12 Effective Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids

Little boys aged 5 having fun on garden trampoline. First boy is smiling at the camera lying on front and the second boy is jumping in the background. A strong core serves as the foundation for a wide range of physical activities, including crawling, running, and jumping, among many others. The core of the body includes the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and spine, according to HealthyChildren.org, a site maintained by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Gaining core strength is an essential part of childhood development and helps kids achieve important milestones and become independent as they grow up. If you’re a parent or guardian of young children, here’s everything you should know to ensure your kids have the strong cores needed to thrive in any environment – whether they’re at home, at school or on the playground.

Signs of Weak Core Muscles

If your child has difficulty with core strength, you might notice the following signs and symptoms, according to the OT Mom article “Core Strength & Core Stability” and Allison Amato, a pediatric physical therapist with Little Steps.

  • Getting tired easily when taking part in physical activities
  • W sitting (sitting with their legs bent and angled away from them on either side)
  • Having trouble with balance
  • Displaying bad posture (including lying on desks and propping themselves up with their arms instead of sitting upright)
  • Not being able to crawl or roll by themselves
  • Preferring to always lie down with watching TV, instead of sitting upright
  • Avoiding anything that involves climbing (e.g., climbing on jungle gyms or trees)
  • Having poor gross motor skills in general

Fortunately for kids who struggle with these types of issues, there are plenty of simple and effective core strengthening exercises for kids.

Core Exercises for Babies and Toddlers

For infants and very young children, doing the following activities can help build a strong core, Allison advises in the August Little Steps newsletter.

  • Reaching for objects while laying on their belly or sitting up by themselves
  • Pulling themselves up to stand from sitting on the floor
  • Playing with toys while kneeling
  • Crawling on an uneven surface
  • Rolling from their back to their belly (in both directions)

Core Exercises for School-Age Children

Older children who could benefit from stronger core muscles can see improvement through the following exercises, according to Allison.

  • Riding a bike
  • Swimming
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Climbing on playground equipment
  • Walking like a bear or crab
  • Doing sit-ups
  • Doing planks

It’s important to note that none of these exercises should be painful, according to the AAP. If kids tell you any of these activities hurt, tell them to stop the exercise. Additionally, they should breathe normally during these activities. Holding your breath during exercise can boost blood pressure and get in the way of building muscle strength.

If you have any questions about core exercises for children and/or suspect that your child has issues with muscle weakness, our pediatric physical therapists can help. The members of our pediatric therapy team deliver comprehensive, compassionate care to improve the lives of children of all ages one step at a time. Contact us today by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing info@littlestepspt.com.

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