Air Balloons is a fun and easy exercise designed to develop gross motor skills, visual targeting, visual-motor coordination, and vergence. The child is required to coordinate movement in a confined space to bat balloons back and forth with a partner (parent, sib, etc.), alternating left and right hands. The rapid sequencing and full body involvement provide an excellent foundation for building strong visual targeting. Using the loading techniques described, the activity can become even more effective by incorporating vestibular (automatic, reflexive) inputs to the volitional eye movements already required by the task. Vision must not only find and track the target, but vergence and accommodation are engaged, encouraging a broader depth of fused (3D) vision. The large targets make it easier for a child to target with both eyes if they are struggling with eye turns. This game is really a lot of fun: Prepare in advance to avoid any breakage or injury, and enjoy!
The play is very simple, start by inflating 4 party balloons. Play this game in a hallway free of clutter where lighting, pictures, and fixtures will not be damaged.
Keep in mind that the rules can be altered to render the game easier, but as always, the goal should be to start a child where she is comfortable, then make things more challenging.
- ‘Draw’ two lines in the hallway, perhaps 5 feet apart. You can use any sort of ‘marks’ that you like, either lines on flooring, tape, wall plugs, whatever works. The players are to remain separated by this distance. They stand behind their line, this becomes their ‘home’ position.
- Begin with one balloon. First player (P1) launches the balloon to the second player (P2), who then returns the balloon by batting it with a hand.
- The play continues as P1 and P2 bat the balloon back and forth until the balloon touches the floor.
- The balloon may legally touch the walls or ceiling.
- Players may legally deliberately bounce the balloon off the ceiling or walls.
- Players may cross over the line to return the balloon, but with one foot only.
- Players must alternate left and right hands. They are not permitted to return the balloon with the same hand twice in a row.
- The game is over when the score reaches a predetermined value, such as 7, 11, or whatever is appropriate and desirable.
- Loading this activity would involve a combination of adding more balloons, requiring the use of only one hand for a period (usually the non-dominant), decreasing the distance between players, increasing force when returning the balloon, wearing a patch, standing on one leg (alternate, emphasizing the more difficult leg to stand on if balance is a problem).
- Also, try this technique: Have the child face away from you. When he hears you bat the balloon, they must turn and respond. Have them alternate directions of turn.
- Similarly, you can have the child close her eyes, then open only when she hears the sound of the balloon being launched. This, like the last technique can also be done as their own exercises. Likewise, if the child finds continuous play too difficult, try simply launching balloons to the child, one after the other, as opposed to batting it back and forth.