According to pbskids.org, the sport of gymnastics is over 4,000 years old. Gymnastic events have evolved to include balance-beam routines. The beam, which is only 4 inches wide, sits 4 feet above the floor on supports. Athletes then perform stunts like jumps and turns that require expert agility and physical coordination. Kids of both genders can play games on homemade "beams" of string or tape placed on the floor.
Balancing on a laid out "beam" of tape or string is easiest if a child is able to keep his limbs in a constant position, such as keeping his arms outstretched. Balancing becomes harder when the child has to adjust his arms or legs because the child's center of gravity changes.
Bucket Toss is a game designed to get kids used to shifting their center of gravity. Each child has to come to the middle of the beam. Then they must turn and toss a bean bag into a bucket or bowl. They cannot step off the beam when they toss. Award points for each bag that goes into the bucket. If the child steps off the beam, she does not get a point, even if the bean bag goes into the bowl. Play continues until a player hits 10 points or until a specified amount of time has elapsed.
Switch or Flop
Switch or Flop explores physical creativity and teamwork. Two children come onto the beam from opposite ends. When they get to the center of the beam, they must find some way to switch positions and get to the other side. The children may lie down, twist, turn, bend and otherwise contort to do this, but they cannot step off the beam or lift their partner. Once the children have successfully switched places, they continue to the ends of the beam to complete their trek across. The child with the most successful treks wins.
How Many Birdies
This is a balance game for large groups. Children attempt to come to the center of the beam in any fashion, one at a time. The children must try to get all the members of the group (birdies) onto the beam (a power line or branch) at the same time. A round is complete when all members of the group are on the beam. The beam is then shortened by six inches and a new round begins. As the rounds progress, the children have to become increasingly sensitive to their positioning and balance on the beam to make everyone fit. The game ends when it is clear that the group cannot work with a shorter beam. All players get a prize based on the number of rounds completed (for example, six rounds equals six stickers or candy pieces).
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.