I recently wrote a post on Power vs Control and afterwards I had someone reach out asking how they could help their kiddo learn how to squat or sit down easier so I decided to write some of my ideas down and share them with all of you. Hopefully you find them helpful!
For kids that are having a harder time than others developing control so that they can easily lower themselves into a chair, or attain a squatting position to play, or go down the stairs fluidly, you want to remember that it is still a component of strength. That means, you still want them to work on strengthening their leg muscles that help them do the opposite, i.e. stand up from a chair, get up from the ground, go up the stairs, etc. Overall strength will help them with the control.
Next you want to remember that they are probably nervous to bend their knee because they don’t know that they can control what they are doing and might fall. Now if you ask them this, I am not sure that they would be able to tell you that is what they are thinking, but it is what their body is feeling. A way for you to possibly relate is this: have you ever tried to do a push up and get your body down really close to the ground before you push back up? That means you are bending your elbows almost all the way to a 90 degree angle. If you are really good at push ups this won’t mean anything to you. If you are like me, you can only bend your elbows just a little bit because if you try to go further you don’t have the strength to support your body weight and you lose control and crash to the ground!
So, we covered that strength is important. What’s next is you want to help them start to feel comfortable ‘unlocking’ or bending their knees. What you might also see is when they do bend their knees they go from straight to all the way down super fast without any control. If they were trying to sit it would look like they are ‘plopping’ in their chair. So here are my ideas:
- Sitting onto an elevated surface – If you have a bench or chair or surface that you can pile up with pillows so they can only have to bend their knees a little bit to sit down they will only have to bend a little and be successful. As they experience more success you can lower the surface. You can also give them something to hold onto to give them more confidence. If the support surface is slightly unsteady they will have to depend on their legs more. If it is more stable they will use their arms more. A fun thing to do would be make a big pile of cushions and have them practice sitting back into that. It won’t hurt if they ‘crash’ and they will have to work a little harder to stand back up!
- Picking toys up off the floor – If you have a shape sorter or a puzzle or anything with lots of pieces that they are interested in you can scatter them around the floor, or on slightly elevated surfaces, such as step stools, so that they have to bend down to pick them up in order to use them. You will need to play with the height because they may be able to just hinge at the waist and hips but your goal is to get them to bend their knees. You can make it close to a coffee table or couch so they can hold on while they reach down to get it. To make it even more challenging you can have them on a slightly elevated surface and the toy on the floor so they have to really bend their knees to get it. Just remember a mini squat or a deep squat is going to be the easiest, getting them to bend their knees to the mid range (90 degrees) will be the hardest.
- Step downs – get some step stools or cushions or other raised surfaces and have them around on the floor and make a game out of walking around and having to climb up and down each of them. Make sure they are switching feet so they get to work on both the left and right side going up and down. You may need to give them a hand at first to be successful but try to wean the support away. Pairing things with a song or a toy with lots of pieces always helps with motivation.
I’d love to hear other ideas that you have!