As an occupational therapist, I often see children who have weak core muscles. The core includes a great number of muscles which exist in the abdomen, back, and neck. These muscles are the foundation for all body movements including maintaining an upright posture while sitting or standing. Core strength development begins in infancy with “Tummy Time” or supervised time an infant spends laying on their stomach. In this way, infants learn to hold their heads up which strengthens the neck and back muscles.
Due to an increased focus on academics, children today have less opportunity for movement and exercise during school than their parents did. They are also more likely to participate in sedentary activities, such as video or tablet games, than go outside for active play. Active play facilitates the development of appropriate motor skills, and without it children can fall behind. Children with weak core muscles might present with delayed fine, gross, and visual motor skills, excessive fidgeting and difficulty maintaining attention, poor posture, decreased balance, and low endurance.
The good news is: there are lots of ways to help your child increase their core strength! Here are a few ideas to use with your child at home:
- Bridging- Have your child lay on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Have them push hard through their heels to raise their bottom up off the floor. Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground. See how long they can hold this position. Drive toy cars or walk stuffed animals underneath them while they are bridging to encourage them to hold the position longer.
- Knock Over the Statue- Have your child hold various positions as a “statue” while an adult gently tries to knock them over. Positions can include kneeling, half-kneel, standing, standing with eyes closed, arms up over head or out the sides, or standing on a pillow with eyes open or closed. Holding a whole body position against resistance is a fun way to strengthen the core!
- Wheelbarrow Walking- Hold your child’s feet and have them walk on their hands. How far can they go before needing a break? Have them race with friends or family.
- Crab Walking- Have your child sit on their bottom with feet flat on the floor in front of them. Place their hands on the floor behind them, push up to lift their bottom off of the ground and start moving. Crab walk to the bathroom to brush teeth, crab walk to the door to get shoes, crab walk to the kitchen to get a drink, crab walk ANYWHERE!
- Flying Feet- With your child, lay on the floor on your back with legs and feet straight up in the air. Use only your feet to lift a stuffed animal or bean bag. Pass it back and forth between you and your child’s feet without dropping it. Another way to play is to hold a hula hoop and have your child use their feet to throw the beanbag or stuffed animal through the hula hoop accurately.
- Lastly, don’t forget to encourage your children to participate in outdoor active play whenever possible!