Have you been watching the Olympics this winter? These athletes are STRONG!! The legs on those speed skaters! WOW!!! Seeing the sheer power in these men and women got me thinking about how I could inspire the kids I work with to strengthen their bodies. I figured there was no better way than to come up with some fun strengthening olympic activities for kids that allude to the winter games. Here are five that will get your kids going!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: A laundry basket; paper, paper towels, or dish towels
WHAT TO DO:
1. Downhill Skier Squats — This move is perfect for strengthening the quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and the gluts (butt muscles). It also pulls in some of the adductors (muscles that bring your legs together) and gastrocs (commonly know as the calf muscles). Have your child stand on the floor with feet very close together, even touching. Show him how to squat down like he’s sitting in a chair and hold that position. Now, tell him to pretend he’s flying down the hill, snow spray hitting his face. Tell him he’s going to start hitting some bumps: show him how to bend and straighten his legs ever so slightly like he’s going over small bumps in the snow. Try doing this small movement 10 times and then return to holding or stand up for a break!
2. Skeleton Back Strengthening — Skeleton racing involves an athlete on a bobsled, lying on their stomach and speeding down a track head first holding their chin and toes barely off of the track. WHOA! This event is definitely not for me! These athletes have some super strong back muscles to sustain a position like that for any length of time. In this activity, have your child lie on his stomach on the floor, arms at his sides. On your command, have him lift just their shoulders and head off of the floor. Too easy? How about head, shoulders and toes? Still too easy? Try lifting as much as they can and holding it…10, 9, 8, 7….get the idea? This exercise strengthens the back extensors which are very important for tall posture and are part of the “core” muscles that are essential for all kinds of motor development.
3. Speed Skater Slides — Grab a few paper plates, pieces of paper, papertowels or dishcloths. Find a hard floor surface (tile or wood work well). Place a piece of papertowel (or whatever you are using) under each of your child’s feet. Show him how to bend his knees into a little squat and then begin moving forward by sliding one foot at a time out to the side and back. Make sure to stay in that little bit of a squat. Encourage him to hold his hands behind his back for some additional core work. This exercise is great for overall leg strengthening for burning a little excess energy!!
4. Bobsled Push — Okay, this one is a blast but is also so beneficial for everyone involved! Grab the biggest laundry basket you can find. If you have two children…perfect! If not, grab a few stuffed animals and maybe some books for some added weight. Have one child push the basket (bobsled) from behind. Can they move it fast, slow? Is it easier on the carpet or on the hard floor? Can they turn it in circles? The kiddo pushing the basket is getting overall strengthening as well as proprioceptive input, coordination and motor planning. The child in the basket is getting a major sensory rush as well as a huge case of the giggles!
5. Ski Jump Squats — Ready for a coordination challenge? Have your child stand with one foot in front of the other. On the count of 3, have them jump up and switch so that the opposite foot is in front and have them land with their knees in a soft position with a bit of bend. Can they do it? Try adding the arms. At first, try to do the same side of the body (right arm and right leg move at the same time). Then, try to switch it up and do opposite sides of the body (right arm and left leg). Try with eyes open and eyes closed and watch their body adapt to the challenges. Those legs will once again feel the burn of some awesome strengthening!
Try doing these activities with your child so that they realize how important a strong body is! When you join in, you will also be fostering a little bit of healthy competition which never hurts!
HOW TO CHANGE IT UP: Suggestions are within each activity above. Try doing these activities every other day or one each day for a week. Try them during commercials while you are watching Olympic events. YouTube has some amazing videos of the Olympic Athletes competing and training in these events. Watch them with your child and tell them about the hardwork and dedication it takes to get to that level of competition.
SKILL AREAS ADDRESSED: Gross motor skills, strength, endurance, motor control, coordination, proprioception, balance, bilateral coordination, posture
Want to take a closer look at the skills kids are using in this activity? Check out our Clinical Closeup page, where we break down the skills listed below in terms everyone can understand.
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