Balance, Leg Coordination and Walking Activities for disabled children of all abilities.

These resources are suitable for our Jungles; children and young people with any ability or disability.

Home exercise for disabled children with behavioural and or sensory difficulties
  • Good coordination and balance in the legs is key to kneeling, standing, walking, running, jumping and higher level sports and activities. 

  • Good leg control works hand in hand with good core stability (see our section on core stability). Both must work well to have proper standing and walking skills. 

  • Difficulties with leg stability can cause problems with developing walking and higher level mobility issues. Once walking, it can also be the reason for frequent falls, difficulty joining in with sports and managing other school PE activities. Sometimes, the right strengthening and balance exercises can mean children can join in with their peers which in turn can have a great influence on self-esteem and confidence. It also opens the door for establishing a lifelong habit of exercise which is so important for our health and well-being. 

  • Before trying any of these exercises, take a minute to prepare your child.  If their legs are tight then stretch the muscles before you try these activities to ensure the most effective movement. To wake up their muscles it can be a good idea to squeeze their legs and feet. You could also use a brush along their skin, or a vibrating massager to give them lots of stimulation. All of these can help to make your child more aware of their legs which can then help them be more accurate and use their legs more effectively. 

  • Use this sequence to progress your child’s legs coordination and balance. They may start at the beginning or half way down – wherever you think your child will be successful but still be challenged. If your child is not ready to attempt a certain activity, look at those either before or after which may suit them better.  

  • Think about what toy they will use while they do their activity. Often a watching activity will allow them to balance better (e.g. reading, watching a tablet or TV). Toys that require them to play with their hands will challenge their balance more (posting games, playing musical instruments or playing games on a tablet). Games with many pieces are great for encouraging movement and repetition of the exercise (e.g. throwing a bunch of beanbags or balls, rolling many toy cars, playing shopping with lots of pretend food.) If the activity requires the child to stay still, try giving them a fiddle toy or stretchy band to use in their hands to help them stay in the same position. 

  • Make sure your child is successful in their activity as this will motivate them to continue. As you push them to get to the next level, they should be able to manage a few of their attempts to keep motivated-even if they are not successful at all of them. Moving on to activities before a child is ready may dishearten them and they may well resist and get upset. Remember to praise the effort rather than the result to motivate them to keep putting in effort and not be put off if they don’t succeed. 

Balance, leg coordination and walking exercise ideas to try with your child at home. 

  1. If your child is able to sit still on the floor (or chair), try sitting them astride your leg, sat astride a roll or on a bench (depending on their size) so their feet are on the floor but their bodies are not resting on anything. Make sure their knees are bent and their feet are flat on the floor.

  2. Once they are able to sit with you just holding at their hips, challenge them to reach out to the side for a toy or reach to the floor and back up. They will need to use their legs to balance themselves and prevent them from falling. 

  3. Next, try to raise the bench/ your leg so they have more weight on their legs. Again challenge their balance with reaching games.  

  4. Eventually practice this with the bench/ table/ your leg pretty high so that they are just perching on the edge and much of their weight is through their legs but their knees are still a little bent. 

  5. You could do this on a small physio ball as well to challenge their balance further, moving the ball side to side to make each leg work hard. 

Hands and knees 

This is a fabulous position to work pelvic stability (as well as core and shoulder stability – see those sections for details)

  1. Start just trying to maintain a hands and knees position. It may be easier to start with the child sitting back on their heels and just balancing through their arms. If they want to shoot forward in this position, keep their bottoms down and hold them at their hips to help them maintain this position.  

  2. As they get stronger, move their bodies forward bit by bit and see if they can control their hips. If they start to shoot forward again, bring their bottom all the way back to their heels and start again. The aim is to get their shoulders over their hands and their hips are over their knees. While they learn to hold this position, watching activities are the best – watching a tablet, reading a book etc so they don’t have to move their arms.  

  3. Once they are able to hold these positions, practice going from sat on heels position up to full hands and knees position and back again with control. You could pause their programme when they go back and then press play when they return up as motivation. 

  1. This is a brilliant activity for pelvic and hip stability (as well as shoulder and core stability) and is especially good for those with low tone (floppy muscles) or who are very flexible as it builds stability in the hip and knee joints and can prevent children from building bad habits and hanging on their joints (e.g. locking out their knees in standing) to compensate for their weakness.  

