You may have heard that children need good core strength in order to do well developmentally. But what exactly does that mean? As Occupational Therapists we assess children for a range of different motor skill development, in particular their core strength. Good core strength allows children to move their bodies well, and perform higher level tasks such as sitting still to write their name.
What is core strength?
The body’s core refers to the muscles surrounding the abdomen, pelvis and back.
It is the foundation for children to be able to assume and maintain an upright posture whilst standing and sitting without support. If a child has poor core strength, they will therefore have difficulty controlling fine motor skills, such as handwriting, and participating in gross motor activities like school sport. So how exactly do I know if my child has reduced core strength?
At school, incorrect posture when writing means a child’s body is doing more work than required. This can often lead to fatigue and sometimes pain. A child with poor core strength usually:
- Slouches when writing, and may use the chair to support all aspects of their body
- Holds their head up with their non- writing hand
- Leans far into the table to gain support whilst sitting
- Move around in their seat a lot
- Fatigues easily, and may require frequent rest breaks during writing and physical activities.
- Difficulty on playground equipment such as slides, poles, see saws, and swings – needs to exert more effort than peers
- Struggles to get up and down off the ground
- Doesn’t like to participate in rough and tumble play
How can I help improve my child’s core strength and postural control?
Simple and fun activities that help build up your child’s core strength can easily be incorporated into their daily routine.
Try to include these exercises at least 3 times a week:
- Wheelbarrow walking races (where the child ‘walks’ on their hand and adults hold their feet off the ground) to develop upper body strength – measure how far you can go!
- Create an obstacle course by including unstable surfaces, eg. Pillows – this type of activity requires strength and will also help to increase your child’s endurance. Time how fast they can go!
- Play animal walks by pretending to be a variety of animals such as crabs, frogs, bears, worms or kangaroos! All of these use the child’s body weight as resistance.
- Set up a mini ‘core strength circuit’, and have your child complete:
– Superman or Aeroplanes where your child stretches out while laying on their tummy.
Try to lift arms and legs off the floor with hands facing forward and palms down.
- Plank positions:
– Four point kneel, where your child assumes a crawling position on hands and knees. Have them extend opposite arm and leg for 5 sec each – try to increase the time held each set!
– Elbow plank, where your child uses their elbows/forearms and toes for support.
Make sure their back is straight, and their bottom doesn’t slouch down or extend upward.
Time how long they can hold this for, and aim for 30 seconds.
- Encourage your child to try new equipment at the playground, eg. swings, climbing, monkey bars, slides and poles are all activities that assist in increasing core strength.
- Encourage your child so sit with correct posture during seated activities.
Hopefully you now have more of an understanding of the importance of development good core strength in children. If you have any concerns, it is always worthwhile visiting an Occupational Therapist for a review.
For more info and to book an appointment with one of our excellent and amazing Occupational Therapists, please call us on (02) 4959 8920 or email us at [email protected].