Having a strong core is essential to overall health, fitness, and mobility. But did you know that weak core muscles can also contribute to problems in the classroom for children?
A child who has trouble sitting and standing without support can struggle with poor posture, making fine motor skills more difficult. This can lead to fatigue and frustration at school.
Kids may struggle to sit on the floor or upright in a chair, and instead slouch over to the side, lie down on their back, crumple forward, or W-sit to provide a wider base of stability.
The good news is, there are many ways for your child to increase strength in their muscles surrounding their abdomen, pelvis and back using fun, playful activities in our gymnastics classes here at Mountain Kids. And many of these ideas can be done at home or on the playground too.
Read on for how your preschooler can increase their core strength through play and set themselves up for success in the classroom and beyond as they grow.
Core Fun for Babies
Twinkle Stars (our infant class) love tummy time fun on a mirror with balls! We also have parents rock their babies while holding kids down low at the hips, bounce them on yoga balls or bouncy horses and more!
This is all great fun and has the added benefit of establishing loving bonds of connection between baby and parent/caregiver.
Toddler Play Ideas for a Strong Core
In our Moonbeamers (parent/toddler) classes, we introduce fun activities that engage the core, such as safety rolls — hugging knees in to make our bodies like a ball and gently rolling backward. We then assist children in rolling back up to seated as they engage their core muscles. Your child can start out sitting on your lap so you can roll backward together. Then you can have your child try it with spotting.
We also do balancing activities like standing up on a wobbly surface, and trying to stay upright while wiggling or shifting weight side to side (with parent spotting).
Preschool Core Strengthening Fun
- We use these frequently in our Locomotor station during our Rainbow Rider preschool gymnastics classes.
- We practice bear walks, monkey tail hops, frog jumps, crab walks, horse gallops and more.
- Using the child’s body weight as resistance and putting weight in the arms/upper body are all great for engaging the core muscles.
- Making silly animal noises with our imagination play just adds to the fun!
- We teach the children different jumps on the tramp such as straddle jumps, ski jumps, tuck jumps and more.
- Jumping with both feet leaving the ground at the same time and landing soundly back on two feet takes body awareness, coordination, and the engagement of the abdominal and back muscles as well.
- Preschoolers LOVE to show how strong they are and once they figure out they can support their own weight hanging down from a bar, they have tons of fun demonstrating what they’re capable of.
- We incorporate activities such as tuck and pike hangs, bat hangs, lifting up a stuffie with our feet and more.
- These activities require the kids to hold onto the bar overhead and engage their core to lift their legs up.
- Holding onto a set of rings, tucking feet up and swinging to and fro is also a super fun activity that strengthens their abdominal muscles with each repetition.
- Walking on a balance beam requires focus and balance.
- We love to add in games and pretend play to our beam station requiring kids to change levels (bend down and stand back up all while balancing on the beam), carry something out in front or overhead, hop, scoop with their toes, tiptoe, and more.
- All of these activities require them to engage their core muscles but they just know they are having a great time!
Core Strength: Success in the Classroom and the World
We can start to establish healthy habits with our kids in a playful, fun way that feels natural for them. These activities encourage kids to move their bodies and build strength, balance, agility, and coordination, setting them up for success in the classroom and the world.
Once kids are in a classroom setting for most of their day, it’s essential to set aside play time as well (like a fun after-school gymnastics class) to keep them strong and healthy.