I am an ambassador of flexible seating in the elementary school classroom and promote it in its many forms. Flexible seating is an alternative to rows of desks that allows students, especially young wiggly ones, to choose their seat and be comfortable. Here are a few more benefits that I have seen:
- The ability to move. Young children need to move around and sitting at a desk for hours is tiring and unhealthy. Flexible seating includes wobbly stools, stability yoga balls, bean bag chairs and many other seating options that allow children to wiggle naturally, increase metabolism and strengthen their core muscles.
- A comfortable seat. Students can choose the type of seat they feel is the most comfortable. This helps them relax and focus on the lesson without being distracted by thoughts of escape.
- Collaboration and community. A study at the University of Minnesota in 2012 showed that students in flexible seating classrooms participated 48%more in group discussions and collaborated better with groups than those in traditional desks and rows
- Fun. Flexible seating adds an element of fun in the learning environment. Parents have notices their children are happier to go to school that before.
I’ve already written about how I use bean bag chairs, rugs, and stools in my classroom. And this time I’d like to share my insights on choosing and using stability balls. For those of you who don’t have time to read the whole article now, I have given a short overview of the three best products for different cases. These are three different types to give you an idea of the variety picks for classroom use.
My Top Pick
- Durable construction for rough handling
- Comes is a variety of bright colors
Best for: I recommend this model because it is perfect for children. It has a non-slip surface for extra safety.
The durable eco-friendly PVC material is great for classroom use. It is manufactured for heavy workouts, so you can be sure it will have a long life in a classroom. Children can sit on it instead of a chair and wiggle as much as they want. It will help strengthen their core muscles and help them concentrate on the lesson. The kit comes with extra plugs that are very useful and a balloon-type pump that isn’t very high quality, but suitable for at least one or two uses.
- Comes with a pump
- More stable
- Comes in several bright colors
Best for: If you are a pre-school – second-grade teacher, you may consider this for flexible seating. For some taller second grade kids, it’s too small.
This product was designed for physical therapy treatments and offers great health benefits as a flexible seating feature. The students can bounce all they want, while they improve their posture by sitting straight to maintain balance and strengthen their core muscles. The short legs that hold it in place can be turned to the top and used as handles when the children want to play rather than sit. It is specifically recommended for children with special needs as it allows for excess energy to be reduced. If you think your young students are not ready for a stability ball but need something for the wiggles, this is a good choice for kids because the legs help keep it in place.
- A pump is included
- Easy to assemble
- Improves posture
Best for: Very young children who are not ready for a stability ball in the classroom but still need to get the wiggles out.
I like this one because it functions as both a ball and a chair. The larger size is recommended for adults and the smaller size for children. It comes in bright colors for the classroom, but the plastic isn’t very strong, and it may not last for years. However, it does support the health benefits and allows the children to wiggle and bounce, which is healthy for their bodies as well as their attention span. The four caster wheels roll smoothly, and the two back wheels are lockable. The metal support bar keeps it in place.
When you have time you can read the rest of the post and learn more about the above products and others. You will also learn the reasons for and benefits of using stability balls for seating as well as the different kinds of these products that are available. You may be thinking, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, but this isn’t the case. I will show you how to choose the best ones for your specific needs.
- URBNFit →
- LakiKid →
- Gaiam Kids Balance →
- Gaiam Kids Peanut Balance →
- Vivora Luno →
- Gaiam Essentials →
- WALIKI →
Some Reasons to Use Stability Balls in the Classroom
I recommend you watch this short video to get an idea of how one first-grade teacher made use of them for a better learning environment. She started with one for a child with ADD, and after seeing the value, realized all of her students could benefit.
The main benefit of these products in the classroom is how much they change the ambiance of the environment. They look and feel fun and allow for sensory input and modest movement while students sit for long periods. The main benefits are:
- Strengthening core muscles
- Maintaining blood circulation
- Sensory input to the brain to improve focus
- Better oxygen intake
- A safe way to express excess energy
- Better social skills such as communication and collaboration
To learn more about the benefits of flexible seating, read this post. You may also get answers to some of your questions by watching the video below. This is a health news item from TV. A teacher explains the benefits and the students get to add their two-cents about the different ways they help them. The principal was skeptical at first but became a believer after seeing the benefit.
Different Types of Stability Balls and Their Uses
They are now specialized for classroom use. The traditional model is a good choice for students who are old enough to maintain their balance. Younger children may need a little help, so they can wiggle all they want and not tip over. Here are a few models with additions for students.
- The balance chair comes with chair-like support that has wheels and back support. The back two wheels lock to keep the chair in place. It is put into the seating area and inflated. It fits firmly in the chair but also has a steel rod to help keep it from jumping out of the chair.
- The peanut-shaped balance one is just that. Shaped like an unshelled peanut. It comes in several sizes, so it is suitable for all ages but is particularly suitable for younger children. It allows for all the bouncing and wiggling needed while sitting still but will not roll away. The child can sit in several ways such as straddling or be cradled in the depression and feel secure.
