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Simple Balance Tests help determine Child's Level of Balance for Learning |

Simple Balance Tests help determine Child’s Level of Balance for Learning

This article provides a few simple balance tests to determine if a child may have learning delays from an immature balance system. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

When a child is clumsy, can’t attend in school, and experiences delays in reading, would you ever think to check their balance? Balance and coordination may seem like a strange thing to evaluate when a child is falling behind in the classroom. Why not get them a tutor or push them more academically?

The truth is, kids with poor balance may not be ready for higher learning when the balance system is not functioning correctly. When balance is not properly developed, learning falls behind. Kids often get lost in the system because it is assumed they can perform well enough to move forward even when they still experience gaps in learning.

Because we often take balance for granted, we forget how kids require balance for many daily activities like getting dressed, eating meals, copying notes from the chalkboard, and playing. In school, children need balance to hold their body upright in their chair, manipulate writing objects, play sports, and tracking words on the page while reading.


What is Balance?

Balance is the ability to know your place in space and when to make changes in body position. The cerebellum in the brain is the control center for balance and movement coordination. If the cerebellum is not functioning correctly, gaps in learning are often manifested in attention, behavior and in reading delays.

To know if a child has an underdeveloped balance system, there are many signs and symptoms to look for when a child begins falling behind in the classroom.  

When children display signs of poor balance, they may also show breakdowns in the following related areas:

  • Vestibular Input
  • Proprioceptive Input
  • Visual Motor
  • Postural Control
  • Core Strength
  • Gross Motor Coordination

Balance Test Overview

If you suspect a child or student has immature balance, there are a few simple “quick tests” you can do with the child at home or in therapy sessions. Simple balance tests may determine if a full balance evaluation is necessary and if it is causing additional problems. These six balance tests assess functional balance skills in school-age children.

We have only included six balance tests below, however, there are many more the child can complete in a formal evaluation. The tests provided in this article do not replace an official evaluation needed by an Occupational Therapist (OT) or Pediatric Therapist (PT).

Administering the Balance Tests

When administering the balance tests included below, ensure the child is in a comfortable environment with no distractions. Balance tests included in this article are meant for children ages three and older.

The only equipment you will need is a chair, small object (ball, bean bag or ring), and a yoga mat (optional) for additional foot support. Use this balance test sheet to measure results of the tests.

For best practices at home or in therapy sessions, keep the following in mind when administering the tests:

  • Have the child perform exercises in bare feet to prevent slipping or falling.
  • Complete each exercise one at a time in the order below (easiest to hardest).
  • Watch child perform exercises for signs of wobbling, tipping, shaking or falling.
  • Ensure the child has good posture with head erect and shoulders back. Watch the child to see If their back bends or hunches over in an attempt to stabilize the body and prevent falling.
  • Ask the child to perform the tests slowly. If the child performs the test too quickly, they can mask signs of imbalance.
  • Add a target to the wall (sticker) and ask the child to focus their eyes on the target. Children with good balance can keep their eyes on the target without the eyes darting, looking at their feet, or gazing upward for additional balance.

Performing Balance Tests

Use the following six balance tests to determine the child’s level of balance skills and if areas may need improvement.

Sitting to standing / Standing to Sitting

  • Provide a chair that is appropriate for the child’s height and weight.
  • Ensure the child’s feet are planted firmly on the ground.
  • Let them assume a comfortable sitting position with hands resting on the top of their legs.
  • Ask them to come to a standing position without support and hold for three to five seconds. Do not use the hands or arms for support.
  • When this test is complete, ask the child to sit back down in the chair.
  • Hold sitting position without support for three to five seconds.

Balance Test #1 | ilslearningcorner.comStanding with Eyes Closed

  • Have the child stand straight with their feet together and arms at their sides.
  • Ask the child to close their eyes and stand for three to five seconds.
  • After the test is complete, the child may open their eyes.

Balance Test #2 |

Tilting Head Forward and Backward

  • Have the child stand straight with their feet together and arms at their sides.
  • Ask the child to tilt their head forward and hold for three to five seconds.
  • When the test is complete, have the child bring the head back to standing position.
  • Ask the child to tilt their head backward using only their head and neck looking toward the ceiling.
  • Repeat the test with the child’s eyes closed for better balance observations.

Balance Test #3 | ilslearningcorner.comToe Tapping (forward and backward)

  • Have the child stand straight with their feet together and arms at their sides.
  • Ask the child to use their right foot to tap the floor in front of them and hold the position for three to five seconds.
  • Instruct the child to lift the foot slightly off the ground and hold for three to five seconds.
  • Repeat exercise on the left foot.

Balance Test #4 | ilslearningcorner.comOne Foot Balance

  • Bare feet and mat if needed.
  • Ask the child to keep their eyes on the target (sticker) as they perform the exercise.
  • Hands on hips or by their sides.
  • Slowly bend knee and bring the knee upward to the hips.
  • Hold position for three to five seconds.
  • Slowly bring leg down to standing position.
  • Repeat exercise on left leg.

Balance Test #5 |

Pick an Object from the Floor

  • Have the child stand straight with their feet together and arms at their sides.
  • Place an object in front of the child (ball, bean bag, ring or toy).
  • Ask the child to bend over and pick up the object from the floor.
  • Repeat exercise three times for better observations.

Balance Test #6 |

Want to print these exercises for future use? Download a free copy of the exercises here:

What happens next?

After the child performs the tests, record the results in this balance test sheet to determine if additional evaluations are needed. If the child shows signs of poor balance, contact your physician for recommendations to see an Occupational Therapist (OT) or Pediatric Therapist (PT) for further assistance.

If the child or student is delayed in balance, you may also want to check the child for retained Primitive Reflexes that could also cause balance problems.

Balance Activities

After testing the child or student for balance, you may determine the child needs additional help to strengthen this area of development. Balance activities are easy to incorporate in a child’s routine. Many purposeful movements that require balance are simple and fun. Research shows more physical activity, especially those activities that require balance, may help improve areas of attention and focus.

Activities can be adjusted to fit children at different levels and growth stages. Parents, therapists and educators can work with children on balance activities in the home, in school groups or in therapy sessions.

A few fun and purposeful balance activities to do with children and students include the following:

If you find all the activities and exercises above helpful for balance, you may consider joining our Integrated Movement Center membership.

This resource provides members with monthly or annual access to activities that strengthen and support all motor skills, including balance.

Join other Integrated Movement Center members here.

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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