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How Can Pediatric Physical Therapy Help Children with Core Strength?

Here are some effective and fun activities you can do with your 2-5 year old child to strengthen the core. The core muscles are located in the front, back, and side of the trunk, as well as the muscles in the buttock region. Adjust the level of difficulty based on the child’s needs; start easy and gradually progress. Challenge within reason while having fun.

Zoo Rescue!

*Place a box or bucket in front of the child. This is the “zoo”.

*Spread about 8 stuffed animals (or other soft toys) within reaching distance around the child in all directions (in front, to sides, and behind the child).

*Choose from a position pictured below for your child to remain in while rescuing the animals.

Instructions to Child: “Oh no, all of the animals have escaped from the zoo! Rescue them by bringing them back home to the zoo as quick as you can, before they run away! Rescue 1 animal at a time.”

Modification: Use less stuffed animals and/or place animals & zoo closer to child.

Progression: Use more stuffed animals and/or place animals & zoo farther away from child.

cartoon of girl in prone position

kid doing yoga on all fours
All Fours

cartoon of kid doing half kneel yoga pose
Half Kneel

animation of kid doing tall kneel yoga pose
Tall Kneel

Baby Shark

*Have the child lay on their stomach and lift both arms and legs off the ground.

Instructions to Child:“Let’s swim and move our arms like baby shark!” or “Lets fly like superman!”.

Play the baby shark or superman song, pausing at times.“Move when the music’s on, stop when it’s off!”

Modification: Lift opposite arm and leg or lift arms only.

Progression: Have the child flutter their arms and legs while keeping them off the ground.

little girl doing baby shark exercise

drawing of baby shark exercise

Wheelbarrow Walking

Wheelbarrow Walking

*Start with the child laying on their belly and you hold their legs.

*Lift their legs off the ground and have them walk on their hands.

*Try having them walk forwards, backwards, to the left and right.

Modification: Instead of walking, have them reach out and touch something (i.e. touch favorite stuffed animal), going back and forth trying it with both arms.

Progression: You can move your hands down to their ankles for more of a challenge.

cartoon image of wheelbarrow walking

Crab Walks

*Have your child sit down with their buttocks on the ground.

*Now have them raise up the buttocks so that only their hands and feet are touching the ground.

*Have them walk on their hands and feet backwards and then forwards for the desired time or distance.

Instructions to Child: “We are going to walk like crabs!”

Modification: Your child may carry objects on their stomach while walking. You may tell your child that they are bringing supplies back to the crab house.

Progression: Once your child begins to be accustomed to the movement, your child may try to walk sideways in this position.

cartoon doing crab walks exercise

Bear Crawls

*Have the child start on their hands and knees.

*Now come off their knees onto just their hands and feet, not letting anything else touch the ground.

*The child will move forward by crawling with the opposite hand/foot (i.e. right foot and left hand advance, followed by left foot and right hand). You can play tag and have relay races, whatever your child will have fun with.

Modification: Change direction (crawl backwards, side-to-side, etc.), can create a hamstring/calf stretch by keeping hands still and walking feet up towards hands, and then letting the hands walk forward.

Progression: Go outside onto soft/uneven surface, practice going up and down hills, play “red light green light” where the child has to abruptly stop and stabilize, holding that position.

man doing bear crawl exercises

Concerned about your child’s core strength? Call Zion PT for an assessment of their motor skills, strength, balance, and flexibility. We’re here to help and work with your pediatrician to optimize their function!

Call (212) 353-8693 or email to inquire about pediatric physical therapy at Zion Physical Therapy in the Upper East Side clinic!

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