Stretching Exercises for Kids
As our children grow, it is important that we help keep them healthy, and one way to do this is by encouraging stretching. Since kids often like to be active, whether it's running in the park or playing in an organized sports environment, tightening of the muscles can occur. When this happens, try teaching them some stretching exercises, of course provided their muscles are warm via the body's blood circulation.
The following stretches for kids should be performed under an adult's supervision, gently holding each stretch for up to thirty seconds without bouncing. Although one can stretch in any particular order, stretching the spine should be performed first. Please remember to teach your child the importance of inhaling and exhaling slowly during these types of stretches.
- Child's Pose The child's pose is a yoga stretch intended to be a very helpful. Children will start this pose by kneeling with the knees shoulder width apart, while both feet touch one another. In a slow motion with arms to the side, they will then bend the torso until the forehead has touched the mat or floor. The child's pose can be held up to five breaths before repeating it.
- Overarm Stretching The overarm stretch is a straightforward and effective stretch that should be done in a standing position with both feet together if possible. Simply have your child reach with their arms above the head and chin and neck lifted, as high as possible without adjusting their stance and hold for a few seconds. The stretch can also be done using one arm at a time. Once held for a few seconds, slowly come back to your starting position and repeat.
- Outstretched Arms Similar to the kids stretch #2, the outstretched arms incorporates the same starting position. Instead of reaching above the head, your child can reach out to the side with both arms until they are parallel to the ground, pointing the thumbs downward. Gradually bring the arms back to the sides. This stretch will work the shoulders as well as the arms.
- The Butterfly Stretch The butterfly stretch also known as the lotus position, works the inner thighs and can be done in variations. For simplicity, we will only focus on form of the butterfly stretch. As the child sits on the floor or a mat with the soles of each foot touching one another, he or she will press down gently on the legs with either the elbows or hands, until a light stretch is felt. Hold as usual, and repeat.
While it's encouraged for young boys and girls to stretch after being involved in physical activity, kids' stretching can also take place when a child has not undergone exercise or physical activity. As mentioned earlier, any time a child stretches, they must warm up in some way for five minutes, whether it be via a light jog, marching on the spot, dancing, jumping, arm circles, or even a brisk walk.
Please keep in mind if your young boy or girl has experienced some form of injury to consult a sports specific therapist, athletic trainer, or chiropractor to diagnose the problem and to learn how to perform a safe and efficient stretching regimen.
Gymnastic Stretches For Kids
Gymnastics is a wonderful way to keep your children active, however, this activity must be done correctly to avoid any injury. As a precaution, warm up stretching exercises for beginners is essential during gymnastics in order to complete the splits, the tumble, the straddle, and to be able to quickly sit up and remain erect as you see with most gymnasts. Teaching these beginners stretches will aid these gymnasts to feel pain-free while being able to execute the basic routines.
Utilizing a wide space such as the gym floor supported by mats is a safe and excellent area to start these stretches. This will also give ample room for boys and girls to extend their limbs without interfering with others during this phase.
- Front Leg Stretch The first stretch is called the front leg stretch, which preps you for the splits. With one knee on the mat, extend the opposing leg straight and begin to lean forward with your upper torso. Reach out to the extended foot with both hands as far as possible without bobbing or overexerting yourself.
- Back Leg Stretch A continuation from the front leg stretch, you will then sit up extending your back leg while bending the front leg. This is followed by using the hips in order to learn forward causing a bend in the front knee. Both these stretches are great preparation for working on the splits. As a beginner, it's vital you learn to open your hips and to keep the muscles in the legs loose. Eventually, you will be able to slide into the splits position without feeling any pain. Again, this will take some time, so there's no need to rush.
- The Straddle Stretch The straddle stretch is another fairly important stretch to practice for beginner gymnasts. The starting position should be a seated position with the spine nice and straight, and the legs separated at around 90 degrees. Keeping both shoulders down, reach your right foot as far as you can with both hands, in an attempt to eventually bring your nose to your knee. Holding the straddle stretch for a few seconds will help maximize your flexibility. This can then be repeated on the other side followed by the middle.
- Standing Side & Center Stretch Standing tall with the feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and the arms parallel to the floor, the stretch will start by bringing your left hand down to your left foot. As you move toward the one side, reach your right hand up and above the head, maintaining the initial position of both feet. When done correctly this is a great stretch in the arms, side torso, hips, and legs. Repeat the stretch on the other side and then to the middle, in the attempt to reach the floor with both hands flat. A variation of this last portion of the stretch is to reach back with both hands.
- Neck Circles The final stretch is a neck stretch called neck circles. It's always important to keep the neck muscles loose. With the hands on the hips, simply circle your head in one direction and continue by circling in the opposite direction. This can be done sitting or standing. Shoulder circles front and back can follow neck circles, to really make sure the neck area remains relaxed.
How to Improve Flexibility in Children
One of the most important aspects of fitness is to be flexible, and this is especially imperative for the physical maturation and well-being in children. In addition, being flexible will help children to properly perform physical activity, whether it's recreational or competitive.
The good thing is that the majority of young girls and boys have the natural ability of being flexible, however, improvements in their flexibility can pay huge dividends to their performance, safety, improvements in both mental and physical relaxation, as well as benefits to their overall health. Enrolling your child in yoga, tai chi, and other stretching activities are simple ways to help improve your kids' flexibility.
The first way to help improve flexibility in young boys and girls is through encouragement. Anytime you give a child hope and support, no matter what the task, most chances they will respond in a positive way. By encouraging children to practice stretching each day, they will feel good knowing that they have accomplished something meaningful. Encouraging comments on how to stretch, reach, and bend in daily actions and structured activities will help greatly in various situations. Anything from waking up in the morning, getting dressed, ringing the doorbell, or trying to reach for something on the kitchen counter all involves stretching. These movements will continuously increase a child's range of motion.
The right amount of relaxation coupled with mental focus can go a long way during these stretching exercises. Associate these elements with deep breathing in order for your child to learn more about their body, including the joints and muscles, enabling them to enhance their ROM. Relaxation techniques can also help to prepare your child for challenges they will face as they grow up, whether it be a test at school, or controlling their anger in a difficult situation.
It is also beneficial to instill stretching exercises prior to athletic competition in kids. Once the muscles are warm, stretching the body before competition or play can prevent injury and help your child's overall performance. These habits will enforce safe play.
Last but not least, participating in a structured stretching or yoga session can definitely help your child's flexibility. An effective session can run for as little as ten minutes at any time in the day, provided the muscles are warm prior to the session. Utilize various stretching activities with your child. Other forms of sessions can be tai chi or meditation classes for beginners or age-specific for further development.
There you have it! These five tips can be quite effective in helping to improve your boy or girl's flexibility. Being able to push your child physically, without putting too much strain on the body, can be good for their self-esteem. It helps them understand they can achieve things in life with practice, determination, and discipline. Encouragement is essential for your child to reach any kind of progress. Teaching pre-stretching exercises, meditation techniques and deep breathing will also help your child to develop a greater range of motion in their muscles. Hopefully you have found this article on flexibility for children to be helpful!
Kids Stretching Exercise Poll
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 lowbackstretches
Bob on June 29, 2015:
I need a stretch to help my back. Any Ideas?
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 25, 2012:
Very nice and useful hub. It is very important for the children to be physically fit and active in order to focus on their studies. These stretching exercises are good for their overall present and future health too.
Thanks for sharing.