  2. For those with Cerebral Palsy or other conditions with increased tone in the legs, this position may or may not be helpful so consult your physiotherapist before working on this.

  3. Every time your child moves one leg, the other hip has to stabilise to stop them collapsing. Try to encourage 1 leg and then the other rather than moving both legs at the same time.  

  4. To challenge the pelvis and hips further, practice crawling over objects or even up some steps. Set up an obstacle course (see Lucy’s video) to challenge them further and for lots of fun. 

  5. Have a look at our ‘Our Home’ video for ideas on how to get your child to crawl  

  1. Lie your child on their back with their knees bent and feet on the floor. Encourage them to lift their bottom up. When they lift it up try to make sure it goes as high as possible – to make a straight line from their thighs to their shoulders. 

  2. Once they can lift their bottom high, see if they can hold it for as long as possible. You can try to drive some cars or other toys under their bottom to help encourage them to hold it up.  

  3. They can also try to hold a ball between their knees while they do this. 

  4. Progress to lying your child on their back with their knees bent and feet on the floor and encouraging them to lift 1 leg in the air. Now they should lift their bottom with the other leg still up in the air and ask them to try to keep their bottom up for 20 seconds with their hips staying level. 

  5. Lying on their back with their knees bent and 1 leg up and straight. Lift their bottom and try moving their straight leg up towards their head and then down again slowly. The straight leg shouldn’t go lower than the other bent knee. 

  1. Encourage your child to kneel up against furniture – a sofa can be a perfect height for this.

  2. Make sure they are in a straight line from their knees up to their shoulders and aren’t bowing forward or sticking their bottoms out.

  3. Be sure that their hips are not swaying side to side. If they are not central, try correcting your child and then let go so they have to work on their own to keep it in the right place. Using your hands on them may mean that they lean into your support so try to ease your hands off whenever you can. If they are dropping back down or to the side, use 1 finger to remind them to come back up rather than a full hand. 

  4. To begin with the aim is for your child to stay up on their own. Use a book or tablet on the furniture so that, if they drop, they will no longer be able to see it to motivate them to stay up. 

  5. Next encourage them to lift a hand to play with a toy so that they are relying less on their arms to balance. 

  6. Move onto playing with both hands. 

  7. Next, try to keep their chest away from the piece of furniture so that when they play with their hands, they are using even more balance through their hips. 

  8. You can now try to encourage them to pick up objects from the floor or even turn to get a toy behind them to challenge them further.  

  9. Move their toy further down the sofa or furniture to encourage them to move sideways on their knees. 

  10. Once they are fully mobile against furniture, try high kneeling without holding on at all. They could even try to walk on their knees in all directions. 

  11. Play throw and catch in this position to further challenge their balance.

  1. When your child has mastered high kneeling, help them to bring 1 leg up in front of them so that they have 1 knee on the floor and the other foot out in front (and just to the side) of their bottom knee with both knees at 90 degree angles.

  2. Make sure their higher knee isn’t drifting in or outwards. Ask them to correct this or help them and then let go again so they can try to do this themselves. 

  3. As with kneeling, start by your child holding on to furniture. A bench which fits over their front leg is ideal but they could do this at a table instead. 

  4. To begin with you want your child to just stay up there on their own. Use a book or tablet on the furniture so that, if they drop, they will no longer be able to see it to motivate them to stay up. 

  5. Next encourage them to lift a hand to play with a toy so that they are relying less on their arms to balance. 

  6. Move onto playing with both hands. 

  7. Next, try to keep their chest away from the piece of furniture so that when they play with their hands, they are using even more balance through their hips. 

  8. You can now try to encourage them to pick up objects from the floor or even turn to get a toy behind them to challenge them further.  

  9. Once they can kneel with hardly any support, try half kneeling without holding on at all.  

  10. Try putting their back knee on a well filled cushion to challenge their balance even more. 

  11. Play throw and catch in 1/2 kneeling to further challenge their balance.

  1. You should only try this as their core stability improves – i.e. when they can sit on a bench/ over your lap without much help to keep their balance in their body. 

  2. Practice standing at furniture. Your child should have their legs shoulder width apart and feet facing forwards. 

  3. Sit behind your child so you can comfortably hold onto their hips in this position. If possible they should be upright in their body with their bottom tucked in, although this may be something to work towards. If they drop you can guide them into siting on your lap. If they fall forward on to the furniture, see if they can come up by themselves before helping to re-position them.  

