Developing a strong core is good for many reasons. Our core (back and abdominals) is the center of our body. How our body moves is greatly determined by the strength of our core, and everything should come through that center. This isn’t about having six pack abs, this is about strengthening your center so that you can move with grace and ease.
Working on core strength is something I implemented for our proprioceptive sensory time a couple of years ago. If you follow me on instagram, then you’ve probably seen my strong little boy on my instastories and might be wondering why we would need to do this-seems like he’s already got a pretty strong core. Well, he does, but it’s also needed some tending to in order for him to be better aware of where his body is in space. He could be really coordinated at times, like at gymnastics. He could run and jump across the beam without falling off, flip over on the rings, hang on the bar and touch his toes to it easily. But other than that, I found there were many times he was really uncoordinated, and that was puzzling to me. For instance, here were some things I was seeing:
- Running or walking and tripping on nothing often.
- Crashing into walls or other pieces of furniture often.
- Poor spatial boundaries around others his age.
- Running into others as if he didn’t see them.
When he was focused on what his body was doing, he had greater control. But in his regular day to day, the way he moved he was not in great control, and that is in part because of a lack in core strength. With a stronger core and a greater awareness of moving from his center, the constant crashing decreased. To this day we still have to remind him with the phrase “be aware of your body,” but it has greatly lessened in frequency in part to the amount of gymnastics, which has obviously improved his core connection, but also because we’ve done work at home. Not in a “get down and do crunches and sit-ups” kind of way, but in a playful, fun way! We made something super simple that I call “Core Cards.”
Here’s all you need: Notecards and something to write with. That’s it! If you want to make it more inviting, get different bright colored ones. You’ll write an activity that is a core strengthener on each card (examples below), set the timer for 15-20 minutes, fan the cards out like a deck and let your kid keep choosing until the timer goes off! And guess what…YOU parent have to participate too! It’s so important that we be good models, and if you’re not involved then it won’t feel like a game. Several of these require partners and racing, so this is a great thing to get the family moving together!
- Over/Under Pass: You might remember this from P.E. in school. Grab a ball, a stuffed animal, something to hold onto, stand back to back (or down a line if you’ve got a big family). Pass the object over your head, the other person grabs it, then passes it under their legs. This is great to practice control, and that contraction of bending from the waist helps strengthen that core wall. Make it fun and call out different speeds as you pass!
- Side-to-side Pass: Stand back to back, grab that ball or whatever object you were holding, and twist side to side as you pass the ball one way, then the other. Here’s the key, do not move your feet. You’ve got to twist from that center while you keep your feet planted. This is also great practice at crossing the midline, a skill all kids need!
- London Bridge: One person gets in a plank position, the other person crawls under, then switch!
- Plank “Race:” Get ready to giggle with this one, and laughing helps your core too so you’re welcome. This one both works your core and gives some fun sensory input! Grab a small toy car. One person gets in plank, the other “races” the car down the back of the person in plank. You can also combine this with London Bridge style and race the car under the person in plank and crawl under to catch it. Then switch!
- Super Kicks: Grab a ball or plush toy, you might want something soft for this one. One person lays on their back, hands flat beside them, legs in the air and knees bent at a 90 degree angle. The partner throws the object towards the other’s feet, the one on the floor tries to kick it, but feet can’t touch the ground! Just push out to kick, then bring those knees back in. This will entice some giggles too, then switch.
- Boat to V Roll: Sitting with feet flat on the floor and knees bent, lean back slightly, then lift both legs like the Super Kick position, but stay upright. Grab your ball or plush toy, put it at the top of your feet, then straighten your legs and let it roll down to your stomach to catch. Repeat and see who can catch the most!
- Bicycle Race: Lay flat on your backs and make sure your feet can fully touch the other’s. Lift legs to that 90 degree angle, and keep feet together. Work together doing bicycle legs, like you are riding a tandem bike! This is going to create some natural resistance as you are both pushing, so be careful, but if your kiddo seeks heavy pressure this is a great exercise for them.
- Paddle Boat: Sitting down, get in that boat position, and this time you can either hold your object or pretend and twist slightly moving your arms side to side as if you are paddling in a kayak, but keep those legs lifted!
- Monkey Toes: Grab a kid’s stool and a small object that is easy to grab. Put the object by the stool, stand on the stool and balancing with one leg, bend that one leg and try and grab the object with your toes. If your child struggles with balance which is normal if core needs to be strengthened, let them hold onto your hands as they do it, but don’t let them put all their weight into holding onto you. You want to challenge them to work on that balance and be there for security. Either way, this is best for older kids, so if you have a little one or aren’t comfortable with this activity, you can just as easily do this standing on the floor.
- Chop-Chop: Another great one for practicing crossing the midline. Stand feet about hip width apart or a little wider, toes forward. Place hands together over head and “chop” diagonally across, bending knees into a squat-knees behind toes, then bring arms back up to starting position as you stand. Do an even amount on each side. Ask what kind of food you are chopping as you go, and let them be super silly about it!
- Snake Slither: Exactly how it sounds! Get on the floor and slither (think army crawl) like a snake. Snake noises required.
- Gecko Crawl: Like the snake slither, except you are reaching one arm and bending opposite leg to crawl forward. My son loves to pretend to stick to things as he goes and it’s hilarious. Opposition work like this also helps them turn on that thinking brain!
- Toe Taps: Grab a ball or stool, any object with a little height. Balance on one foot while you lift the other and tap your toe on the object, then switch. See how fast you can go!
- Sit Up “Toss:” Grab a soft ball or plush toy and get in a sit-up position facing each other. Start laying down, you both sit up, one person tosses the object to the other, lay down, repeat going back and forth.
- Leg Throws: One person lays down, the other person is standing behind their shoulders and the one laying down holds onto the partner’s ankles. Lift legs into the air, partner pushes legs down, then they lift them back up to be “thrown” again.
See what you and your kiddos can come up with together, and have fun!