The Importance of Core Strength for Children
Core strengthening is essential for the progression of other developmental skills. The core muscles are the muscles in the abdomen, back, and pelvis, and are the center of control for everything the body does.
If your child doesn't have strong core muscles, balancing, performing coordinated movements on both sides of the body, jumping, sitting up straight in a chair, and performing arm and hand tasks like holding a pencil and controlling scissors will be difficult.
More and more kids are having difficulty with maintaining functional posture at home and in the classroom, which may be due to poor core strength. That decreased core strength commonly contributes to other postural and movement issues, and delayed motor skill development. An increase in the number of children with difficulty could be due to a number of reasons including:
- The rising trend of children being less physically active during the school day, as academic demands in the classroom become more intense.
- Kids becoming more interested in video games and television, than a game of tag in the backyard.
- An increase in the number of children with developmental delays.
The key to strengthening these muscles and making it fun for kids, is to make it like a game!
Activity: Knock Me Over
Skill areas addressed (See Glossary):
- Core strengthening
- Coordination/motor planning
- Motor control
- Overall body strengthening
What You Will Need: All you need is a kid, some balls of varying weights and sizes, and possibly a therapy ball.
What to Do: The goal of this activity is for the child to maintain enough stability through the trunk to stay upright!
Sit on a couch or bed for a soft landing surface. Bounce the child up and down a few times (maybe sing “I’m a Little Teapot”), and then gently nudge the child to one side or the other. See if you can gradually increase the pressure used to knock the child down to the soft landing surface. Don’t worry if your child falls or almost falls! Getting back up is part of the core workout, too! See if you can decrease the amount of assistance it takes to get your child back to a sitting position. NEVER let your child’s head fall quickly onto a surface, even a soft one.
Note: During these activities, always make sure that your child is breathing while completing exercises. Holding the breath allows a child to avoid using the crucial core muscles, and lessens oxygen flow throughout the body. A child who continues to hold his breath during exercising may be attempting to perform exercises that are too difficult.
How To Change It Up:
- If the child learns to avoid the fall, push a little bit harder to make core muscles work more.
- Have the child in a tall kneeling position on the floor, and play catch with balls of varying sizes and weights. The heavier the ball, the bigger the challenge to the core.
- Just sitting and bouncing on a therapy ball is a core workout in itself. Always monitor a child sitting on a ball to avoid falls.
ChoosePT.com also offers a collection of Activities to Promote Developmental Skills in Children.