As an adult, you may have heard the term ‘core strength’ as it refers to workout programs you may have tried. Turns out that core strength is equally important for kids! Today, let’s explore what core strength is, why it is important and ways you can work on it at home and at school.
What is core strength and why is it important?
Core strength refers to the strength of the muscles at the center of your body, like your abdominal and shoulder muscles. Core strength is important for performing important daily tasks . When I was in OT school, there was a popular phrase that we often heard: “Proximal stability equals distal mobility”. In other words, the stronger and more stable the muscles close to your core are, the easier you will be able to control the muscles farther away from the core of your body. This is why core strength and stability have such a huge impact on fine motor skills. The stronger your core is, the more refined and controlled your fine motor skills will be.
What does it look like if a child has decreased core strength?
There are a few things you may notice that could indicate a child has poor core strength. You might notice the child slumps at his desk, may W-sit when playing on the floor, or may fatigue easily. They may have difficulty or avoid climbing on playground equipment and may have poor fine motor skills.
What can you do?
As always, be sure to reach out to your OT if you have concerns related to decreased core strength in your child or student. Here are some general activity ideas that can be easy to incorporate into home and school routines!
1. Change positions during everyday activities.
This is one of my favorite simple recommendations to make! You can do this easily whether you are in the classroom or at home. While reading a book or watching a video on the tablet, have the child lay on her tummy. Another option is to have the child in the tall kneeling position when building with blocks, or on a cube chair at the table when doing simple table work.
2. Engage in active play.
Engage kids in anything that requires them to use their whole body to move through space! The playground is a great place to find lots of opportunities for active play. My favorite activities at the playground including climbing (yes, even up the slide!), crawling through tunnels, monkey bars and the swings. In school, setting up simple obstacle courses as part of gross motor time is another easy idea to implement. I like incorporating a tunnel for crawling, a scooter, and a mini trampoline.
3. Do yoga poses.
There are so many resources for kids’ yoga these days, and they offer awesome opportunities to work on core strength. Some of the best poses for core strength are floor poses, such as boat pose, downward dog, and cobra. However, the whole yoga sequence is a great thing for a child to participate in, as every time they change positions they need to engage their core muscles.
4. Embed practice within play!
When we embed activities within play, kids don’t even realize that they are working on skills! One of my favorite ways to work on core strength within play is playing the bridge game. Have the child lay on his back and lift up his hips, and then you can push a car or toy underneath! Alternatively, the child can do crunches and reach for a preferred toy at the top of the crunch. Other fun ideas include wheelbarrow walking, propelling themselves on a scooter, bouncing on a therapy ball during circle time, or laying over a therapy ball and reaching for items in front of them!
Core strength is so important to work on, and with some creativity you can embed different strengthening activities into your day. What are some of your favorite ways to work on core strength?
This blog is for informational purposes only. Please contact your OT for specific recommendations.