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Improve Kids Fine Motor Skills Part III: Core Strength

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

It’s All About That Base

Welcome to the third and final part of improving fine motor of our fine motor series. We’ve made it to the end! Or I should say, the beginning. So far, we’ve looked at two ways to improve fine motor by strengthening our hand and increasing stability in our arm. All of this is to provide a good solid base for our fingers to do their fine motor magic. Let’s go one more step further and look at the foundation of our entire body to make sure we have a sound base from which to work. Our core!

We’ve been comparing our body to a tree. Our fingers the leaves and twigs, our hands the tiny branches, and our arms the limbs. And so, as a tree has a strong trunk and secure roots, so must our very own bodies have the same. A solid foundation is what every tree relies on to thrive, every house to stand strong, and the pyramids of Giza to have that tippy tippy pointy top. Otherwise, it would be just a little triangle on the ground which would not be that impressive.

When the core is strong then this allows the body to support itself. If the body is able to support itself, it allows control of the arm more efficiently which, in turn, allows the hand to do its thing. Core strength is crucial for sitting still, paying attention, fluid movements, and gross and fine motor skills. If we are having kids complete fine motor tasks when the core is not stable and controlled then that kiddo will become more easily fatigued, rely on their arms to do the motor tasks, not sit still long enough to engage, and many other counter productive behaviors. This is when we as adults get frustrated and say “sit still”, “concentrate”, “you’re making a bad choice”, “stay in line” and many other top-down pieces of advice. Let’s build this house from the ground up by pouring the foundation before working on the roof.

Our core is all the muscles that run up and down the spine, the surrounding muscles of the trunk, and our pelvic floor. Here are some principles you can implement through games at home to help build up those specific muscles to make a more stable trunk.

1. Crawling: Crawling engages the core as well as builds stability in the arm joints and works coordination. When crawling, make sure your kiddo has their weight over their arms and not scooting while sitting on their ankles. Crawling over uneven surfaces like the couch to the floor, over pillows, and under chairs promotes that core engagement. Make a challenge course in the house and remember; the slower the better!

2. Tummy Time: We call this prone extension. Being on the stomach and extending the arms and legs you work all those tiny muscles in your back along your spine (which is the back side of your core). Flying like a superhero, army crawling, being pulled on a scooter or a sheet while on the stomach across the floor are all fun ways to get kids to extend those muscles. Even doing a puzzle on the floor for a long time while on the stomach works!

3. Log Rolls: Lay on the floor, extend the arms and legs, and roll. This makes all the muscles around the core do their job. Up the ante by rolling up and over pillows or try rolling up the hill after they’ve rolled down.

4. Eggs: Holding the body in the fetal position works the exterior core muscles like the abs. This is called supine flexion. Make an egg with the body by holding the knees up to the chest and curling the torso. You can do “rock n rolls” by rocking back and forth then rolling side to side to try to keep that position.

5. High Kneel: Being at a high kneel helps engage the pelvic floor. Try doing a task at a table while in the high kneel or try to hold the high kneel on something that wobbles like an upside down BOSU Ball or wiggle cushion. Try to beat your time, have a catch, or simply watch TV in this position.

6. Swings: Just swinging on a swing helps with that whole body flexion but you can take it a step further by putting objects on the ground the kiddo has to pick up. This helps that trunk rotation and engages the core. Also laying on the swing on the stomach is an AWESOME way to build up those back muscles! Tummy Time Times Ten!

7. Animal Walks: Crab walks, bear crawls, snake slithers, frog jumps! Any position your kiddo has to sustain while on the floor and move helps engage the core. As well they are putting weight on joints to help them build more stability, working on coordination, and improving motor planning. All of which is needed for fine motor activities!

Having a strong core is crucial for so many functional reasons in life. In this instance we are talking about fine motor. Having dexterous fingers starts with a solid foundation of the body. This is something many of us don’t really think about when we think of fine motor. Trees, pyramids, houses, even a tasty soup all have a solid base. This base allows the rest of the structure to function properly. Yes, soup doesn’t exactly have a structure but good luck eating your chicken flavored water without that base. Even a rock band doesn’t sound the same without its bass. Different word I know but it’s a homophone and, in this case, it means the same thing. It’s all about that base!

Fine motor starts from the core of the body and works through the chain.

1. Solid core

2. Stable arm (shoulder, elbow, wrist)

3. Firm hand strength

There is nothing wrong with trying to improve fine motor by doing fine motor activities. But it makes sense to work on these other foundational issues in conjunction with those other fine motor tasks. Plus, they all involve large movements which promote exercise, whole body strengthening, and even some cardiovascular endurance. All of which are beneficial both in health and in function. So, if your kiddo is struggling with fine motor then be sure to look at the three areas listed above. If you see him or her struggling in one or more of these areas then this can be a key to helping them with many physical, functional, even emotional difficulties they might be having. Remember, if you want a tree to grow leaves, it needs strong roots and a stable core. It really is all about that base!

Equipment to help improve core strength

This is my favorite part. Gear! Except in this case you really don’t need gear at all to improve core strength. But since I love gear and it can help motivate kiddos and make activities more fun here is a list of some of the things I like to use.

1. Lakikid wiggle seat. This can help kids sit and wiggle to help sustain attention so they don’t have to engage their core as much. Believe it or not sitting still is harder! As well, you can also use this for the high kneel.

2. Strap Swing. A simple strap swing is an incredibly fun way to work on so many motor skills and build strong posture. Use the park, set one up outside, or set one up right in your house!

3. Lakikid Balance Ball. On your stomach or sitting to reach, rotate, extend, and flex to help build that core up. What’s cool about the Lakikid ball is the little feet so it won’t roll away when it’s not being used.

The BOSU ball had an upgrade and it is awesome for kids! I use this tool ALL THE TIME with my kiddos and myself. There are so many ways to use it but in this instance it is excellent to lay on, high kneel, or sit to extend or rotate the trunk. Flip it upside down to do the exact same thing but with an extra challenge!

5. The Floor.

Free, versatile, and found in all homes and even outside. Roll, crawl, bear crawl, roll some more!

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