Want to learn more about how to support your toddler in achieving milestones? Read more about this important (and often missed) aspect of child development.
Your toddler is probably a bit of a mover and a shaker these days! They have progressed through those baby milestones from rolling to crawling to standing to walking and now, it’s hard to keep track of them as they use their newfound mobility to move like a mini tornado through your home! [You can learn more about children’s developmental milestones here.]
You have spent countless hours hunched over, holding their hands while they practice walking and you have followed close behind just in case they take a hard fall.
Now that your child is on the move, you may think that you are at home plate when it comes to toddler development stages!
But there’s one more area that you can continue to work on with your child daily that will help them progress in all future areas of development and that is…core strength and stability!
Why Does Core Strength Matter for Kids?
Working on your child’s middle (which includes their hips, tummy and back muscles) can help them progress through all areas of development as they master even more fine and gross motor skills, learn higher level balance and coordination skills, and even as they figure out how to regulate their emotions (a strong core provides a sense of security and calm in the body).
Did you know that the core muscles also help your child’s hand/eye coordination? You need a strong base to hold up that heavy head, which supports the ability of the eyes to track and focus. Core strength even has a strong impact on speech and language development!
The Developmental Milestone Handbook
Are you a new or expecting parent who is wondering what to expect from your baby’s development in the first few years of life?
Our Developmental Milestone Handbook is the perfect place to start!
This ebook is written by a team of pediatric physical and occupational therapists and includes:
-Information about developmental milestones, including gross motor milestones and fine motor milestones for ages 0-5
-Over 100 activity suggestions for supporting healthy fine motor, gross motor, and sensory development
-Information and activities organized by age range for quick reference
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE!
Things to Keep in Mind With Core Exercises for Kids
Core strengthening exercises for kids don’t have to be tedious or involve boring repetitions. No dreaded sit-ups or planks on this list! In fact, one of the key pieces to a “strong” core is actually teaching your child to stabilize their middle using their deep core muscles. In other words, your child needs to be strong and stable before they actually start to move.
Another key thing to note is that during any play activity in which you are focusing on the core, ensure that your child is breathing normally. No breath holding! No shallow breathing! If a child is completing any movement while they are holding their breath, they are not developing active core stability.
The Best Core Strength Exercises for Toddlers
Here are 10 of our favorite ways to stabilize and strengthen the core muscles in your toddler.
Play on the Floor
Grab your child’s favorite puzzle, game or put-in activity and get down on the floor with her. Model lying on your stomach. This position (prone position) is a great way to practice core stability!
Gather pillows, step stools, tape, cones, balls, or any other things around your house that you can jump, step, crawl, climb over, under, or up on and make an epic obstacle course! The varying balance and motor challenges will have your child’s middle working overtime to keep them upright as they maneuver this challenge.
Fill a water table, the sink or the bathtub with just enough water that your child can use common kitchen items to scoop, pour and stir. Using two hands at the same time to play and crossing midline when pouring is the perfect opportunity for strengthening through play. Add some food coloring, bubbles, or flowers and grass to amp up the fun!
Encourage your child to stay as still as a statue by not moving their feet as you toss varying objects at them to try to catch. We love to use a pair of rolled up socks, a small stuffed animal, a pillow, a scarf, or a beanbag for this. The varying weight of these objects makes catching a challenge as your child tries to stabilize her body to complete the task without falling out of her stance!
Walk Like Animals
Need a quick activity to promote core strengthening throughout the day that is also super fun? Try walking like an animal from one point to another (i.e. walk to the bathroom like a bear to brush your teeth, stand like a flamingo while you drink your juice, crawl like a crab to your bed.) Activities like this are also great for sensory input, coordination, motor planning and more!
Play on All Fours
Nothing fancy about this one! Get down in that crawling position and play cars or a fun game like Connect Four. The challenge is to stay in that position even when you reach for a toy. This position is great for co-contraction. It is a fancy therapy word that we like to use when describing how many muscles are working at the same time to hold a position. Quadruped makes the tummy, back, hip, and shoulder muscles fire to hold the body in place.
Give the Toys a Ride
Fill an empty laundry basket with favorite stuffed animals or toys and push it around the house. This is a great way to encourage your child to help clean up as well!
Take it to the Playground
This might seem like an obvious fun thing to do with your child but if you’ve never thought about the core strengthening exercises that a playground offers, you will now! Let your child climb up that slide for a huge dose of core muscle activation. Not into rule breaking? The swing, balance beams, stairs, monkey bars, and even coming down the slide are all great options too. Your child will constantly have to adjust and call on her tummy, back and hip muscles to hold herself up as she meets the challenges of this fun place!
Try Some Yoga
Kids love yoga! They love the challenge of getting into the positions and they love the connection they get when a parent or caregiver does it alongside them. Try some of these positions: downward dog, cobra, tree, boat and mountain pose. Don’t forget to rest in the peaceful child’s pose at the end.
Rough it Up!
While many mamas dread roughhousing, we are all for it as pediatric therapists. Kids not only gain strength through this type of play but also confidence, emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and, most definitely, joy! Here are 10 of our favorite roughhousing play ideas.
More Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas for building core strength through play. Check out these articles for even more ideas:
Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids and Top Core Strength Resources
Core Strengthening With a Playground Ball
Winter Themed Core Strengthening Exercises
Halloween Themed Core Strength Ideas
The Core Strengthening Handbook
Don’t miss our free checklist for 12, 15, and 18 month old milestones red flags!
And find all of our best gross motor activities for toddlers here!
Check out all of our best child development resources for parents here.
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