Making your child strong will help them in every way.
They will do better in school and perform better at play and sports. The trick is in making the exercises fun so your child will cooperate. I write a lot about the importance of trunk control and stability and how it influences performance. Now I am going to describe some exercises which can help even a child as young as two. The best part is that your child will think these are fun. A few I have described in other posts, but I am going to repeat them here.
I want to credit a couple of these exercises to Beth Bogush, my neighbor. She is the choreographer for the Nick Jr. series “The Backyardigans”. She is a fabulous dancer and has worked with kids for years. Other exercises are standard yoga. There are a few good ‘yoga for kids’ books available in my store.
The Plank: This is the same as the one done by grown-ups. Have your child lie belly down on the floor. Then have them support their upper body on their forearms, and support their legs with their toes. Their body should form a straight line from head to heels (like a plank). They should not bend at the hip. Once in this position, have them hold it for at least 10 seconds. As they improve, lengthen the time they are holding. This is an amazing exercise for strengthening tummy muscles. Do it with your child for family fun together.
• Straighten one arm and hold it out in front of them. Make it fun by having them reach for a toy or other interesting object. Alternate arms.
• Lie on side and push up while resting on forearm. Their side forms the plank. Hold. Switch sides. Place a small object under their side on the mat and tell them not to let their body touch the object.
• Lie on side with top arm stretched over the head and then have them bring the arm in front and tuck under their lower side. This is called the Snake. Use objects to encourage your child to reach and touch the object. Include siblings and friends to make it a game.
Bridging: Have your child lie on their back on the floor or a mat. Then with feet flat, have them push up their bottom so that they form a straight line from knees to head (sort of a reverse plank). This exercise strengthens the ‘tushy” muscles. These are very important for walking, running, jumping and climbing.
• Have your child lower and raise their bottom.
• Place a small ball under their feet and push up with knees bent. Holding the ball in place increases the difficulty. Have your child pretend they are a toll bridge and let cars or boats pass under.
• Using the ball again, have them lower and raise their hips.
Ball reverse curls: Using a small exercise ball, have your child lie over the ball face down and then walk their hands out until their knees and lower legs are resting on the ball. Their upper body should be parallel to the floor and with hands flat on floor and elbows straight. Then they should roll the ball toward their arms, and roll back out using their legs to move the ball. This exercise strengthens tummy muscles.
Ball sit-up: For best results, you should use a weighted ball. Have your child lie on their back with arms overhead and holding the ball. Then have them sit up while bringing the ball overhead and then in front of them. Stand in front of them and touch the ball to make it more interesting.
• Have your child sit up and bring the ball overhead and to the side, then go back and sit up again and bring the ball to the other side.
• Have your child sit with feet flat on floor and knees bent. Then have the lean back a little while holding the ball in front of them at chest height. Next have them swivel the ball from side to side by rotating their trunk and arms.
Walk outs: This one is very good for endurance and all over strength. Have your child stand up straight and then reach down to touch the floor in front of them with hands flat. Try not to bend at the knees. Then have them walk their hands out until their body is almost parallel to the floor, and then use their feet to walk in to the hands and back to starting position. Set up a finish line and give a prize for reaching the line. This is a tough one. Try it yourself.
Wheelbarrow walking: This is a standard. If your child is very weak, you can modify this to start them off. The goal is to be able to hold your child at their ankles, and have them walk down a hall using their hands and not letting their chest or head touch the floor. To modify, hold them at the upper thigh. As they get stronger, hold them further and further down the leg until they can do it while you hold their ankles. I used to place small candies along the way as motivation. This is an excellent exercise to help with handwriting skills.
Crab walking: I think everyone has done crab races at parties. Have your child sit on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Then have them place their hands flat on floor slightly behind their hips. Next have them push up their hips so their body from head to knees is parallel to the floor. Once they are in position, have them walk using hands and feet. Make this a race with friends and siblings.
Most children can do these exercises or a modified version. You can start trying some of these with children as young as two.
The easiest ones are the bridge, crab walk and wheelbarrow walking. If you try and find that they are having trouble, try some of the ball exercises I describe and demonstrate on video. If you want to start with the ball exercises only, you can add some tummy work by having your child lie back on the ball and then sit up. Their hips should be at the top of the ball. If they cannot come up without help, you can rest your forearms on their thighs and give them your hands to hold. If you give them your hands, do not pull them up. Let your child do the work.
The great part of these exercises is that you can do them along with your child. If you incorporate them into a routine of a few times per week, you will be amazed at the improvement in your child.
These activities are similar to those used by professional athletes.
Good core strength provides the basis not only for correct movement, but for ease of movement as well.