Toddlers need to stretch too
Why kids need a regular stretching routine
As adults, the idea of stretching before and after activity is common knowledge. What isn’t common is the idea of helping our kids stretch after play and activity. Toddlers and young children are moving constantly and exercising their muscles as they go.
Think for a minute how your muscles would feel if you played as hard as your 3 year old does all day and you didn’t stretch your muscles. Most of us would get tight and sore very quickly. Our toddlers and young children get tight and sore too. Not to mention that kids are still growing, which adds tension to their muscles and joints.
Taking a few minutes each day to stretch with your toddler is important for their overall health and it may help with some of those ‘growing pains’ as they get older. Growing pains typically occur because the muscles and bones grow at different rates. As the bones grow, they stretch their muscles even tighter; therefore, kids often feel pain in their legs and arms. A regular stretching routine can help ease the tension in muscles that will help with flexibility, muscle pain and even pain control related to growth and tightness.
Here are a few stretching exercises that you can do with your toddler and young children. When performing these and other stretches, remember to hold them for 30-45 seconds to give your child’s muscles time to stretch. Try to avoid bouncing during the stretches too. Bouncing doesn’t allow the muscles to get a good stretch.
Either standing or sitting on the floor, have your child bend at their waist and touch their toes. It is important to keep their knees straight during this exercise for them to feel this stretch.This stretches the hamstrings located in the back of their legs, and will help as kids grow taller.
Have your children sit down on the floor and put the soles of their feet together. Show them how to pull their feet toward their body and push their knees toward the floor. If your kids are really flexible, see if they can touch their nose to their toes!
This is a great stretch for your kids’ back muscles. Have your children kneel on the floor with their toes touching and their knees slightly spread apart. Have them lean forward and rest their head on the floor to feel a good stretch in their hips and back muscles.
Reach for the Stars Stretch
We can’t forget about the arms! In sitting or standing, have your child reach their arms over their head to stretch their shoulders, arms and chest toward the stars.
Stretching can be beneficial for all children, but remember to consult your physical therapist or pediatrician if you have questions before starting a stretching routine for your child.
Jodi Burgett PT, DPT, CPST, is the clinical coordinator of Neurodevelopmental Physical Therapy at Cook Children's. Physical therapy at Cook Children's focuses on large motor and functional skils to enhance development, restore function and prevent disability from pediatric conditions, illness or injury. Cook Children's has Rehabilition Services in locations in Fort Worth, Hurst and most recently in Mansfield.