  4. If possible, try to release your hold bit by bit on them to see if they can maintain their hip stability and stay upright on their own.

  5. Once they can stand confidently against furniture without you holding them, try them standing with 1 foot on a raised surface (a big book or small box) with the knee on that side a bit bent to challenge them further. 

  6. Next, ask them to reach to the side and down to pick up objects/ hit a drum/ post an object in a container etc. 

  1. This is a fantastic activity to strengthen the muscles on the outside of the leg and also to work whole leg stability and movement.

  2. Once your child is able to lift their feet to step on a box or re-position their feet while standing at furniture, move their toy out of reach along the piece of furniture to encourage them to walk sideways. You may need to help them move their arms towards the toy. You can then help them by moving their body weight. Their weight should be OFF the side that they want to move. 

  3. So if they want to go left:

    • Move their weight over their right foot. 

    • Lift their left hip to encourage them to bring their left foot out to the side. 

    • Move their weight over to their left foot 

    • Encourage them to bring their right foot in to meet the left. 

    • And vice versa for the other side. 

  4. Once they are cruising happily along furniture, add obstacles in the way – steps to step on, cushions to stand on or toys to step over to challenge them further. 

  1. Stand your child with their back to a wall and try and let go (if they are steady enough). Stay close and remind them to straighten their legs if they start to sink. A watching game (TV or reading) is best here as using their hands can put them off balance. 

  2. This is a great position to really challenge their balance skills between both legs and should only be attempted once they can stand without you holding on to them at furniture. 

  3. Once they have their balance staying still, help them to step 1 foot onto a small step/ book and balance like this. 

  4. Next try to play a game to occupy their hands – playing on a tablet or target practice with balls and a bucket/ laundry basket. 

  5. Finally ask them to walk sideways along the wall to pick up and object and then walk back again to post it. Shopping games or other multi-piece games work well for this.

  1. Start sitting behind and holding your child who is standing with nothing to hold onto. Make sure their feet are hip width apart and facing forward. Depending on their personality and understanding you may either want to distract them from what you are doing by letting them watch TV or ask them to concentrate on what you are doing. See what works best.

  2. Hold them at their hips. Make your hands lighter and lighter as they start to balance for themselves. Try to let them correct themselves rather than doing it for them – you are there to stop them falling but they need to be able to make small movements within the position. 

  3. Slowly move your hands down their leg as they get better at balancing. If at any point they feel stable, take your hands off and let them balance in standing on their own. 

  4. If required, keep going down their legs with your hands until you are just supporting them at their feet. This may be particularly useful for your child if they wear splints.  

  5. Let go of one of your hands and then swap hands until you can let go of both hands.

  1. Once they can stand with their legs hip width apart and you holding their hips, try very gently to move them side to side over 1 leg and then the other and see how they balance. If you have someone else with you, they could ask your child to reach side to side for objects to help them bring their weight over to each side. If not you can just help them move sideways with your hands on their hips. 

  2. From here, try bringing 1 leg forward so they are in a stepping position. Again just hold their hips with their weight evenly distributed between the 2 legs. 

  3. If they manage to balance here and you can loosen your hands a bit, try moving them forward over the front foot and back again to their back foot. Again use reaching games to help them move. 

  4. Now, for both of the positions above, use the same technique for reducing your support as for standing balance; 

  5. Hold them at their hips. Make your hands lighter and lighter as they start to balance for themselves. Try to let them correct themselves rather than doing it for them – you are there to stop them falling but they need to be able to make small movements within the position. Swap which is their front leg throughout the progressions. 

  6. Slowly move your hands down their leg as they get better at balancing. If at any point they feel stable, take your hands off and let them balance on their own. 

  7. If required, keep going down their bodies with your hands until you are just supporting them at their feet. This may be particularly useful for your child if they wear splints.  

  8. Let go of one of your hands and then swap hands until you can let go of both hands.

  9. Now try doing the same but with 1 foot on a low step/ hardback book. The foot on the book needs to be in front of the floor foot. This is very important as it helps to increase the stability in the knee and prevent your child just locking out their joints to get stable. 

  1. Using a Kaye-Walker – If your child has good arm strength and abilities but struggles with core stability, weight bearing on their legs and balance, a Kaye-Walker may enable them to achieve independent walking as they can put much of their weight through their hands. 

