Recently I attended a group meeting with my daughter’s third grade teacher. All the parents were encouraged to sit in our child’s designated spot. As my adult-sized body balanced precariously on the uncomfortable wooden chair beneath me, I wondered how in the world little bodies – with much less backside cushion – could stand to spend eight hours sitting on what is essentially a small plank with legs. Evidently, teachers have also struggled with this ergonomic conundrum over the years and now, many schools are adopting a new seating strategy – stability balls.
Normally used in the gym for exercises that improve core strength and posture, a new line of stability balls are now being marketed for use in the office and classroom. Available in friendly primary colors, the balls are equipped with legs to discourage kids from rolling them around the room or having ball races. Because, yeah, they’re way ahead of you on that one, you little shenaniganizers. The idea behind the use of stability balls in the classroom is based around the theory that when the body is engaged, the mind is, too.
The balls aren’t cheap, particularly when you’re outfitting an entire classroom, but teachers who have adopted the new seating arrangement say they’re pleased with the outcome. Though a few teachers had trouble with students throwing the balls or other mistreatment, most said they noticed an immediate improvement in their students’ attention spans. A few educators noticed they had trouble with kids bouncing on them for the first few days, but that quickly diminished with redirection. One form of redirection included going back to the wooden plank chair.
An Unexpected Perk for Kids with ADHD
Some children, particularly those with ADHD, were helped by the gentle swaying/rocking motion they could produce without distracting other students. A study by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy suggests the use of stability balls in the classroom by students with ADHD improves behavior, increases “in-seat” concentration time, and improves test scores. Many special education teachers are touting the use of stability balls and are trying to raise money for more because of the positive therapeutic benefits.
Whether teachers use them to promote fitness, improve posture, or increase concentration, stability balls are slowly becoming a “must-have” for elementary and even middle school classrooms. Like many other supplies they need, educators just have to be creative about how to get them. One teacher added the ball to a list of school supplies that incoming students would need, others have tried fundraisers and some have applied for grants. The average total cost to supply a classroom with stability balls is about $1,000.
image credit ABC News WPCO