Core strength refers to the development of muscles of the torso that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body. Poor core strength can cause poor posture and decreased sitting tolerance which can affect gross motor and fine motor skill development. Helping your child develop a strong core sets a good foundation for all other activities.
The development of core strength starts as an infant doing “tummy time” which gives the infant opportunities to strength neck and upper back muscles and prepare for other developmental milestones such as crawling, rolling over and sitting up independently. It progresses rapidly from there with play and new challenging experiences.
Teachers and occupational therapists all over North America are noting that weak core strength and declining balance (compared with previous generations) are increasing issues faced by school-aged children. Angela Hanscom, OT and author of Balanced and Barefoot found that only 1 in 12 children today meet the tested balance average of children from the 80’s. That’s no minimal decline, but very significant! What does this look like in the classroom? Teachers report children having increasing trouble sitting on their chairs and say children are often falling off their seats.
The best way to develop core strength is through good old-fashioned outdoor play opportunities to climb, crawl, run, jump, hang upside down and explore in an unstructured setting. The challenges faced by children today are likely largely a result of increasing screen time and decreasing unstructured outdoor play. Another contributing factor may be a general societal shift towards removal of outdoor play equipment that may cause injury such as monkey bars and swing sets.
What does it look like when a child has poor core strength?
How can parents help?
Exercises to strengthen core muscles- make it fun! There are lots of great resources and videos for yoga and core strength for children on line. Example Cosmic Kids Yoga is a popular choice.
Provide opportunities for unstructured play- walking through forest on uneven ground, hanging upside down from a tree branch and pulling self back up.
Building core strength takes time When beginning core strengthening exercise or activities, start with just a few at time; find some that your child loves to engage in. As time progresses, you should see your child starting to develop self confidence and endurance. At this point, you can begin adding new exercises or activities.
A few exercises/activities for core strength:
Play in “prone”- laying on belly; play toys, do writing, colouring etc.
The Wheelbarrow walk
Bouncing – trampoline or Exercise Ball (must be child size)
Swivel ride on toys (with no pedals)
Swinging on swing without assistance
Superman Pose – lying on stomach and lifting arms and legs
Twister – the game
Crawling through a tunnel
Climbing a ladder – such as for a slide
Riding a bike
Have fun with these activities with your child!