For Kids & Families

For Providers

A Strong Core? It’s Crucial for Kids, Too

by Lisa Chan, OT Reg. (Ont.)

What are core muscles -- and why is everyone talking about them?

Our core muscles include our abs, mid-lower back and pelvis, which make up the trunk of our body. Strengthening core muscles helps to build foundational support for the rest of our body. Starting in childhood, strong core allows a person to maintain an upright seated position, maneuver around their environment without bumping into things, and be able to reach outside of their center of gravity without falling over (to name a few!). A child’s core muscles must develop in their early years of life to build head and neck control, which support their visual, gross and fine motor development. 

What does a weak core look like?

If a child has a weak core they may have a slouched posture when standing or seated, and may fidget  frequently in their seats. Kids with a weak core may also present with lower stamina/endurance when doing gross motor and fine motor tasks. Without a strong and stable core, the upper and lower body do not have a solid foundation to rely on, and as such the child may fatigue quickly.

A child with a weak core will try to compensate by using other muscle groups to help them stabilize their upper body. This may present as an elevated shoulder (shoulder hiked up to the ears) when writing, leaning their body/head on their desk when doing school work, or sit in a W-sitting position (knees are bent and feet are positioned on either sides of their hips).

When to start and what exercises can help strengthen core muscles?

The core muscles can be strengthened right from birth. Parents are encouraged to get their babies laying on their tummies, or in other words in “tummy time” position. Having your child maintain this position for a period of time helps to build your child's neck, upper back and core strength. 

For young babies, have them lay in tummy time and place a mirror in front of them so that their reflection catches their attention. Toys that make noise, or have bright colors can also be another great way to catch your baby’s attention and encourage tummy time.

For children that are school aged, continue to encourage them to lay on their tummies while doing a puzzle, coloring page, or building lego on the floor. Outdoor play is another way for your child to build core strength through climbing the jungle gym, swimming, riding a bike, playing jump rope, and playing sports.

A strong and stable core provides a solid foundation to help prevent injuries and to help your child perform their day-to-day activities. Having a strong core can give your child the confidence they need to trust their own bodies and try new things.

Check out these related activities on the Kinspire app:

  • Exercise Ball Walks

  • Slithery Snake Jump

  • Core Strength Laundry Activity

Lisa Chan, OT Reg. (Ont.) is an occupational therapist in school-based and clinic settings and the creator of @kids_ot_hub.