“Core strength” has been a buzz word in the health industry the last few years, but its importance cannot be undermined especially in children. “The core muscles consist of the abdominal, hip and back muscles who work together to stabilize and align the trunk and pelvis during static and dynamic movements,” explains Clamber Club Expert and Biokineticist, Shehnaaz Bhabha.
“The core muscles also help with postural control which has a rebound effect on their head control, shoulder control, upper body strength and their lower body alignment and biomechanics,” adds Shehnaaz. Good posture and biomechanics can prevent injury and is essential for good gross motor development. When kids can “wear “their bodies and posture well, it makes it easier for them to concentrate when they are at school. “The good news is that we can develop the core muscles from the start (tummy time as an infant) and the best way for a toddler and pre-schooler is through play,” advises Bhabha.
So how can you improve your child’s core strength? Here are Shehnaaz’s top tips:
- Challenge their balance by making an obstacle course with pillows or foam mats or play old fashioned games like hopscotch which encourage jumping on one leg.
- Play, read or build puzzles in a prone position (lying on the tummy propped up onto the elbows) as this encourages upper extremity weight bearing.
- Encourage outdoor play as much as possible: crawling, climbing, jumping, hanging from bars are all great for developing the core muscles. Climbing up a slide instead of sliding down is a great core exercise!
- Balance bikes are great for toddlers to develop their core muscles.
- Crab walking and tug of war are also great for challenging stability.
- Superman exercises such as lying on the tummy and lifting both arms, chest and both legs develop the back muscles.
- Plank exercises and plank variations as well as push ups are fantastic for upper body and core strengthening.
- The wheelbarrow exercise: Support your toddler’s legs while their body is off the ground and arms are straight. Get them to go forward a few times and then backwards a few times while keeping their body parallel to the ground. You can also spread some toys across the room and get them to wheelbarrow to fetch them.
“By starting to improve core strength at a young age you will lay the foundations for better movement and improved sports performances later on in life,” says Shehnaaz.