Shoulder Exercises For Kids

These shoulder exercises for kids can help to improve their upper body strength.

Having good shoulder girdle stability can make it easier for kids to control the smaller movements of the hands and fingers. For this reason, kids should be doing lots of gross motor activities to help strengthen their shoulder girdle as well as their other core muscles.

The activities on this page will give you some easy and fun ways to help your child work on their upper body strength and stability.

Free exercises to help strengthen your child's shoulder girdle muscles

Caution: Your child should only take part in these activities if he/she is medically and physically able to do so. Please get a professional opinion if you are at all uncertain. You should only demonstrate these activities if you are medically and physically able to do so. You do so at your own risk.
The activities on this page are NOT a substitute for an occupational therapy evaluation and treatment.

Leopard Crawl

If you are physically fit, then demonstrate this by lying on your tummy and pulling yourself along with your forearms.

Encourage your child to not splay the arms too wide, or to use the legs too much - the leopard crawl should work the upper body the most.

kids leopard crawl exerciseA good leopard crawl position

This next photo shows the child splaying his arms and thus not working the shoulder girdle muscles as effectively.

The leopard crawl is a great obstacle course or follow-my-leader activity (especially if an adult is involved!).

Doing it under tables and chairs is a great incentive, and as an outdoor activity, it lends itself well to a jungle theme or army theme party!

A poor leopard crawl position

Back to Top

Crab Walk

Ask your child to get into this position. (Only demonstrate if you are medically and physically fit to do so)

Crabs actually walk sideways, but this is really tricky for kids, so start by asking your child to walk backwards for a short distance, keeping the back and tummy straight and bottom off the ground!

kids crab walk exercise

Doing the crab walk actually works the core muscles as well as the shoulder girdle muscles, and many kids struggle to hold the position at first.

As for as shoulder exercises for kids go, the crab walk is quite demanding, so 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.

Back to Top

Pushing Games

Pushing games can be fun shoulder exercises for kids, as they encourage your child to activate the shoulder girdle muscles through pushing hard.

Encourage your child to keep the elbows slightly bent, so the arms are not straight.

This helps the shoulder girdle muscles to work most effectively.

Good Positioning

Take note of the difference between the good positioning above, and the ineffective positioning demonstrated below, then have fun trying out the activities that follow!

Poor Positioning 1
Poor Positioning 2

Try a Wall Push or a People Push - my kids always love trying to push an adult (sometimes we let them win!).

Tell your child the wall is falling down, and ask your child to push it to keep it up!

You can have your child push for a count of 5 or 10 seconds, run around the garden and then come back for another push.

Make sure your child has only the hands on the wall (no forearms, trunk or shoulders), and try and keep elbows slightly bent.

pushing games for shoulder girdle strengthWall Push

For the People Push, have both pushers put their hands together as shown in this pic, with both pushers keeping elbows slightly bent.

Stand with one foot behind the other and on the count of 3, PUSH each other as hard as possible until one of you moves backwards. (Cue a sibling to let a younger child win some!)

People Push

Back to Top


I use a large therapy or gym ball for these shoulder exercises for kids.

Have your child crouch facing the wall, putting the hands on the ball.

Have your child "walk" the ball up from the floor with his/her hands until the ball is at shoulder level.

kids shoulder exerciseStarting Position

Then "walk" the ball along the length of wall, keeping it at the same height. Repeat a few times. Your child's hands should cross over as the ball moves along.

Walking the Ball
Crossing Hands

Aim for slow controlled movements – the child who wants to do it quickly can sometimes be compensating for the lack of stability needed to do it slowly in a controlled way!

Therapy balls or gym balls are readily available from sport shops, Amazon, or from therapy suppliers.

(This is my affiliate link to therapy/exercise balls on Amazon for your convenience. If you purchase anything through my link, I may receive a small commission, but you are under no obligation to purchase anything!)

Back to Top

Classroom Shoulder Exercises For Kids

These are great shoulder exercises for kids to do before starting any writing sessions. They are also good to help fidgety kids focus as they give great proprioceptive input!

Hand Pushes

Place palms together, with elbows out and forearms held horizontally as in the photo.

Now have your child push the hands together as hard as possible and hold for 5 seconds.

Repeat a few times.

Chair Push Ups

Have your child place hands on either side of the chair and PUSH, until his/her bottom rises off the chair.

Hold for 3 - 5 counts.

Ask your child to try and lift his/her feet off the floor and hold them off while doing the push-ups.

kids chair push ups

Back to Top

Shoulder Exercises Printable Download

Do you want to give your child the best possible foundation for handwriting, by working on upper body strength and stability?

Does your child have poor fine motor skills as a result of poor shoulder girdle stability?

This printable resource will provide you with 20 pages of photographed exercises that may help your child develop better shoulder girdle stability.

View my Shoulder Exercises for Kids E-Book now!

shoulder exercises for kids printable download

Visit my webpages to read more about why core strength and shoulder girdle stability are important. There is also a section on each page with some tips on how to know if your child has poor shoulder stability or weak core muscles.

Check them out!

Thanks for visiting my site! Please do sign up for my occasional newsletter to keep in touch with new (and updated) pages and activities on my site!

Pin this page: Free exercises to help strengthen your child's shoulder girdle muscles

Back to Top

If this page was helpful, please share it with your friends!

Related Pages

If you are looking for more gross motor ideas, information and inspiration, check out these related pages on my site.

Back to Top

OT Mom e-books special discount price

Didn't find what you were looking for? Try a search of my site!