Kids Get on the Ball to Stay Fit and Focused


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  129 comments   :  19,931 Views

Stability balls are a common piece of workout equipment- whether at the gym or at home. Some people even use them in place of a chair while sitting at work, because they help with posture and core strengthening. But what about kids who are sitting in a classroom for hours each day? Surprisingly, the benefits aren't just physical, but mental as well.

Chicago-area teacher Donna Yehl did an Internet search to find creative ways to help her restless fourth-graders focus better at school. She found stories about how stability balls not only help improve the posture of students, but also sharpen their attention and improved concentration. So this school year, metal and plastic chairs were replaced by 21-inch stability balls in colors the children chose themselves.

Almost immediately, she noticed the children sitting taller and focusing better during class. Although they aren't common, using stability balls in the classroom is gaining popularity. According to Dr. John Ratey from Harvard University, "Indications are that the tiny movements kids make while balancing stimulate their brains and help them focus." Professor John Kilbourne from Grand Valley State University conducted a similar experiment with college students who felt their concentration and focus improved when sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair.

Balls can also be a more cost-effective option compared to a traditional chair. Although teachers were concerned about misuse early on, by setting boundaries and presenting the balls as a privilege, they haven't had issues with kids misbehaving.

What do you think? Is it just a fad, or could they be on to something?

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  • 79
    My husband, a retired teacher, says "The brain can absorb only as much as the butt can endure."

    Maybe the balls help. I've read that fidgeting, which drives teachers nuts, actually helps ADD kids concentrate. The stability balls may fill that need to fidget. - 11/14/2009   5:15:36 PM
  • 78
    Sounds great. I wish they had such things available when I was in school, I could never sit still. If They made them big enough I would use on at home all the time, I tried the one I bought, and it seems to be made for people with legs about 12 inches shorter than mine :) - 11/14/2009   4:47:59 PM
  • 77
    I retired from teaching 3rd grade in 2006 and had one ball in my classroom to use as a reward- kids sat at it at a reading or listening center. I never thought about a whole classroom full of them. I bet it looks so cool and fun! - 11/14/2009   4:36:46 PM
  • 76
    A stability ball is on my Christmas wish list used one recently at a demonstation of exercises at our TOPS chapter and think posture is much better and you do have to focus to balance on it especially at my age
    Think it will be fun and look forward to the holidays - 11/14/2009   4:24:50 PM
  • 75
    As I sit on my stability ball chair and type this I would love to have these in my classroom - by my emotionally disturbed students would totally abuse and misuse these - they misuse what they have and would harass those who 'earned' them as a privilege. - 11/14/2009   4:10:15 PM
    Great article! I had one for a while, but never used it. I may find another. Also, as for their use in schools, I wish they had tried that with my (now 23 years old) son when he was in school, struggling with ADD/ADHD issues, among others. - 11/14/2009   3:55:28 PM
    Great article! I had one for a while, but never used it. I may find another. Also, as for their use in schools, I wish they had tried that with my (now 23 years old) son when he was in school, struggling with ADD/ADHD issues, among others. - 11/14/2009   3:55:20 PM
  • 72
    I'm a proud owner of 2 stability balls. I have a Firm abdominal dvd that is for the stability ball and I have a workout book. It's the only thing I can use to do wall squats without having a lot of knee pain. Spark have some stability ball exercises that I use with the stability ball. - 11/14/2009   3:30:29 PM
  • 71
    I'd say using the stability balls (like everything else) would depend almost entirely on the teacher; if he/she has the follow-through to take them away when they are misused, it could be really great. My grandson, who is going to be tested for slight ADD, loves to sit on mine and watch TV. Linda C - 11/14/2009   3:27:09 PM
  • 70
    Have there been longterm studies done on this?