- The ball with a base kit includes an inflatable rubber ring to keep it in place. It is not connected to the ball, so it can be used as a regular model, but for sitting at a desk, the ring is helpful for young children.
- The stability item with feet is another addition to the traditional ball, especially for classroom use. The feet keep it steady and stop it from rolling across the classroom when the child stands up. This is a good option because the feet can also be used as handles when kids want to use it as a bouncy one.
- The model with a cloth cover is very comfortable for sitting for long hours at a desk. It is especially useful for high school students. The best part is the felt cover will not allow the inflated ball to flatten too much when you sit on it. This one is very attractive and doesn’t make a high school class look like a kindergarten classroom.
How to Choose the Right Stability Ball for Your Classroom
As mentioned above types are not one-size-fits-all. There are different sizes for different types of exercises and the same goes for flexible seating. If you are new to them, here are a few things to consider before you invest.
When your students sit on a stability ball, there should be an approximate right angle at their hips and knees. It is too small if they appear to be squatting and too large if their feet don’t touch the ground and they can easily roll-off.
Most of them are made from PVC and tested for strength. Be sure to check the maximum weight limit. True, your students don’t weigh 300 pounds, but if they start to bounce, the pressure will be higher than their seated weight.
Most models come with a pump and extra plugs. Sometimes the pump is low quality and won’t last long, but at least it will get you started. The plugs are small and easily lost, so extra plugs are an advantage.
They have rough, ridged and smooth textures. For classroom use, a non-slip and high-grip rough texture is best.
Most come in a variety of bright colors as well as black and silver. Red, blue, yellow, green, orange and purple is usually the favorite for elementary classrooms. I recommend you get a variety of colors. Another option is to allow your students to choose the color they want before you make the purchase. Having a choice is a big factor in flexible seating, and the color is important to children.
Best Stability Balls for Classroom Use
Here is my choice for an elementary classroom.
Recommended age: all ages
Size: 17.7 inches, 21.6 inches, 25.5 inches, 29.5 inches and 33.4 inches diameters
Material: Burst-resistant, durable, eco-friendly PVC
This one has ultra-tough construction and is suitable for strong workouts. It is very durable and burst-resistant, and the non-slip surface makes it extra safe for children. It comes in five sizes and seven colors. It is designed for yoga, Pilates or general balance and strengthening core muscles. It’s one of my top choices because of its durability in the classroom. While this model is suitable for all ages, I recommend it for older children who can balance on a ball.
The included pump is not high quality and you may need to use a different pump after a while. It is recommended to overfill because you will lose air when you take out the pump and put in the plug. It does not deflate over time.
Unique selling points: This pick is designed for users to improve their physical health even if they simply sit on it instead of a chair.
- Includes extra plugs and a pump
- Comes in multiple colors for an attractive classroom
- Non-slip high-grip surface so kids don’t easily slide off
- The pump is not very good quality and tends to freeze up or break after a few uses.
- The pump is also not easy to use and takes about five minutes of tiring work to pump it up, so if needed, you may want to ask someone else to pump it up.
Best for: The small size is great for younger children. It is very strong and can take all the rough usage they can give. It is also recommended for children with special needs who need to improve their balance. I have seen children become more physically confident after sitting on this at school for just a few weeks.
This is an unboxing review that shows you all the things you get with this. If you are new to exercise balls, I recommend you watch this to get you started.
Recommended age: 5 – 7 years
Size: 17.7 inches
Material: non-toxic, latex-free PVC
This one is specifically designed for flexible classroom seating. It is a balance ball with legs that is more stable than one without. Students can bounce and wiggle whenever they feel the need, which eliminates restlessness and stimulates focus. It is also recommended for children with special needs for reducing excess energy. The material is anti-burst, slip-resistant and will last for years of classroom use. It was originally designed for physical therapy treatments but was an obvious choice for a flexible seating classroom. It can be used with the legs on the floor for seating and with the legs in the air as handles for bouncing and playing. The 17.7-inch size is best for smaller children from pre-K – second grade.
Unique selling points: Along with strengthening the core muscles, it comes with legs improves posture with spine alignment
- Comes with a pump
- Comes in bright pink, orange, yellow, blue or gray
- Can hold up to 200 pounds weight limit
- Too small for some second-grade children
- The main problem people had was buying it for taller children
Best for: Sensory input during class time. The child gains energy rather than draining energy as in a conventional chair. This allows the child to be more attentive to the lesson.
Watch this video to see how children use this therapy product. The narrator points out the best uses, for example not for handwriting class but great for reading aloud.
Recommended age: 5 – 7 years
Size: 20 inches wide and 24 inches tall
The bouncy model with a chair comes with inflating instructions. After 24 hours, it should be 14.9 inches tall. When you set it up, the locking casters should be put on the back legs and the front legs should roll freely. It is very easy to assemble and comes with everything you need. It has a 175-pound weight limit. This is an alternative desk chair that still allows children to wiggle, sit with good posture and keep their minds focused on the lessons. This model comes in purple, blue, green, orange and gray and the chair comes in purple, blue and gray.
