Kicking a ball is the task most commonly associated with eye-foot coordination, however more simple tasks such as walking over uneven surfaces and climbing stairs are also the result of this ability.
What is eye-foot coordination?
Eye-foot coordination is a perceptual-motor skill, that requires the ability of the eyes to perceive and understand objects within our environment in relation to our bodies (known as visual perception); whilst our muscles, joints and body systems move and respond to this information in a controlled and appropriate manner (known as gross motor coordination).
Recent studies indicate that the two most important processes in eye-foot coordination are visual-motor integration and balance; and that it is a skill that develops through experience and exposure. “Visual cognitive processes such as attention and memory, as well as visual discrimination, enable us to attend to tasks, to store and retrieve information, and to recognise and match information within our environments,” says Jade Antunes Shield, Qualified Occupational Therapist and Clamber Club SPORTS Blouberg Franchisee. “These processes attach meaning to what we are seeing, so that we can rely on our eyes to guide the movement of our feet accurately.”
Balance, as an important component of eye-foot coordination, is one of the fundamental motor skills that paves the way for many complex motor tasks. Children with poor balance and motor skill abilities often appear uncoordinated, perform tasks with poor rhythm and timing, and are not able to control the way their bodies move and respond. Good balance is critical for the development of our perceptual motor abilities, and therefore our eye-foot coordination. Together, they contribute even further by promoting the development of a good self-esteem and improving peer-acceptance.
Developing eye-foot coordination
According to Antunes Shield, “The best place to start in the development of eye-foot coordination is to promote good body awareness by making your child aware of how their feet can be used in different ways.”
Good eye-foot coordination requires accurate placement of the feet when moving, and can be promoted through activities that involve ropes, hoops, ladders and tyres. For younger children, use equipment that is level to the ground, or consistent in its height and distance. This can be incorporated into activities such as stepping through a row of hula hoops or balancing over the rungs of a ladder using both arms and feet. These activities can be made more challenging for older children by increasing the distance, height and complexity of the tasks.
While the above activities highlight a few ways to promote eye-foot coordination, the importance of ball skills must not be forgotten. The ability to kick a ball emerges in the two- to three-year-old child, but control and accuracy is only fully developed by six years of age. To promote ball-foot coordination skills in the younger child, use larger, lighter balls or balloons. For the three- to four-year-old child, practise step- and drop-kicking and start to promote accuracy by kicking between a wide set of goals. For the five- to six-year-old child, these ball activities can be made much more challenging by decreasing the size of the ball, incorporating a moving ball, and encouraging a moving base of support (such as when a child is running).
Invest in your child’s development
“While we would all like our children to be the next sporting champions, it is extremely important to let them develop within age-appropriate milestones, and to let them gain experience and exposure to a wide range and variety of activities when they are young,” comments Liz Senior, Occupational Therapist and founder of Clamber Club.
Should your child have difficulty performing any of these age-appropriate tasks, a trained occupational therapist or physiotherapist will be able to assess and assist in the development of eye-foot coordination.
It is also important to remember that there are many other fun ways to develop eye-foot coordination, almost all of which involve active, gross motor play opportunities. Clamber Club offers a wide range of pre-sporting activities to build skills that children are able to integrate into the classroom and sporting field later in life.
About Clamber Club
Clamber Club is an extensive and exciting sensory and perceptual motor learning and development program that encourages the joy of movement, play and exercise in babies, toddlers and young children. To learn more about Clamber Club please visit www.clamberclub.com.