    - 11/14/2009   2:47:30 PM
  • 69
    I use mine at my it. - 11/14/2009   2:45:39 PM
  • WANDAC2013
    I worked in special ed classes for several years and saw that some of the students used stability balls in class...I was skeptical at first, but, yes they do indeed help with the kids' behavior and focus. - 11/14/2009   1:55:16 PM
  • 67
    I'm an Occupational Therapist and used to work in the schools. Stability balls work really well for some kids and not others. The constant readjusting of posture uses large muscles that can help calm kids with ADD or help those with low tone. But for some they have trouble staying on the ball for lengths of time and since ideally their knees should be at right angles, feet flat on the floor, the balls can't always be interchanged and should be adjusted with growth spurts and weight gains. However they are great for taking small breaks in the middle of class. My kids' school used to call them fitness minutes. Bounce, stretch, situps, bridges. I think they are a great addition to classrooms and at home! - 11/14/2009   1:41:04 PM
  • 66
    My son has many developmental and physical health issues. A short attention span is a big issue for him, he started kindergarten this year and is in a developmental class called Bridges. She uses a stability ball in her class with him. I am starting to be able to tell small changes in his attention. He is home schooled quite a bit and he is able to focus for almost 2 hours with her. It is amazing. I think that this is a great idea and I hope it continues! - 11/14/2009   12:38:22 PM
  • 64
    This was really interesting!! I'm a teacher...and restless kids are just a part of everyday life...I think that this was some serious out-of-the-box thinking that has proven to be effective! Yay! - 11/14/2009   12:30:07 PM
  • 63
    My daughter's a third grade teacher and I will advise her of it's benefits - 11/14/2009   12:26:24 PM
    I would love it if my sons teacher let him sit on one, he is very fidgety. - 11/14/2009   12:12:14 PM
    My fitness coordinater had me bouncing on the ball ( in a sitting position) for one minute as a core strenghtener - 11/14/2009   11:17:07 AM
  • 60
    I do not know if it would work or not. When I bought my ball all my grown children did on it was roll and bounce around. They also tried to knock the other one off. I had to put it in another room because I was afraid that they were going to tear it up. And they were grown! But since reading the article I might try and use it at my desk. - 11/14/2009   11:10:29 AM
  • 59
    As a retired Occupational Therapist who worked in the schools, I know it works to aid in focusing. The balls do need to be the right height for the child and the desk for optimal functioning and positioning for work. The chair and desk arrangements in schools are rarely optimal either though. - 11/14/2009   11:04:32 AM
  • 58
    I am not in 4th grade but I have a stability ball for my chair at work.
    Love it!
    However I keep a chair in my cubicle for when the IT guy needs to work on my computer. He does not Love it! LOL - 11/14/2009   10:52:14 AM
  • 57
    I just bought the little inflatable balance board from SparkPeople... I should put it on my computer chair! LOL! - 11/14/2009   10:38:31 AM
  • 56
    There is a child in my daughter's 1st grade class with a variety of behavioral issues. He sits on a balance pad on his chair, which seems to help a lot. I'm guessing the stability ball would have the same effect, although I think a classroom full of first graders and stability balls would need a very strong teacher to manage!

    I do think about trying them out at the dinner table, though, to help cure the fidgets! I also want one for my desk when I go back to work at tax time, but since I'm in a high-visibility area, I'm not sure my conservative CPA boss would go for it. :( - 11/14/2009   10:37:24 AM
    I think it's a marvelous way to keep them on the ball! - 11/14/2009   10:17:39 AM
  • 54
    I can sit for hours on my stability ball. I love it.

    I can definitely see using them with older kids at school where the balls can be stored under their desks.

    I do see limitations in using them with younger children however.

    - 11/14/2009   10:16:44 AM
  • 53
    Great idea. I may just get rid of my computer chair and use my ball instead! - 11/14/2009   10:01:21 AM
    I think it's a great idea! Maybe me and my babies will start this . Instead of laying on the couch,I can sit on my stability ball.And we could play during the commercials with that's an idea ! - 11/14/2009   9:59:12 AM
  • 51
    Stability balls are great for kids in school. My son has ADHD and when he was in the younger grades, they had him sit on one to help him focus. I definitely agree and think it's a great idea! - 11/14/2009   9:35:27 AM
  • 50
    I love this idea - and my kids love my stability ball. I don't see classrooms erupting into chaos if teachers have high expectations. And I'll bet a well-placed threat that chairs will be back will be enough to keep kids focused. - 11/14/2009   9:28:08 AM
  • 49
    I like using the stability ball at my desk. It helps me to keep sitting up straight instead of slouching over my desk as I tend to do in an office chair. It also forces me to use my stomach muscles and leg muscles to keep me in place instead of rolling around my home office. - 11/14/2009   9:23:55 AM
  • 48
    I would not even want to try this with my 7th grade students! - 11/14/2009   9:19:32 AM
  • TERI99
    I actually think it is a wonderful idea. If you could see some of the bizarre and unsafe positions my students perch on their chairs...with the balls they would have to sit relatively still, which could improve their ability to write legibly! :)

    You always have to set strict guidelines with children and enforce your expectations. That is just as important with chairs! I've had students fall from their chair with the chair on top of them; rolling off the ball would not likely be any more dangerous or disruptive.

