Hesperian Health Guides

Activities for Body Control, Balance, and Sitting

After a child gains good head control, he normally starts sitting through these stages:

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sits when placed in a sitting position and held sits, keeping balance with arms balances with body while sitting, freeing hands for play sits up alone from a lying position

In order to sit well a child needs to be able to hold her body up, to use her hands to catch and support herself, and finally to balance with her body so that she can turn and reach.

If the child simply falls over when you sit him up, help him develop a protective reaction with his arms. Put him on a log, hold his hips, and slowly roll him sideways. Encourage him to ‘catch’ himself with a hand.
illustration of the above: a man speaking while helping a child catch himself.
Good boy!
Or do the same thing with the child on your belly.
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After the child learns to ‘catch’ herself when lying, sit her up, hold her above the hips, and gently push her from side to side,
a man speaking while helping a child to sit up.
Don't fall over! Good girl!
and forward and backward so that she learns to catch and support herself with her arms.
the man speaking again.
You do it better every time.
CAUTION! The child must be able to raise and turn her head before she can raise her body.
To help your child gain balance sitting, first sit her on your knees facing you. Later, you can sit her facing out so that she can see what is going on around her.
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Hold her loosely so her body can adapt to leaning.
Slowly lift one knee to lean her gently to one side. Then the other, so that she learns to bend her body to stay seated.
DVC Ch35 Page 307-1-b.png

You can do the same thing with the child sitting on a log.

As he gets better balance, move your hands down to his hips and then thighs, so that he depends less on your support.
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Give him something to hold so that he learns to use his body and not his arms to keep his balance.
With an older child who has difficulty with balance, you can do the same thing on a ‘tilt board’. Or you can do the same on a large ball.
a child sitting on a board that is balanced on a log.
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At first let her catch herself with her arms. Later, see how long she can do it holding her hands together. Make it a game. Tilt it to one side and the other and also forward and back.

Help the child learn to keep her balance while using her hands and twisting her body,

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sitting on the ground,
and sitting on a log or seat.
a boy speaking to a child who reaches for a toy while sitting on a log.
Just a little more. Good! Now you can have it.

When the child can sit by herself, help her learn to sit up,

from lying on her back, and from lying on her belly. Press down and back on hip.
a woman speaking as she helps a child get to a sitting position.
Sit up, Rosa.
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As the child starts to rise, push on the higher hip. First help her lift her shoulders. Help her roll to one side, rise onto one elbow, and sit.

Help her to sit up herself. Do not pull her up. Praise her each time she does well, or tries hard. Help her less and less until she can sit up alone.

Some children will need seating aids to sit well. To help improve balance, the aid should be as low as possible and still let the child sit straight. Often, firmly supporting the hips is enough. Here are 2 examples:
For the child who needs higher back support, simple ‘corner seats’ can be made of cardboard, wood, or poles in the ground.
2 types of aids to support the hips while seated on the floor.
DVC Ch35 Page 308-3-b.png

For more ideas on special seating and positioning, see Chapters 64 and 65.

This page was updated:27 May 2020