How to Improve a Child’s Body Awareness
by Hannah Whitty, Occupational Therapy Student

Children with poor body awareness have increased difficulty knowing where their body is in space. Body awareness is an essential skill needed for children to properly participate in everyday tasks. Without appropriate body awareness, a child is unable to safely navigate their environment.

Some characteristics of children with poor body awareness include clumsiness, poor personal space, and frequently bumping into objects or people. A child with proper body awareness will have ultimate control over their body parts. They will be able to avoid obstacles when walking in their environment, determine how far to reach for a desired object, understand how close to stand next to a person, and distinguish right from left.

Here are some ways to improve your child’s body awareness at home:

Heavy Work

Heavy work is any type of activity that provides resistance against the body. Having your child push, pull, or carry objects helps regulate their sensory system. Heavy work tends to result in the child becoming calmer, more assertive, more aware of their surroundings, more in control of their body, and more “in tune” with the world around them.

Heavy work activities you can complete at home:

  • Carry in groceries from the store
  • Carry or push a laundry basket full of clothes
  • Take out the trash
  • Use a vacuum
  • Mop the floor
  • Swim in a pool
  • Perform wheelbarrow walks
  • Do army crawls, crab walks down the hallway
  • Set up an obstacle course that involves jumping, climbing, and hopping
  • Play tug of war with friends, or siblings

Here are some tips to consider improving participation with home exercise activities:

  • Children respond well through play, so making these activities fun and enjoyable instead of making it feel like “work” will help make the activity more successful.
  • Make sure that the activity is challenging enough, but easy enough that the child can still be successful.
  • Try the activity for 2-3 weeks and see if there are any noticeable changes in your child’s behavior or awareness before discontinuing the regimen.
  • Remember, the way each child responds to these activities drastically varies, so you may have to try a few different ones before you find the ones that works best for your child.

Yoga

In addition to, or in place of heavy work, your child may benefit from participating in yoga. Yoga positively impacts a child’s overall well- being, concentration, attention, self-efficacy, and body awareness. Your child may enjoy:

  • Engaging in yoga, prior to going to school to promote calmness and centeredness for effective learning
  • Imitating and following along with a video in the comfort of their home
  • Making it a competition for which sibling is able to hold a certain pose the longest to keep the child engaged and interested
  • Participating in group yoga class with like- minded peers for increased motivation
  • Participating in yoga as a family fun night with healthy snacks to promote the importance of bonding, as well as, improving body awareness

If you continue to have concerns about your child’s body awareness, it may be beneficial to contact your Doctor for a referral to Occupational Therapy.

References

Linda B Kaufman, Denise L Schilling, Implementation of a Strength Training Program for a 5-Year-Old Child With Poor Body Awareness and Developmental Coordination Disorder, Physical Therapy, Volume 87, Issue 4, 1 April 2007, Pages 455–467, https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20060170