between the board and the floor or even break a bone in rare occasions.
Of course, parental supervision is always recommended. The key is to allow your child to take their time and not to rush them into performing activities and tricks that are beyond their current stage of motor development. By following the Montessori method, you should allow your child to explore independently, but stay within a safe distance should an injury occur.
Children are constantly moving and they are still learning to control their movements and balance. Without movement, their little brains are unable to develop the necessary skills for intellectual development, because children learn with their bodies before their brains.
This is why it is so important that your child be encouraged to move, explore, and play as part of their everyday life.