Core Strength For Kids: Guidelines and Exercises
Roisin Sullivan, BSc(OT), Occupational Therapist, The Kids Coach
Core strength and muscle endurance is important to allow kids to perform all the activities they are required to do daily, such as carrying school bags, walking, running, catching, playing outside, fine motor tasks and even sitting still throughout the day at school. It overrides everything children do, and then overrides everything they will eventually do as an adult.
As occupational therapists, we see an increasing amount of children being referred for “poor core strength” by their teachers, family and doctors. Unfortunately, in today’s era of children not being as active, there is an exponential decrease in their core strength too.
The core muscles are essentially all the muscles between the back and the abdomen, up to the shoulder and down to the hips that work together to help you child stay upright and move well. When they’re strong, they give your child a nice, stable base to work from.
When those core muscles aren’t strong, we start to see:
- Inability to sit still on a chair, including frequent rocking, fidgeting and hooking arms over the chair
- Kids preferring to lie down to watch TV, lying over their desk or lying down on the mat at school instead of sitting
- Slouching of the body or looking to “lean” on surfaces
- Kids that fatigue easily
- Balance issues, including losing balance easily or general clumsiness
- Kids avoiding climbing activities, such as on forts, playgrounds or trees
Once kids improve their core strength, things become easier for them. They can complete school tasks easier, excel a bit more in their sports activities but most importantly, their “play” becomes easier and more enjoyable.
So how can you improve your child’s core strength?
The key is to make it fun so they not only enjoy doing it, but continue to do it.
Activities that can help improve core strength include:
- Using unstable surfaces: for walking, climbing, crawling movements will challenge their core
- Doing things on one leg: simple games like throw and catch, dodgeball or brushing teeth on one leg
- Planking positions: such as static planks, moving plank exercises and bridging exercises
- Doing lots of functional movements: pushups, squats and lunges all challenge the core muscles
- Animal walks: pretending to be a range of animals such as frogs, geckos, crabs, bears and ducks. These all help to challenge your child’s core strength.
- Playing kids games such as hopscotch, skipping and twister
- Any fun movement that gets them out of a sedentary position!