Core strength is so critical for all of us, but especially for growing kids as they learn and develop new skills. In addition to it helping with their gross motor skills it also helps with their fine motor skills because the more solid their trunk is, the easier it is to manipulate their hands. There are a plethora of ways to work on core strength and we’ve already touched on some of them in ‘Having a Ball With Core Muscle Strength‘. Here are some other ways to challenge your child’s core strength (and possibly your own as well)!
Climbing a ladder is one of my favorites. To climb a ladder you need to use arms and legs which really encourages the engaging of your core muscles. The simplest is a stationary ladder that is solidly built at a play structure. From there you can branch out to the twisting and turning shapes that playground ladders come in these days. Some of my favorites to add to the challenge are the ones that move such as net ladders, or chain ladders or those plastic segmented ladders that shift as you get to each new section. In addition to just having your child climb, try to encourage them to switch which foot they are leading with to keep their glut development balanced.
Wheelbarrow walking uses weight bearing through the arms while your child is walking on their hands and you are holding them at their hips or legs or feet. The further out you hold them the harder it is for them. I usually start in close at their hips/waist and as they progress I will slowly move my support out further to continue to challenge them. I also watch to see if they are completely sagging in the middle. If that is happening I will either give them a small rest or move my hands so that they are getting a little more support.
Crab walking is also fun. This may take some coordination so the first step wold be to get your child to make a table top. If they can do that, the next step is to have them try to take a step with their feet and then hands. Eventually they will be able to walk with hands and feet simultaneously. If they are sagging in the middle have them reset. The flatter they keep their middle the more they are working their core muslces.
You can always do the pilates plank move either on their forearms or on their hands with their arms straight. Make it a contest to see who can hold it the longest but don’t let them stick their bottom up or drop their belly down. Sometimes if you see how far out they can walk their hands and then have them hold it for a certain count when they reach the farthest point, you can entice them into doing plank and they don’t even realize it!
There’s always the basic sit up which for the little ones generally starts as a pull to sit with them holding onto your hands and then they pull on your hands to get themselves into a sitting position. Eventually you want to progress so that they can sit up without using your hands. Depending on how they are doing I will have them either reach for me while trying to sit up (I am holding their knees so their legs stay down) or I will have them cross their arms across their chest. When you are stabilizing their legs they are using their hip flexors also but as they get stronger they will be able to do this without any help. Another way to increase their strength is to have them try to lie down without using their hands and without crashing. To functionally encourage stronger abs help and encourage your child to sit up from lying on their back, without rolling onto their belly first.
Play around with these ideas and have fun with your kids while encouraging good core muscle strength! Do you have any fun and creative ideas for strengthening your core?