    I think it would be a fascinating study to see if sitting on the stability balls affected students' ability to focus. I would love to try it! - 11/14/2009   9:18:29 AM
  • 46
    I have been a retired teacher for nearly 15 years, having taught 34. I know things have changed plenty, so I can not imagine having 25 fifth graders sitting on stability balls. - 11/14/2009   9:17:21 AM
  • NEWME46761
    As a special needs teacher I went to a wonderful conference this summer. Several of the sessions explored how to help improve the attention of "active" children. Many children, whether they are special needs or not, have trouble with focus. It was at this conference that I first heard of using "flexible" seating. Some of the products were seat cushions that are filled with a gel. They provided enough "wiggle" that the students could move and yet still be attentive and in their seat. They were even used at circle time. The cushion was carried to the community circle and the student had their area to sit, again helping with focus. Another presented the stability ball and my first thought was "Oh right...I see that flying, bouncing, rolling across the room, with or without a child attached", but the more the presenter talked the more I could see how that would work. I have not implemented it yet, budget concerns, but I will keep working at it. Now I think I need one at home for the computer.
    As for some who think this is just a fad, a lot of things in education are considered a fad. When you are working with children, we as educators, need to find ways to help them. Remember they are individuals and what works for some may not work for others. As adults we pick our work environment and if it does not agree with us we can move on to another job. Children cannot move on so easily. Yes, there are classroom expectation, just like in the work place. However, how many of US, as adults, sit very still in our seat? I bet we all "wiggle" at some work, home, church, theatre, etc... I know I do:-) - 11/14/2009   9:17:07 AM
  • 44
    I have been a retired teacher for nearly 15 years, having taught 34. I know things have changed plenty, so I can not imagine having 25 fifth graders sitting on stability balls. - 11/14/2009   9:16:42 AM
  • 43
    I love my Stability ball. I wish we had them in the office. I sit 8 hours a day at an office job and rarely gets up because my job calls for me to be on the computer. Only get up for breaks and lunch. - 11/14/2009   9:11:44 AM
  • 42
    My kids love my stability ball... however, I cannot even begin to imagine the stability balls used in my sons ADHD/ADD oriented school! LOL! - 11/14/2009   9:10:39 AM
  • 41
    Feel it is just a super toy and pretty soon the kids will be rolling around on it. That is what my grandson does at my house - 11/14/2009   9:09:37 AM
  • 40
    I think this is a great idea. They would have to think some about staying on the ball and maybe that would make some think less about how they could bother their neighbors. - 11/14/2009   9:09:19 AM
  • 39
    This sounds cool. Boundries and consequences would be very important; I've worked with kids and I can see them getting out of hand with the balls if consequences aren't put into place right away, and explained early on. I know I love using my ball at the computer! - 11/14/2009   9:05:16 AM
  • 38
    I really like the concept. I would like to see more work places give that as an option. - 11/14/2009   8:41:26 AM
  • 37
    I use one at my computer - I love it! - 11/14/2009   8:17:56 AM
  • 36
    My niece uses hers for a chair. I thought it was a good idea but have never done it. Then yesterday I saw that they actually make chairs out of these balls and on wheels to boot. Don't now how much they are though - 11/14/2009   7:46:18 AM
  • 35
    I have one that I use for back exercises. Never thought of using it for a chair. I think I'll try it. - 11/14/2009   6:12:14 AM
  • 34
    I have a stability ball and I love it,(well had) one my daughter & grand daughter has taken it over. They love it, so I will be investing in some more so I can have mine back (lol). I think the use of them in school is a wonderful idea. As for the mis use of them, you are always going to have children who break rules in class rooms, so along with class rules you must have consequences for the broken rules. Also I think if they were intorduced in Pre-school the children would be more accustomed to them and there would not be as many problems with higher grades. - 11/14/2009   6:09:18 AM
  • 33
    anything that works is a good thing....what happen to good old fashion gym class and time out on the play ground..running and jumpping, and skipping... - 11/14/2009   5:43:34 AM
  • 32
    When I was in school, we had recess and ran around outside or in the gym and we didn't have a problem sitting at our desk. I think this is just a fad. - 11/14/2009   1:52:27 AM
  • 31
    Sounds like something I would like to try! - 11/14/2009   12:32:52 AM
  • 30
    Sounds like something I would like to try! - 11/14/2009   12:32:47 AM

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