Gross Motor Milestone Series: Single Leg Balance

  • By 36 months, 50% of children can balance on 1 leg for 3 seconds with their hands on their hips.
  • By 42 months, 50% can hold single leg balance on 1 leg for 5 seconds with hands on hips.
  • By 54 months, 50% can hold single leg balance for 6 seconds on each leg with less than 20 degrees of trunk movement side to side with hands on hips.
  • By 5 years of age, 50% can hold single leg balance for 10 seconds on each leg with less than 20 degrees of trunk movement side to side with hands on hips.

So your child should be able to balance on 1 foot. But why do we care? Single leg balance is a building block for more advanced skills that your child will develop as he or she gets older, such as kicking a ball, hopping, and skipping. Single leg balance is used during functional activities, such as putting on pants/shoes and stepping in/out of the bathtub/shower. Better balance promotes better body awareness, which improves safety and can also lead to more success when playing sports. There is also evidence that poor single leg balance is linked to higher risk of ACL injuries in females. Ability to hold single leg stance is one indicator that the vestibular system (sensory system that provides a sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance) and proprioceptive system (sensory system that informs us of where our body parts are at in relation to other body parts) are well-integrated, which is necessary for a child to sit still, listen, and focus their eyes, skills required for learning.

Here are some ideas for working on single leg balance.

  • Make sure your child is able to stand with their feet together without falling.
  • Practice kicking various size balls.
  • Practice stepping over a string or a stick. Start low (2-3”) and gradually increase the height. Alternate having your child step over with right foot first and then left foot first.
  • Show your child how to balance on one leg with their arms out to the side. You may need to start by holding one of their hands and help them hold one of their legs up in the air. Alternate which foot your child is standing on. Gradually decrease your support as able.
  • Practice balancing on 1 leg with hands on hips and then with eyes closed.
  • Practice putting pants, shoes, and socks on in a standing position. Have your child hold on to a wall for balance if needed at first.

Here are some ideas to make it FUN!

  • Stand with 1 foot on a ball
  • Pop bubbles while they are in the air with your foot
  • Balance small stuffed animals, cars, etc. on the top of the foot, and lift them up and drop them in a basket
  • Play balloon volleyball with your feet
  • Practice in the pool
  • Pretend to be animals like a stork or flamingo
  • Play hopscotch

If you have concerns regarding your child’s balance or if they fall frequently, contact MOSAIC Rehabilitation for additional suggestions or for a free screen.