Girl is lying in a prone position on a therapy ball

Core strengthening activities

Angelina Chatzaki

Here are some ideas for activities, which are included in the occupational therapy program and strengthen the muscle groups of the core.

Core strengthening activities

A strong and stable core helps children in various activities of daily living, from maintaining a seated position to fine motor activities, drawing, for example.

A child may not have developed a strong core for several reasons. The main causes usually have their origin in the omission of certain vital activities at the developmental stage. For example, some children, as babies, did not spend sufficient time in a prone position, did not crawl, and/or perform body rolls.

Very often, activities are included in the occupational therapy program which strengthen the muscle groups of the core and increase its stability. At the same time, through these activities, it’s also possible to work out the muscles of the shoulders and arms.

A number of ideas that an occupational therapist can implement to enrich the sessions are discussed below:

  • Try not to have the child sit on a chair with his/her back, but on a stool or the floor without any scope for leaning against a wall.

  • There are many animal games that help, such as crab walking, donkey kicking, snake crawling, and bear walking.

In the first one, the pelvis should be high and the body should not sink. For donkey kick, enough stability in the arms and strength in the feet is required to get the legs up. In snake crawl, as the name suggests, the child must crawl face down on the floor, putting strength in the shoulders and keeping the torso stable. In bear walk again, the pelvis must be kept high.

  • Wheelbarrow walking is a popular fun activity. Grab the child by the ankles so that he/she can walk with the hands. Because it is difficult for younger children, you can grab them by the calves instead of the ankles. The goal for them is to walk with their hands, with a steady torso without twisting or lifting the pelvis. You can make a two-point route, for example, start with the child at one point, put a puzzle piece on the back and the child has to walk to the second point to complete the puzzle.

If you want to increase the difficulty level, the child can, while walking, pick up bean bags or toys and place them immediately in the boxes to the right or left.

  • Tug-of-war- Put a handkerchief as a mark on the floor. The two teams should pull each other at the opposite ends of a rope. The goal is to pull the opposite team so that they can touch the mark and lose.

  • Swing- The child lies down in a prone position on the swing (preferably a platform swing). Many activities can be done with different materials. For example, the child can rock the swing by putting his/her hands on the floor to catch toys, balls, sand/bean bags and put them in a box, or blocks to make a tower or place wedges; grasp clothespin to put them on a rope (combined with a finger strengthening activity), or grasp letters or numbers that he hears (combined with an auditory attention and memory activity), etc.

  • Therapy ball or peanut ball activity-The child rests his belly on the ball and using his hands moves forward until the ball reaches his feet. The body must remain straight and the pelvis must not sink.

  • The scooter board is a very effective tool for strengthening the torso. There are several combination activities you can do. For example, you can hold one end of a rope that is spread out on the ground. The child lying face down on the skateboard (touching mainly the sternum, not just the belly) holds the other end of the rope and with consecutive arm movements moves forward to come towards you. At the same time, he can pick up toys from the floor and throw them into a basket.

Of course, the above activities are just a small sample you can include in your schedule. Depending on the child's abilities, age and interests, adapt and combine them to work on the other goals at the same time.

From the Synopsis Team

Angelina Chatzaki, Occupational Therapist