Get 9 Core Strengthening Activities your kids can do at home that will improve their fine motor skills while still having fun!
Core strength is a critical aspect to fine motor development. YET it is rarely discussed when a kiddo has fine motor difficulties.
As a pediatric Occupational Therapist for 15+ years, and a mom of 4 kids, I have seen first hand how a weak core negatively impacts a kiddo’s fine motor development.
Why do kids need to work on core strengthening?
There are a lot of different reasons why a kiddo can have a weak core. As babies, they may have not spent enough time on their belly. Or skipped developmental milestones that also work on core strength like rolling.
With the exposure to technology, a lot of kids are simply not playing like they used to.
Core strengthening is something that needs to continually be worked on for kids because they are growing. As they grow taller, their core has to become stronger to support the added weight and length of their extremities.
This is where I see the biggest challenge is, in regards to core strengthening. Once a kiddo learns to sit as a baby, the focus on their core shifts to the next milestone.
Yet, this is only the beginning of child development and core strengthening plays a key part throughout life.
Did you know Core Strengthening Impacts Fine Motor Skills?
All fine motor skills use core strength to stabilize or support the action. There is a saying among therapists:
You need Proximal Stability for Distal Mobility
Proximal stability means having strength and mobility along the trunk of your body. These muscles are the ones closest to the spine. They control our ability to remain upright in both standing and sitting positions.
Although core strength is easier to grasp your head around, it is REALLY important to not forget core mobility.
Some kids are able to hold a plank position for a really long time. Like a really impressive long time.
Yet, these kids have a hard time maintaining an upright position when rotating their body. It is great when a kid can hold a position that shows core strength. BUT if a kid can only maintain a position when they are not moving, then they don’t have the core mobility needed.
Distal mobility means being able to control muscles farther away from our core muscles. This includes all of our extremities. If you are weak in core strength and mobility, your fine motor accuracy, endurance, and precision will be impacted.
Core Strengthening Activities That Support Fine Motor Skills
# 1. Pulling on a Scooter Board
Pulling yourself while sitting on a scooter board is an awesome core strengthening activity! The core has to respond to the force of being pulled. It also has to shift in order for the other hand to reach out and grab the rope!
If your kiddo can not remain sitting when pulling themselves, then first just work on them holding on while you are pulling them!
If you don’t have a scooter board, don’t worry. Wearing sweatpants, have them sit on hardwood or tile floor and hold onto a rope. You can either pull them toward you, or have them pull themselves toward you!
# 2. Animal Walks
Kids love to pretend that they are different types of animals! And Lucky for use, animal walks can build core strength! My favorites are:
- Crab Walk – Sit on the floor, lift your butt up and move around by using your hands and feet only. Don’t forget to move forwards, backwards, and sideways!
- Bear Walk – While standing, bend over and reach the floor with your hands. Move around in this position.
- Snake – Lay on the floor and wiggle your body back and forth to move
- Donkey Kick – Stand up and bend over until your hands touch the floor. Try to kick both legs out behind you. If both legs are too hard, then start with one at a time alternating legs.
- Frog hop – Squat down with your arms between your legs and hands touching the floor. Jump as far as you can!
# 3. Stair Push-ups
Stair push-ups are great for kids who can not do a regular push up! Stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Lean toward the stairs until your hands reach the step. Lower your body down so that your elbows are bent and next to your body. Your hands should be at chest level.
If stair push-ups are too hard, then do wall push-ups! Face a wall so that you are about 1 step away from it. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and distance apart. Move your body toward the wall by bending your elbows next to your body!
# 4. Yoga Positions
Yoga can be a great way for kids to strengthen their cores! And it takes very little room! The ones that I start out with for core strengthening are: table, bridge, downward dog and cobra.
If you want more yoga position ideas, checkout this list here.
# 5. Swinging on A Swing
Swinging on a swing is a great activity for core strengthening! In order to get the swing moving, your kiddo will shift their trunk forward and backward! This movement strengthens the stomach, back, and arm muscles!
# 6. Wheelbarrow Walking
Wheelbarrow walking is a very powerful activity that works on strengthening a lot of different areas! If your kiddo can not move their arms when you are holding their feet, then move up their legs until they can. Some kids need you to hold them at their hips!
If your kiddo needs you to hold them closer to their hips, start there. Over time, move your hands closer to their ankles until they can wheelbarrow walk with you just holding their ankles.
If you can not support your kiddo because of your own medical issues, you can still work on this! Jump to # 9 Ball Walkout.
# 7. Ball Bounce In Wide Leg Sitting
Sit on the floor with legs spread apart. Hold a basketball with two hands and touch the floor lightly outside of your right leg, in between your two legs, and then outside your left leg. And repeat!
I often pair this activity with a song that has an easy beat to follow, counting, or ABC’s for younger kids!
This movement really works well on trunk rotation and crossing midline!
# 8. Pick Up Stuffed Animals with Your Feet
Here is another favorite one of mine! There is just an element of fun added when picking up toys with your feet!
There are two ways to do this and I honestly like both! I like to start with stuffed animals or beanbags because they are moldable.
There are 2 different ways that I like to do this!
The first one: Put a container near a pile of toys to pick up. Sit on the floor. Pick up the toy using only your feet. Lower containers are easier while taller containers are more challenging!
The second one: Dump a pile of toys into a pile. Lay down so that the pile of toys is at your feet. Place the basket above your head. Pick up one toy at a time and raise it over your body and place it in the basket!
# 9. Ball Walkouts
Here is another favorite core strengthening activity of mine! Kids love to play with balls and they often don’t see this as anything different than playing with a ball. Win!
Place a ball on the floor. Lay on top of the ball so that it is under your hips. Hold your body up by pushing it up off the floor. “Walk” your hands out so that your body moves over the ball.
The key here is to not fall off the ball walking out and back to the starting position! Note how many “steps” your kiddo takes before they fall off and try again. This time see if they can stay on the ball taking one less step than the first trial.
If this is too hard, let some of the air out of the ball if possible. Also, doing this activity on the grass or on shag carpet will help stabilize the ball from moving side to side. If you don’t have a yoga ball, try a beach ball!
Not Sure Which Core Strengthening Activity to Start With?
The yoga positions and animal walks are the easiest activities in this listing and still effective!
The most important Occupational Therapist tip that I have for you, is to meet your kiddo where they are. If an activity is too hard, make it easier for them. Once they get better at the skill then make it a little harder.
Lastly, be patient. Core strengthening takes time to develop. You will not see drastic change overnight, but with dedication you will!
Want Fine Motor Activities that Your Kiddo Will Love?
- Outdoor Activities for Kids That Strengthen Hands
- In-hand Manipulation Skills: A Key to Fine Motor Success
- 30 Fine Motor Activities with Household Items
If you found this useful, please forward it to your family, and friends! If you are on Pinterest, save this to your Fine Motor Activities board!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I am sure that you are not the only one with the same question! I read all comments and would love to hear from you!
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Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.