Unique selling points: This is a good product if your class is not ready for a stability ball of any kind, even with legs. The chair holds it in place and the child can move around, but less than the other two models.
- Easy-glide caster wheels
- Ball holder
- Comes with a pump
- Not very durable
- The chrome stability bar is weak
Best for: This is intended for young children to have the facility for wiggling and bouncing while sitting at a desk. Unlike the other two, it is not a toy. Since the chair provides balance, this model is not recommended for improving balance, but it’s great for bouncing and wiggling.
This video starts with opening the box and explains how to set up the balance chair. If gives step-by-step instructions. Just remember the measurements may not be the same as for young children because the product in the video is for an adult.
Recommended age: five to eight years
Size: 19.6 x 39.3 inches
Material: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) construction
This large peanut-shaped model allows children to wiggle and bounce and improve their posture with more stability than a conventional. It helps increase blood flow, which leads to better focus in class. The peanut-shaped model helps reduce restlessness and fidgeting and promotes concentration. The weight capacity is 300 pounds, which means it is very durable for young children. The shape allows kids to use it in many different ways. They can lie on it, straddle it or sit in the middle. Because it comes in various sizes, you can get several different sizes, so each member of your class will feel comfortable. Plus, you can get one for yourself.
Unique selling points: The unique point of this choice is the shape. Children really like it, and it has noticeably helped them expend excess energy and focus more on the lesson.
- More stability
- The peanut design cradles the body
- Includes a pump
- The material seems thin in some places
- Sometimes the pump is not included
Best for: This one is best for younger children who can use it as a seat for lessons as well as play with. You can choose the size that best suits the age of your students.
Watch this video to learn the many uses and sizes of peanut models available. This is a large size, but there is extra-large as well as small and medium.
Recommended age: 12 – 17 years
Size: the standing height is 22 – 24 inches
This is a stability ball with a felt covering. It comes deflated and you put it inside the covering and inflate it. Instructions are included. The bottom has silicone spots to help it stay in place on a tile or wood floor. That comes with the covering is industry-standard and will not burst. It is great for middle school or high school students who get the same benefits of sitting on it without looking like an elementary classroom. The cover is made from the same material used for outdoor recliners, which means this modell can be used outdoors and is very durable. The cover is machine washable. It has a weight capacity of 400 pounds.
Unique selling points: The felt covering is attractive and comes in several colors. It’s mainly for people who use it in public in an office or classroom and would like the benefit of using it but would rather not be sitting on a bright blue or orange.
- The felt holds the sphere, so it doesn’t flatten when you sit on it
- It has a handle to make it easy to carry with one hand when it is inflated
- Tends not to hold its shape and require constant re-inflating
- Be careful not to over-inflate
Best for: This is perfect for older students. It requires a minimum desk height of 29 inches, so may not be useful for youngsters.
This video shows you what comes in the box and how to inflate the model inside the covering.
Recommended age: students 13 – 17 years and adults
Size: 25.5 inches
Material: Anti-burst, high-quality rubber
This one comes with an inflatable ring base to prevent it from rolling away. It comes with a pump and inflation instructions. To allow the material to stretch to its final size, it should be inflated and then deflated after 24 hours and inflated again. It has a 300-pound weight limit. It only comes in black, which means it’s not great for an elementary classroom but fine for older kids and adults.
Unique selling points: The ring is the unique selling point for this model. It keeps the product from rolling around the room while still giving the exercise and allowing children to bounce and maintain balance with a little more safety than with only a ball.
- Versatility for desk chair or exercises
- Comes with a starter guide for exercises
- The setup instructions are a little vague
- Low-quality pump
- It has a strong odor and may emit toxic fumes
Best for: This is a great option for high school students since they may need to sit behind a desk for an hour at a time. It gives them the core muscle exercise while they work.
Recommended age: three – 12 years
Size: 18 inches for age three – five and 20 inches for age seven – 10
Material: Durable plastic
This pick with feet was designed for flexible seating. The feet keep it from rolling around the classroom when the child stands up, and work as handles when the child wants to turn it around and bounce and play. It offers the same features of all the stability balls for wiggling students to develop good posture and strengthen their core muscles. It comes in two sizes with a one-year warranty, so you can rest assured it will last for years.
Unique selling points: The feet collapse when the child sits and holds the model in place when the child stands up.
- It comes in a four-pack
- It is an inexpensive flexible seating option
- No cons, but be advised, the feet are not intended for sitting. They fold until the student stands up and then keep it from rolling around the room.
Best for: These are best for students with special needs or high school students who need to move around while seated without disturbing the rest of the class.
Stability balls of all sorts provide the same advantages for students. They let students move around keeping good blood circulation, strengthening their core muscles, helping students maintain balance and use up excess energy, so they can focus better on the lesson. I hope my research and experience has made it easier for you to select the best flexible seating option for your classroom.
Last Updated on August 27, 2021 by Emily