Pediatric occupational therapy serves many purposes, but the core goal is to give children the tools they need to thrive. Whether this means developing a specific skill, like learning how to write, or more generalized self-care abilities, the aim is always to further children’s independence. It’s crucial that, in this bid for more independence, they are equipped with overall body strength, good balance and coordination, and the ability to motor plan.
I find it’s important to provide kids with opportunities to practice these skills, which don’t always arise in day to day activities. The Wobbel Board is a fantastic way to foster a child’s coordination and balance, which are critical to their overall development. These are the building blocks for developing more specific skillsets down the road, including grasping and graphomotor skills (like drawing and writing with a pencil). Children that struggle with body strength are more likely to encounter challenges when developing fine motor skills, so any opportunity to work on these building blocks is key.
And have I mentioned what a beauty this thing is? Such great design! Here are just a few more of the Wobbel Board’s benefits:
DEVELOPS BODY AND SPATIAL AWARENESS
The ability to recognize where your body is in space might seem like a no-brainer, but not for kids. This is another crucial ability, as it helps us to better relate to other people and objects in our environment. Body awareness, for example, is what lets us know when somebody is standing too close for comfort. Spatial awareness gives us the framework for interacting with our surroundings. It’s how we know left from right, but also how we know to avoid obstacles. This is important for overall safety, but also comes into play with visual perception.
INCREASES CORE STRENGTH
While balancing on the board, children are challenging the stomach muscles. Good core strength helps with good posture, which is important when participating in tabletop tasks.
PROMOTES BILATERAL COORDINATION
This refers to the ability to use both sides of the body in a simultaneous and organized manner. Having good bilateral coordination is a sign that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing that information with the body. It’s more likely that children with good bilateral coordination to find success in activities involved in daily living—dressing and feeding themselves, or tying their shoes—and gross motor activities, like crawling, walking or climbing stairs. It also factors into visual motor tasks, like drawing or playing catch, and the development of fine motor skills.
If all this seems like a lot to ask of a toy, just remember the most critical element here is FUN! Kids tend to avoid things that are challenging to them, so it’s important to disguise all this work that’s being done with a hefty dose of play. Here are a few ideas for using the Wobbel Board in ways that are both fun and effectively promote the aforementioned benefits:
The folks at Wobbel Board made a free set of printable cards that you can download online. Included are 12 different movements and activities you can do with the board. Each card offers variations of an activity and explains what skills this helps with. There are also a handful of two-person activities, which improve social and communication skills.
This is also part of the included download. Just like the original memory game, you place the cards face down on a surface and kids have to try and find the matching cards from memory. Once the match is found, kids take turns doing the activity on the card.
The wobbel board can be used as part of an obstacle course in several different ways. It can be climbed over, jumped over or off of. You can also have the Wobbel Board in the middle of the course with a pile of Wobbel Cards facedown, so that when kids get to the board, they have to flip the card and perform the corresponding activity. Try incorporating some other activities into the course, like jumping on a trampoline or stepping on different colored spot markers. Walk over pillows or do the crab walk—all of these are fun ways to work on balance and coordination!