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Top 15 Stretching Exercises For Kids

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Children should be encouraged to indulge in exercises since it helps them stay healthy, active, and may even improve their concentration skills. Stretching should be included in the exercise regimen as it benefits the mind and the body. Stretching can help make the body flexible.

In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the importance of stretching and different kinds of stretching exercises for kids.

Benefits Of Stretching For Children

According to the University of California, Davis, stretching helps in calming the mind, refreshing blood flow, managing stress, and increasing energy levels. Some more reasons why children need to practice daily stretching exercises are (1) (2):

  • Helps children improve their joint stability and mobility.
  • Prevents injuries in calf, quadriceps, and hamstring and helps in lengthening muscles.
  • Reduces muscle tension, delays muscle fatigue, and improves muscular coordination.

Simple Stretching Exercises For Children

Here are some stretching exercises you may teach your children and encourage them to practice regularly.

1. Child’s pose

This posture helps the child to do a full stretch. It can reduce stress and help the kid relax (3).

  1. Kneel down with knees spread apart and toes touching each other.
  2. Bend forward to place the forehead on the mat or floor. Stretch the arms forward with the palms extended in front of the head.
  3. Move the lower half of the body such that the buttocks touch the heels.
  4. Inhale and exhale slowly in this pose and hold it for about 30 seconds.

2. Bow pose

One of the significant benefits of bow posture stretching is to improve spine flexibility. Practicing this exercise regularly would help in reducing strain in the neck, back, and also release muscle tension. Also, it enhances the blood flow and strengthens the upper body (4).

  1.  Lie on the belly with the head towards one side and the hands alongside the body.
  2. Turn the head to touch the floor with the chin. Exhale, fold the knees, and grab the right ankle with the right hand and left ankle with the left hand.
  3. Inhale, slowly lift the chest and raise the knees while continuing to hold the ankles with hands.
  4. Exhale and slowly lower chest and feet. Return to the original position in step one.

[ Read: Best Exercises For Kids ]

3. Cobra pose

Cobra pose helps in relieving backache, improving hunger, and reducing abdominal fat. It can also help in strengthening the stomach and spine (5).

  1. Lie down on the belly with face down, elbows bent and hands placed next to the face.
  2. Gently push the hands to the floor and lift the body upwards. Gradually straighten the elbows and raise the head while doing so.
  3. Put the weight on the palms and raise the upper body.
  4. The child can hold this position for 10 seconds and come back to the initial position (6).

4. Seated toe touch

This stretching exercise is good for the hamstring and the lower back. It releases hamstring tension, flexes the spine, and improves the motion of hips (7).

  1. Sit on the floor with legs straight forward and feet next to one another.
  2. Slowly bend forward and touch the toes with hands. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds and return to the original position.
  3. Beginners can also perform this exercise while sitting in a chair and legs slightly bent.

5.Downward-facing dog

This stretching exercise for kids strengthens calf muscles and hamstrings. It even helps in calming the brain, energizing the body, and improving digestion (7).

  1. Rest on all fours, facing downwards.
  2. Gradually push the weight backward with the hips moving backward too. The hips should remain pushed up in the air.
  3. The legs remain straight. Keep pushing to the rear until the body forms an inverted V-shape.
  4. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds before slowly returning to step one.

[ Read: Pilates For Kids ]

6. Cat-cow stretch

Practicing the cat-cow stretch regularly helps in bringing mobility in the shoulders, spine, neck, and pelvis. It also helps in strengthening the spine (8).

  1. Begin by getting into the table-top position where the child is on all fours and head facing straight. Keep the back straight.
  2. The arms should be right under the shoulder. Gradually inhale and flex the back downward, as if the back is sagging. The head remains straight and keep looking forward. This is the cat position.
  3. Gradually exhale, squeeze the back to form an arch, and squeeze belly inward. The head also moves simultaneously downwards. This is the cow position.
  4. Alternate and repeat the cat-cow postures five times or more depending on the child’s preference.

[ Read: Breathing Exercises For Kids ]

7. Overhead arm stretch

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This simple stretching exercise is good for shoulders, arms, spine, and the overall body. It can be practiced anywhere.

  1. Stand straight with feet at a normal distance from one another.
  2. Slowly raise the hands over the head. Open the palms and stretch out the fingers.
  3. The arms should be in line with the ears. Stretch the arms out as much possible while the shoulder blades stay in a relaxed state.
  4. Hold this position for about five seconds.
  5. Then lower the hands and relax.

8. Crossbody shoulder stretch

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This simple exercise comes under static stretches and helps in improving flexibility. When practiced regularly, it even reduces the risk of injury (9).

  1. Stand straight with feet at a normal distance from one another.
  2. Raise the right arm and move it towards the left.
  3. With the left hand, push the right elbow to make the right arm stretch.
  4. Hold this position for a few seconds. Repeat the same steps with the other arm.

9. Tricep stretch

It helps in stretching the upper arm and shoulder. This exercise can be done either by sitting or standing in one position (10).

  1. Sit or stand in an upright position.
  2. Raise the left hand and then bend to touch the center of the upper back (below the neck).
  3. Use the right hand to support or push the right elbow.
  4. Repeat by changing arms.