  2. Forward Walker – If your child has standing balance when at furniture, they may manage to take steps using a forward walker. Here they won’t be able to put their weight through their hands so will take more weight in their legs which will challenge their legs further. This often leads to a better walking pattern but is harder work than the Kaye-Walker. Ask your physiotherapist which is more appropriate for your child. 

  3. Quad sticks – If your child is managing very well with their forward walker, they may be ready to progress to 2 Quad sticks or Tripod sticks. Make sure that the opposite leg goes forward at the same time as the opposite hand (i.e. right leg with left hand) as this mimics and prepares for walking without a walking aid.

  4. Lastly they may try just 1 stick. If your child has 1 side that is better than the other, the stick should go in the opposite hand and go forward at the same time as the less good leg. 

  1. An obstacle course is a lovely way to challenge your child’s balance and leg coordination. 

  2. Set it up so that your child has to step over objects, take big strides and climb onto and off furniture. Use cushions and a duvet on the floor that they have to step onto and walk across to make an uneven surface. 

  3. Practice walking sideways or backwards to complete the obstacle course. 

  4. With any obstacle course, make sure there is something appealing at each end to encourage them to do the activity several times. This could be a ball game, collecting shopping to take to a till or picking up puzzle pieces to make the puzzle at the other end. 

  5. See our series on obstacle paths for all abilities – from a bear hunts in a chair, to laser quests, obstacle courses on the floor or for more mobile children.

  1. Once your child is walking confidently and able to negotiate obstacles, step over items and walk on uneven surfaces, try standing on 1 leg. Core stability exercises for children with all disabilities

  2. To start with, help your child to stand on 1 leg with a foot on a ball. They can start holding your hand during this but try to move on until they can do this not holding you.  

  3. Can they move the ball around in circles or forwards and backwards and side to side? 

  4. Now standing on 1 foot with the other foot in the air. 

  5. Can they still do this while throwing a ball in the air? 

  6. Now they should try to stand with 2 feet on a wobble cushion ( a cushion with air in it) or just a small well stuffed pillow.  

  7. Can they do this on 1 leg? 

  8. And while throwing and catching? 

  9. How about on 1 leg and picking up a ball from the floor to play with skittles or target practice? 

  1. This is another great way to challenge balance – If you don’t have a beam, use the edge of pavement or a low wall outside. Inside your home, you can draw a line on the floor with painters tape. Make sure to hold your child’s hand as they walk along the beam/ wall until they can manage this on their own. 

  2. You can make this more challenging by asking your child to walk so that the heel of their front foot touches the toe of their back foot as they step forward. 

  3. Challenge them to go backwards and then try to go backwards in the heel/ toe pattern. 

  4. Try to do an egg and spoon race along the line! 

  5. You could also make the line zigzag or curve. 

  6. Set up a game at each end of the line – e.g. shopping or target practice so they have to go back and forward many times. 

  1. Jumping is a fabulous workout for children and helps to strengthen the legs. 

  2. Your child can jump on the bed, off the sofa onto a pile of cushions (tuck a sheet around the cushions to try to make sure the cushions wont slip away as they bounce onto them) or just on the floor. 

  3. Try giving them challenges – 

    1. How many jumps can they do in a row? 

    2. How far can they jump from a standing start or with a run up? 

    3. Can they throw and catch while they jump (this is harder than it sounds).  

    4. Can they jump over a bar? Raise the bar every time they have a go and see how high they can jump. 

  1. Once they can stand happily on one leg, can they try a hop? Encourage them to bend their knee and hold their hand to try to help them lift off the ground as they jump on 1 foot. 

  2. Can they hop forward? You could draw out lines on the floor with painters tape and mark how far they can hop and they can try and beat this. 

  3. Try drawing hopscotch on the pavement in chalk or indoors with some painter tape. Can they alternate hopping on each leg?  

  1. You could draw out an obstacle course with painters tape in a room or along your walls. This great video can give you some ideas of how to set up a tape obstacle course.

  2. Maybe put this along your corridor and your whole family can follow the steps each time they go through the corridor to challenge their balance and coordination skills. 

  3. Or try with chalk along your pavement and watch your neighbours join in as they walk down the road (see here for an example).

  1. Practice kicking a ball between you and your child or with siblings. Start nice and close together and take a step back every time you kick the ball successfully to each other. 

  2. Now practice kicking and stopping the ball with their foot on top of the ball. 

  3. Practice dribbling in a straight line and then around obstacles. 

  4. You could make an obstacle course which your child needs to dribble around. Depending on their skills, they could go around objects or furniture or even try to go over objects with the ball.  

