Has your toddler has been walking for several months, but still trips over their feet or runs into things? You may think it’s clumsiness, but it’s more likely that their foot-eye coordination just needs some refinement. Throughout age 2 toddlers’ foot-eye coordination improves, leading to smoother moves as they show off their new motor skills.
Here are some fun facts about foot-eye coordination:
Why Is Foot-Eye Coordination Important?
We talk about hand-eye coordination a lot, because it relates to just about any activity little ones do with their hands. But foot-eye coordination is just as important, because it allows children to accurately perform tasks with the legs and feet, like climbing stairs or kicking a ball.
As toddlers’ vestibular systems and proprioception develop, they gain more balance, understand where their limbs are and how they move, and have more coordinated actions. Add foot-eye coordination to the mix, and they get better at foot-related tasks.
How Foot-Eye Coordination Develops
The building blocks of foot-eye coordination begin in infancy and continue as children grow:
Balance: Ear fluid helps us balance, moving with us as we tilt our heads or bend over to tie our shoes. Little ones’ ears do this, too, as soon as they’re born! But, their vestibular system, which control balance, still need to get stronger. During infancy, rocking, swinging, bouncing, and other movements can help your baby’s vestibular system develop. Crawling and walking give older babies more practice with balance, followed by movements like hopping, running, and climbing. Although balance continues to improve throughout toddlerhood, it takes until school age to fully develop.
Crossing the midline: Visualize an imaginary line that runs vertically down the middle of your toddler’s body. Every time they uses one foot to cross that line to the other side of the body (while kicking, dancing or spinning, for example), they’re crossing the midline — an essential building block of coordination. As your little one develops this skill, they get both sides of the brain working together, which helps to coordinate foot movements.
Body and spatial awareness: Body awareness includes an understanding of where body parts are in relation to each other, and it’s governed by the proprioceptive sense. Spatial awareness is a cognitive ability that tells us where our body is in relation to things in the environment. When it comes to foot-eye coordination, body and spatial awareness work together to help little ones understand where and how to move their feet to accurately accomplish tasks. For example, when climbing stairs, how high to lift the foot depending on the height of the step.
Visual motor skills: From the time babies are born, they build visual motor skills by looking at faces and objects around them, following objects with their eyes, and using what they see to decide how to interact with the world. Foot-eye coordination depends on these visual skills. A child must be able to accurately track a moving ball, for example, to correctly time their foot movements to kick it.
You can support your toddler’s foot-eye coordination development by giving them plenty of opportunities for full-body play. Our BabySparks program has unique and fun gross motor activities to try with your baby or toddler.