The Inchworm is an awesome core strength exercise for kids! Learn how to do it…and why you should definitely add this activity to your therapy bag of tricks!
I’m a school-based PT, which means that most days, I work in whatever hot, cramped hallway I can find.
Teachers often pass as I am working with kids and exclaim, “that looks like so much fun!” or “I would love to try that game!”. To some people, it might look like I’m just playing all day long. But I promise that the activities that look like “just playing” are really full of purpose.
The intended outcome may be body strength, better posture in a classroom chair, improved coordination for participating in gym class, or a better sense of body awareness for moving throughout the school environment.
Take the Inchworm for example. I can often be found racing a child down the hallway doing this fun, but simple exercise (I have a slight advantage at almost 6’0 tall, but they don’t usually notice!). Here’s how it’s done:
How to Do the Inchworm Core Strength Exercise
Have the child start in standing. Have her bend forward, touch the ground, and walk her hands forward until she’s in plank pose. Then, have her walk her feet in to meet her hands. Repeat!
As you can imagine, it looks like play and the “race” element adds some excitement and a bit healthy competition. But why are we doing it? What is the intended outcome?
Why is the Inchworm Good for Core Strength?
The Inchworm has many therapeutic benefits. First of all, it’s an amazing core strength exercise. A child has to engage his abdominal muscles to walk his hands out while his feet stay still and then pull those muscles in extra tight as he transitions from moving arms to moving feet.
The arms and hands get a big workout, too, as they bear the child’s body weight and move through the exercise pattern.
Coordination is another benefit as a child learns to move the top half of his body while the bottom half stays still — very tricky for some kids! And, even more focused coordination is required as he takes reciprocal steps with his legs or hands to move forward.
Motor planning is a big benefit as the child has to follow the directions of this tricky task:
Start by standing tall with your feet together.
Next, bend at your waist and put your hands on the ground.
Without moving your feet, walk your hands out until your body is almost straight.
Stop your hands and don’t move them.
Now, walk your feet up to meet your hands.
Stand tall and start again!
Think about all of the steps in those directions! Believe me, the first time a child tries the Inchworm, it is difficult to even get them through the second step! They often get hung up on keeping their feet still while their hands move.
How about the sensory benefits? The proprioceptive system gets a major boost as the hands and feet absorb that deep pressure input from bearing the child’s body weight. The vestibular system is hard at work too as the child moves from being upright to upside down!
And, let’s not forget about the big old stretch that the Inchworm provides. If you don’t believe me, give it a try yourself! You will probably feel this much more than most of the kids! Hamstrings, gastrocs, low back, shoulders! They all get a good dose of lengthening!
All of those healthy developmental skills packed into one fun and simple exercise! Can you believe it? I am pretty sure that passersby in the hallway at school think that all we’re doing is having a good old time and don’t even realize the benefits of what’s going on!
What are your favorite low maintenance, easy set-up therapy activities? Leave us a comment below!
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