Why your child needs a strong core

It may sound bizarre, but a strong core is the foundation for your child’s learning. Here’s why. By Lisa Witepski

Ever felt so tired that you can’t focus on anything, and you literally want to put your head on your desk?

That’s what an ordinary day is like for kids who have weak cores. Paediatric physiotherapist Kath Meyer explains that the core provides the foundation for movement. “If your core is strong, your body has central stability, allowing greater movement and paving the way for strength to develop peripherally – in other words, to hone fine motor skills.” She adds that a strong core requires both stomach and back muscles to be balanced.

ALSO SEE: 7 developmental games you can play with your baby

How do you know if stability is an issue?

“Watch your child at the dining room table, or in the classroom,” Kath advises. If they find it difficult to sit up, or if they constantly fidget, they may lack strength.

Other signs include:

  • W-sitting
  • Hanging on your arm when you’re walking
  • Lying down on the floor while playing, or avoiding unfamiliar or challenging outdoor equipment like the fireman’s pole or monkey bars.

That said, none of these signs indicate a serious cause for concern unless the weakness is impacting your child’s function or play. If you’re worried, book a consultation with a physio specialising in paediatrics who will assess trunk strength, postural control and gross motor ability. He or she will then recommend a series of activities and exercises targeting the areas of weakness.

Six exercises to do at home

There’s plenty you can do to help boost core strength at home, says Kath:

  • Wheelbarrow walks: Hold your child’s ankles while she walks on her hands, making sure her middle doesn’t sag.
  • Crab walking: Ask your child to sit on the ground with knees bent and hands behind her bottom, then lift her hips. Take one step backward, then another, moving the hands as the body moves back.
  • Playing games in a kneeling or half kneeling position.
  • Obstacle courses: encourage crawling, climbing, jumping and hopping by placing pillows, cushions or stacks of books for your child to navigate.
  • Keep active. Go for a walk, ride a bike or hike with your child. Build activity into your day. Park a distance from the shops, take the stairs instead of the lifts or escalators, make your child walk next to you instead of sitting in the trolley when you do groceries.
  • Ask your child to carry heavy loads like the laundry basket or shopping packets.

More about the expert:

Katherine Meyer is a mom of two beautiful girls. She is also a physiotherapist who specialises in Paediatrics. Katherine has been working with children for the last 18 years. She spent five years working in London. She works at a private physiotherapy practice in Parkview, Johannesburg.

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