Below, you’ll find some of our easiest core strengthening exercises for kids!
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This post about Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids is consistently one of our most viewed articles at The Inspired Treehouse. Why?
Because there are a lot of parents, teachers, and therapists out there who know that core strengthening is essential for the progression of nearly all other developmental skills. The core is the center of control for everything that the lower and upper body do!
When we talk about core strength for kids, we’re not referring to what you commonly see about adults working their abs to get a six- pack. Instead, we’re interested in building a strong core foundation so kids can be functional and successful with all of the tasks they need to do throughout the day.
It’s difficult to balance, perform coordinated movements on both sides of the body, sit up straight in a chair, hold a pencil, control scissors, or jump if you don’t have a strong core. We know that decreased core strength commonly contributes to other issues like W-Sitting and delayed motor skill development.
Why Do So Many Kids Have Weak Core Muscles?
This could be due to a number of reasons including:
-An increase in the number of children with developmental delays
-The rising trend of children being less physically active during the school day as academic demands in the classroom become more intense
-Kids becoming more interested in video games and television than a game of tag in the backyard.
Whatever the reason, we’re here to help!
Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids
The core muscles are the muscles in the abdomen, hips, glutes, back and pelvis and the key to strengthening these muscles is making it fun — like a game! Issue a challenge, give the activity a playful purpose!
Here are a few of our best core exercises to help you get started.
*Always make sure that when your child is completing ANY of these core exercises that she is breathing! Breath holding allows your child to compensate and not use the crucial core muscles that these exercises target. Coach kids when to inhale and exhale for each movement so they get the full benefits of core exercises.
1 || Bridging
Have your child get into the starting position by lying on their back with their knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Have them push hard through their heels to raise their bottom up off the floor. Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground and their spine in a straight line (see photo above). Can they hold it? This one is a great strengthener for the hamstrings too! Be sure that the left side and the right side of the hips are lifted and even.
How to Change it Up:
-Try having the child lift and lower with control (up for a count of 3, down for a count of 3).
-Put a stuffed animal between the child’s knees and have them squeeze while completing the bridging.
-For a BIG challenge, have your child place his feet on a pillow or small ball and try to maintain stability while bridging.
-Zoom some cars underneath — How many cars can you get under the bridge before it falls?
-Find a few small, stuffed animals and walk them under the bridge — Don’t squish the bunny!
2 || Superman
Have your little one fly like the superhero and strengthen their back! Have them lie on their stomach on the floor and try to lift their arms up off of the floor so that their upper chest comes up too.
How to Change it Up:
-Can they lift their legs? How about arms and legs at the same time?
-Can they hold a ball between their hands or their feet while lifting up?
-Place a stuffed animal on the child’s back and see if he can complete this exercise with enough control to keep the animal from falling.
-Make it fun by having the child reach up for you to hand them pieces of a puzzle or to place stickers on the wall.
-Make it even more fun by trying it on a swing or a large ball
3 || Knock Me Over
This has always been a favorite of the kids I see for physical therapy. It can be done with smaller children on your lap, or with bigger kiddos on a large therapy ball or even with them kneeling on both knees.
The goal is for them to maintain enough stability through their trunk to stay upright! If you have a small child on your lap, sit on a couch or bed for a soft landing surface. Bounce them up and down a few times (maybe sing “I’m a Little Teapot) and then try to knock them over. The first few times, they will fall for sure…it’s funny!
See if you can gradually increase the pressure that it takes to knock them down. And…getting up is part of the core workout too! See if you can decrease the amount of assistance it takes to get them back to a sitting position.
How to Change it Up:
-Have the child in a tall kneeling position on the floor and play catch with balls of varying sizes and weights. The heavier the ball, the bigger the challenge to the core.
-Just sitting and bouncing on the therapy ball is a core workout in itself.
4 || Plank
This one is an obvious (and overall) core strengthener. Have your child lay on his stomach on the floor with his hands flat on the floor at shoulder level and toes on the floor. On the count of 3, have them push up on their hands to straighten their arms and lift their whole body off of the floor into a raised push-up position (above) with their feet hip width apart (or wider).
How to Change it Up:
-Have your child hold the plank position on his forearms with his elbows at 90 degrees instead of his hands. If holding his whole body off of the floor is too much, try dropping the knees to the floor for support. While in that position, have them lift an arm straight out in front and hold. How about an opposite arm and leg? Can they hold it long enough for another child to creep underneath or for 3 balls to roll under?
-For an added challenge, have the child touch their left knee to their left elbow, then their right knee to their right elbow while holding the plank.
-Try a side plank by having kids roll from a traditional plank onto the edge of one foot, turning their body to the side and lifting one arm in the air.
5 || Core Strengthening Exercises for Babies:
That’s right, we’re talking about Tummy Time! Before they’re born, babies spend 9 months crunched into a very tight space. They need Tummy Time to stretch out their abdominal muscles and strengthen the muscles of their neck and back.
What skills will this help the child accomplish? Crawling, standing, walking, jumping, skipping…just to name a few! Click through to learn more about why Tummy Time is important and about some great toys and props that can help make Tummy Time even more fun!
6 || Wheelbarrow Walking:
Again, have your child lay on their stomach on the floor. While you hold their knees (easier) or ankles (bit more of a challenge), have them walk his hands forward 10 steps and backward 10 steps. Can they walk forward to a ball and and put it in a basket with one hand? How long can they hold this position without pulling their legs away?
How to Change it Up:
-Place an object on the child’s back and see if he can get it across the room without it falling off.
-See if they can tap a balloon, keeping it up in the air in front of them as he walks.
-See if he can complete a puzzle from this position, wheelbarrow walking across the room to retrieve the pieces.
-For a BIG challenge, try holding the wheelbarrow position in front of a few steps. See if your child can put their right hand up on the first step and then their left. Can they return their hands to the ground? Doesn’t this make your core muscles scream just imagining it?!
Core Strengthening Through Games and Everyday Play
While the core strengthening exercises described above are perfect for targeting core strengthening specifically, sometimes good old fashioned play activities can have just as much benefit. Below is a list of awesome ideas for play that will hit those core muscles hard:
-Negotiating an obstacle course
-Climbing up a slide instead of sliding down
-Playing tug of war
Core Strengthening Toys & Games