Fun Core Exercises For Kids!

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Develop your child's core muscles with these specially developed core exercises for kids!

core exercises for kids - tummy curls

As an occupational therapist and homeschooling mom, I have used these core exercises for kids in the schools where I have worked, as well as with my own children.

Even children with poor coordination skills can benefit from these ideas! These activities are aimed at children from kindergarten to Grade 2 (Keystage 1). Preschoolers will have fun trying to copy older children, but you may have to down-grade some of the activities for them according to their individual abilities.

To find out more about the importance of a strong core and the symptoms of a weak core, read my article The Importance of Abdominal Exercises for Kids.

Some hints before you try the core exercises for kids:

  • Always consult your health professional before commencing any exercise program with your child

  • If your child is reluctant to do “exercises”, call them by another name - I call them circus tricks and we do a few circus tricks at a time, it’s a great motivator for children with poor gross motor skills.

  • Make it a game! That means taking turns, which means that your child can get to be the leader in follow-my-leader, or the circus trainer, and that you get to do the exercises. My kids are very motivated to do even the ones they find demanding, if they know that they will get a turn to be in charge. Ham it up and make them laugh!

  • All core exercises for kids should be done slowly with as much control as possible - rather have your child do one or 2 good repetitions than many sloppy ones.

Basic Core Exercises For Kids

Snake curls
You need: a blanket to lie on, and a beanbag per child. A toy flute/recorder if you have one, but you can make-believe with your hands and hum your own tune instead.
How to do it:
Look at the photo gallery below for a visual representation of this activity. Ask your child to lie down on the floor, with his legs together, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put a beanbag between his knees to encourage him to keep his knees together. His hands should be on his thighs. As the snake charmer (you!) pretends to play a tune on his flute, he raises his head, and slides his hands up to his knees and hisses at you (holding the position) until you give the signal for him to go back down slowly. This is an adaptation of a tummy curl and works well if you get him to hold for a few seconds and repeat it a few times per session.

Core Exercises Kids Tummy Curls startThis is the starting position for the Snake Curls. Knees bent, feet flat on the ground, and a beanbag between the knees to keep them together. Hands are resting on thighs.
Core Exercises Kids Tummy CurlsThis “snake” has curled up in response to the charmer’s music!
Core Exercises – kid’s turn to be snake charmerIt’s mom’s turn to be the snake, so Jamie pretends to play a recorder to charm the snake up!

Tightrope walker
You need: length of rope (5-10m) stretched out in a line, a beanbag and an empty plastic bottle
How to do it:
See the gallery below for pics. Demonstrate how to walk heel-to-toe on the floor (without a line). If your child is able to copy you on the floor, then have her walk heel-to-toe slowly along the rope line. If she struggles to walk heel-to-toe on the floor, then just have her walk normally along the rope line without stepping off, and as she improves, get her to walk heel-to-toe for short sections of the rope. (A child younger than 5 years does not need to walk heel-to-toe)
Making it harder:
Ask her to balance a beanbag on her head as she walks (whether heel-to-toe or normal walk).
Make a curvy path with the rope.
Halfway down the rope, have a bottle that she must slowly bend and touch without letting the beanbag fall off her head!
Encourage her to walk slowly – this is more demanding and requires greater control.

gross motor activities balancing along line 1Callum (age 4 ½) walks along the rope line, keeping his balance with a beanbag on his head.
gross motor activities balancing along line 2He carefully bends over to touch a plastic bottle while keeping the beanbag on his head.
 gross motor activities heel-toe walkJamie (age 7) walks heel to toe along the line, balancing the beanbag on his head.

core exercises for kids crab walk Crab walk
You need: no crabs!! Just your child and a stretch of floor or grass and a bean bag or small soft toy
How to do it:
Ask your child to get into this position (a demonstration by an adult is usually best, so get on the floor). Ask her to walk backwards, like a crab, to a destination and back again. Put a beanbag or soft toy on her tummy – she will have to keep her bottom up to stop the toy from falling off. This is also a great outdoor activity to do as part of an obstacle course or follow-my-leader.
As this activity is quite demanding, set a short distance (2-3metres) for your child’s first attempt, and include it as a small part of an obstacle course or follow-my-leader game. As your child’s endurance increases, you can increase the distance set.

Classroom Core Exercises for Kids:

Chair leg-lifts
You need: a child-sized chair (and an adult sized one with which you can demonstrate)
How to do it:
(Use the photos in the gallery below to guide you) Demonstrate and ask your child to copy you: Stand sideways behind your chair so your left hand is resting lightly on the back of the chair. Slowly lift your left leg, keeping your knee bent until your hip is bent 90 degrees. Hold it, and slowly lower your leg ALMOST to the ground, don’t touch the ground, and raise it again. Repeat once or twice (increase repetitions as your child’s endurance increases). Then repeat on the other side.

Another idea: after raising your leg, slowly let go of your chair and keep your balance. If your child struggles, ask her to pull her bellybutton in, and lightly pat her tummy muscles with your hand so she can feel which muscles to activate.
Repeat with other leg.

Core Exercises Kids Leg Lifts 1Standing next to the chair, resting one hand lightly on the chair, Jamie slowly lifts one leg, with his knee bent.
Core Exercises Kids Leg Lifts 2Jamie slowly lowers his leg until his foot almost touches the grass. He will then raise it slowly again.
Core Exercises Kids Leg Lifts 3Jamie carefully lets go of the chair and tries to keep his balance with his leg still in the raised position.

Core exercises for kids can also be done on jungle gyms and in the playground

core exercises for kids - rope climb

Encourage your child to pull himself up a knotted rope like this boy. If at first they don’t succeed, encourage them to keep trying at least once every time they go to the park – they will soon surprise themselves! The core muscles are activated when he has to lift both feet together to put them on the knot.

Any activity that requires your child to lift both feet together (eg to swing his legs over a bar, or lift them both to wrap around a branch) will use his core muscles!

child climbing tree

Climbing on trees and clambering over jungle gyms are great core exercises for kids of all ages. Your child will benefit immensely from hours spent at the park!

core strengthening exercises for kids

These free core exercises for kids are just a taster of the exercises and activities suggested in this OT Mom e-book. For the price of a couple of cheap coffees you can download an e-book containing more than 20 pages of photographed core strengthening exercises for kids.

Did you enjoy these core exercises for kids?
Check out our Gross Motor Page for
more free gross motor activities!

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