Getting to the core of things – the importance of core strength in toddlers and children

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When you think of core strength, you might conjure up an image of a buff bodybuilder with a six pack, doing countless sit-ups at the gym. Whilst the abdominal muscles do play a role in core strength, there is actually a lot more to building good core control and balance- and it is a really important part of development all the way from infancy to adulthood!

Why is core strength important for kids?

Core strength is a very important component of development, and we can think of it as the first building block that must be laid down.

For example, an infant begins building their core muscles by doing floor play and tummy time in the first several months of life (for more information on tummy time click HERE)

An infant needs to first become strong in tummy time in order to progress to skills such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, pulling themselves up to stand, and then walking.

But core strength doesn’t just affect our gross motor (large body movement) skills. It can also affect what we call fine motor skills. This is because having a strong and stable core improves our body’s ability to use our hands to perform fine motor tasks, such as holding a pencil, writing, or doing up a button on a shirt.

Believe it or not, a strong core also plays a role in your child’s ability to pay attention! A child with weak core muscles will often have difficulty maintaining an upright posture, and will spend a lot of their time and mental energy on adjusting their body position to compensate, thus impacting on their ability to focus on the task at hand.

What should you be looking out for?

Some signs that may indicate that your child may have weaker core muscles include:

  • Slouched or slumped postures/inability to maintain an upright posture
  • Frequently sits in a W-sitting position
  • Difficulty sitting still/frequently needing to change positions
  • Holding their head up with their hands
  • Poor attention skills
  • Difficulty with fine motor tasks such as doing up their buttons
  • Difficulty holding a pencil, teacher may report poor handwriting skills
  • Poor coordination or frequently losing their balance
  • Struggles to get up and down off the ground
  • Fatigues easily and may need frequent rests during physical activities

What can be done?

The good news is, there are HEAPS of simple ways you can help your child to build core strength at home!

  • Wheelbarrow games – hold your child by the feet/ankles and walk them around the room like a wheelbarrow! To make it extra challenging, have your child use one hand to reach for and pick up an item such as a teddy bear
  • Crawling – Build an obstacle course with couch cushions, boxes, and chairs to crawl over and under
  • Sitting and rocking on an exercise ball
  • Superman game – have your child lay on their stomach and lift their arms and legs and pretend to be Superman flying through the air
  • Play a game of Twister with the family
  • Have your child walk slowly along a rope line (or a drawn line)
  • Making bridges – have your child lay on the ground and lift their buttocks off the ground with their knees and feet together to make a bridge
  • Climbing trees or climbing up a ladder for a slide
  • Animal play – have your child move around like different animals (crabs, bears, worms, frogs, bunnies – anything you like)

Family Playing Bodywell

Your child may only be able to do a short amount to begin with – that’s okay! As their strength improves so will their endurance. As long as you keep the activities fun and engaging, they’ll begin to build strength without even realizing!

Do you have further questions?

If you would like to speak with one of our osteopaths about your child’s development, you can call us on 9717 1200 or email us at [email protected]

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