10. Knee lunge

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This stretching exercise is good for the lower body. It helps in strengthening calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, back muscles, and abdominals (11).

  1. Tell your child to stand straight with hands on the waist. The back should be straight in line with the hip.
  2. Take one step forward. Make sure the knee is in line with the ankle (perpendicular position or 90 degrees of the leg).
  3. The knee should not go over the toes.
  4. Squat down with the other leg, which should be in a stretched position (knee of the other leg should be just over the ground).
  5. This position should be held for a few seconds.
  6. Repeat the same by changing the legs.
    Another variation of a knee lunge is side lunge. Instead of placing a step forward, the step should be on the right and left side.

11. Butterfly stretch

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This is a sitting stretch exercise that is good to stretch inner thighs and helps in strengthening back and maintaining balance
(12).

  1. Sit down with folded legs.
  2. Bring the feet together such that the soles touch one another.
  3. Let the knees stretch apart while the soles continue to stay in contact. The back should remain straight and slightly lifted.
  4. Swing the knees up and down, like flapping wings of a butterfly.
  5. Keep moving the legs for 10-30 seconds and return to the original position.

12. Straddle stretch

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Straddle stretch is an active flexibility exercise that is good for hamstrings, quads, and opening hips. There are two types of straddle stretch – seat straddle lotus and side seat straddle (13).

Seated straddle lotus

  1. Sit down with the soles of the feet together. The knees stay folded and pressed towards the ground.
  2. Bend forward while placing forearms on the knees.
  3. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds before returning to the original position.

Side seat straddle

  1. Sit with legs spread apart in the front.
  2. Hold the right shin with two hands and lean forward.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds and come back to the original position.
  4. Repeat the same with your left leg.

13. Quadricep stretch

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Muscles such as quadriceps, hip flexors, calf, and hamstrings may become tight. To avoid the risk of injury, standing quadricep stretch would be a good option (14).

  1. Stand straight with a chair or a wall at the front.
  2. Gently fold the leg at the knee to raise the foot backward. Use the hand to hold the foot and stretch backward.
  3. Hold the position for a few seconds and repeat with the other leg.

14. Standing calf stretch

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Calf stretch helps in improving flexibility, decreasing soreness, and preventing injury. It is an effective exercise for the calf muscles. The exercise can be particularly good for active children (15).

  1. Stand in front of a wall that is three feet away.
  2. Place the hands on the wall for support.
  3. The right foot moves forward while the left foot stretches backward. Keep the hands on the wall
  4. Stretch leg such that the calf muscle is adequately stretched.
  5. Hold the position for a few seconds and repeat with the other leg.

15. Hamstring stretch

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This stretching exercise helps in keeping the hamstring muscle flexible and even prevents injury (16).

  1. Sit on the floor and stretch the legs forward.
  2. The right leg needs to be straight, and the left foot should be folded in such a way that it meets the right inner thigh.
  3. Bend forward and touch the right knee. Hold the position for a few seconds.
  4. Come back to the initial position and switch the legs to repeat the same.

Safety Measures To Follow While Stretching

Wrong postures or overstretching may harm children. Therefore, parents should teach certain safety tips to children to avoid any injuries (17).

  1. Warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes before exercising or stretching.
  2. Stretching should be done before any sports or strenuous physical activities such as gyming, cycling, running, or playing outdoor games. It is good to do after the activities too.
  3. Stretching should not be done once in a while. Children should be encouraged to practice stretching regularly to maintain balance and improve strength and flexibility.
  4. Breathing (inhale and exhale) should be normal when practicing stretching. It is essential not to hold the breath in any case.
  5. Every stretch needs to be held for about 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. Overstretching is not recommended as it may cause pain.
  7. Stretching should be done evenly on both sides.
  8. If the child has any medical condition, then talk to the doctor before starting any exercise.

[ Read: Benefits Of Aerobics For Kids ]

Stretching exercises help keep the child active and make their body flexible. Encourage your child to take up these exercises. You may perform them yourself so that the child gets interested in them. This way, you can have a healthy bonding time with your children.

Do you have any more stretching exercises to share? Leave your comments.

References:

1. Dr. D. Katz; ABC For Fitness Teacher Manual (2008)
2. Why Stretching is Extremely Important; The Regents of the University of California
3. Stretch for Your Best; Allina Health
4. About Yoga; University of Pittsburgh
5. Benefits of Yoga Poses; Illinois Wesleyan University
6. L. Washburn et al.; Healthy Living: Yoga for Kids; University of Arkansas
7. Yoga Part II; The Pennsylvania State University (2018)
8. Yoga Tips; University of Washington
9. Shoulder RTC Simple Stretching and Strengthening; Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
10. 11 Stretches for Athletes; Children’s Hospital Colorado
11. L. Washburn, L. Copeland, and J. Vincent; Healthy Living: Yoga for Kids Basics; University of Arkansas
12. Guide To Early Childhood Physical Activity: Motor Skills And Movement Concepts For Children Birth To Five; Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services
13. Workouts to Help Prevent Sports Injuries; Stanford Children’s Health
14. Stretching; Nationwide Children’s
15. Take Time to Stretch; Duke University
16. The importance of stretching; Harvard Health Publishing
17. 10 tips for safe stretching; Victoria State Government

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