  5. Try getting from one end of your home, up the stairs and onto a bed with the ball. You could have stations along the way – for example – kick 5 times against the wall, do 3 keepy uppys, do 5 squats with the ball between their knees, turn around on the spot with the ball etc.  

  1. The rules of this game are to go around the room without touching the floor (which is hot lava). Children will find inventive ways to get around the furniture.  

  2. To get around the house in this game, the child could take 2 cushions and step on one while moving the other in front of them and then jumping over. (Be careful of this on hard floors as the cushions may slip).

  1. A skipping rope can give your hours of fun and will strengthen their legs and improve their leg/eye coordination 

  2. Here are 2 videos which show you simple skipping through to more complex skipping games to keep your child occupied for hours. 

  3. Jumprope for Kids shows how to measure your rope and how to jump with the rope by your side until ready to skip. 

  4. Basic Jump Rope Tricks with Lauren Matsumoto goes from simple skipping to some highly complex skipping.

  1. Elastics is a brilliant physical game to play on your child’s own or with 3 people. These will challenge their balance, strength and coordination. 

  2. This video shows the 10 different moves you can do on your own. French skipping All you need is 2 chairs and a long piece of elastic (tied to make a loop). 

  3. This mini-series gives some examples of how you can put the 10 moves together.LaunchPad Elastics Games. 

  4. If you have 3 people, you could try bringing the elastic higher each time they do a routine. You could see if they can manage with the elastic at the ankles, knees, thighs, bottom and waist. 

Your child can also get the balance benefits from doing this on cushions or on the bed at home.

Trampolining is a fantastic, fully inclusive activity. Your child may well get benefits from having a bit of trampoline fun. Be aware that there are some reasons NOT to use a trampoline – such as if your child has had spinal rodding, There are several other times to be cautious so make sure you check with your physiotherapist before going on the trampoline for the first time with your child. 

Trampolining can be dangerous so we advise nets around the trampoline and supervision if your child is trying something new. 

  1. If your child is not mobile on their feet, try them in different positions on the trampoline.  Trampolining is a great seated exercise for wheelchair users

  2. if your child is able to sit on a bench on the ground, try them in this position on the trampoline. You may need to be inventive with cushions and soft toys to set this up. It will probably take 2 adults to do this activity – 1 to hold your child and make sure they are safe and the other to gently bounce the 2 of you or to walk around you to challenge balance even further than when you were on the floor. 

  3. If your child can manage hands and knees then this can also be tried on the trampoline and, with someone gently bouncing or walking around your child, this is a lovely way to challenge their hip balance (as well as their core and shoulder stability.)  

  4. If your child is able to high kneel on the floor, try them in this position on the trampoline.   

  5. If your child can manage hands and knees or half kneel then this can also be tried on the trampoline and, with someone gently bouncing or walking around your child, this is a lovely way to challenge their hip balance (as well as their core and shoulder stability.)  

  6. If they are working their standing balance on the ground, try standing holding their hands and just moving the trampoline by shifting your weight to challenge them. This is a fantastic and fun way to challenge their standing balance and will work their muscles very hard.

  7. For children who are bouncing happily on their feet, these Trampoline Tutorials take you through the basic trampoline techniques in a very thorough and well described way. 

Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos for Jungle

Silly Socks and a bit of Boccia

Lucy Lost-it has created some fun easy to set up games. All you need are some socks!

Bear Hunt

This bear hunt is suitable for children with learning difficulties. You can use lots of objects that you can find around your house to create this bear hunt!

Stealthy Ways for Handwashing

This video contains tips on how to ‘stealth handwash’ whilst still having fun with various kitchen or household props. And also how to pimp up our liquid pumps to make it more fun for children.

Scavenger Hunt

The scavenger hunt is really simple and easy to set up. It can be adapted to suit any disability and household.

More fun resources for disabled children of all abilities

Thank you for visiting Gympanzees’ website. All information provided by Gympanzees is of general nature and for educational / entertainment purposes. It is up to you as the parent or family member to judge what is appropriate and safe for your child. No information provided by Gympanzees should replace any professional information and advice that you have been given and speak to your therapist or doctor if you are unsure of anything. Should you use any of the information provided by Gympanzees, you do so at your own risk and hold Gympanzees harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.