Therapist Thursday: Core Strengthening for Kids

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Lauren at The Inspired Treehouse. Lauren is both a Mother and Pediatric Physical Therapist so she is definitely an expert on how to get children moving! Check out these great ideas on core strengthening.


Core strengthening isn’t just for adults.  Kids need to have a strong foundation of strength in the center of their bodies too.  Core strength fosters all kinds of developmental skills from bilateral coordination, posture, and stability to balance and endurance.  All of these skills build on one another, contributing to strong gross and fine motor skills and promoting healthy child development.  The core muscles are the muscles in the abdomen, back and pelvis.  Signs that a child may need extra help with core strengthening include but are not limited to w-sitting, poor posture in standing or sitting, or a delay in motor skill development.  The key to core strengthening for kids is making it fun — like a game!  Issue a challenge, give the activity a playful purpose!    Here are a few core strengthening exercises to help you get started.  And be sure to check out our round-up of Great Toys and Games for Core Strengthening!

1. BRIDGING Have your child lay on his back with his knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Have them push hard through their heels to raise their bottom up off the floor.  Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground (see photo above).  Can they hold it?


  • Try having the child lift and lower with control (up for a count of 3, down for a count of 3).
  • Put a stuffed animal between the child’s knees and have them squeeze while completing the bridging.
  • For a BIG challenge, have your child place his feet on a pillow or small ball and try to maintain stability while bridging.
  • Zoom some cars underneath — How many cars can you get under the bridge before it falls?
  • Find a few small, stuffed animals and walk them under the bridge — Don’t squish the bunny!

2.  SUPERMAN  Have your little one fly like the superhero and strengthen his back!  Have him lay on his stomach on the floor and try to lift his arms up off of the floor so that his upper chest comes up too.


  • Can he lift his legs?  How about arms and legs at the same time?
  • Can he hold a ball between his hands or his feet while lifting up?
  • Place a stuffed animal on the child’s back and see if he can complete this exercise with enough control to keep the animal from falling.
  • Make it fun by having the child reach up for you to hand him pieces of a puzzle or to place stickers on the wall.
  • Make it even more fun by trying it on a swing or a large ball

3.  KNOCK ME OVER  This has always been a favorite of the kids I see for physical therapy.  It can be done with smaller children on your lap, or with bigger kiddos on a large therapy ball or even with them kneeling on both knees.  The goal is for them to maintain enough stability through their trunk to stay upright!  If you have a small child on your lap, sit on a couch or bed for a soft landing surface.  Bounce them up and down a few times (maybe sing “I’m a Little Teapot) and then try to knock them over.  The first few times, they will fall for sure…it’s funny!  The goal — to see if you can gradually increase the pressure that it takes to knock them down.   And…getting up is part of the core workout too!   See if you can decrease the amount of assistance it takes to get them back to a sitting position.


  • Have the child in a tall kneeling position on the floor and play catch with balls of varying sizes and weights.  The heavier the ball, the bigger the challenge to the core.
  • Just sitting and bouncing on the therapy ball is a core workout in itself.


There’s more! For 3 additional ideas, please read the original post on The Inspired Treehouse!


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