Upper body strength is critical throughout a person’s life. Effective arm movement and control are possible only when trunk strength and stability are good – and a stable core provides a solid base of support from which both the arms and legs are free to move with precision and control.
Postural Control is Key
Good posture, beginning with the ability to maintain an upright trunk position, is key for developing children’s fine motor skills. Without good postural control, a child may have difficulty with posture, including sitting at their desk at school. The proper use of their hands also may be compromised, which affects handwriting development and numerous other areas.
Make it Fun
Children often best develop upper body strength while engaging in play. Indoors and out, there are numerous activities you can use to help promote their progress:
- On the playground: As toddlers become more mobile, they naturally start to climb. While playing outdoors, children can do this on various pieces of playground equipment including monkey bars, ladders, rock walls and track rides. Overhead equipment is excellent for developing upper body strength. Brachiating on overhead ladders and rings helps build the motor skills needed to swing from rung to rung. Kids need to reach a growth point that enables them to support their weight while hanging from their hands. For most children, this happens by at least age three, but if introduced to the equipment earlier, some can hold their body weight at two, with supervision.
- For trunk stability: Encourage children to play toss and catch games in a kneeling position. Challenge them further by having them see how long they can tolerate watching television or engaging in a similar activity while kneeling.
- To develop shoulder strength: Numerous activities for shoulder strength and stability include playing while lying on the tummy; wheelbarrow or animal walking; shooting baskets; tug of war; pouring water from pitchers or sand from buckets, and drawing large shapes and pictures with both hands simultaneously.
- Work on the wrists: Don’t overlook children’s wrists when rounding out their overall upper body strength. Have them walk or race while balancing a tennis ball on a spoon, play with a yo-yo or Lite Brite, practice opening jars of various sizes, or pour water from a pitcher into several cups.
The Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services team has a full spectrum of resources to help you optimize your school-based PT practice. Like you, we’re passionate about helping children reach their full potential.
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