Welcome to the Exercises at Home for Arm Strengthening and Shoulder Stability page for those children and young people who are mobile on the floor.
This page is for children and young people who are mobile on the floor at home but not quite walking independently. They will probably use their wheelchair outside or for longer distances and may be walking with a stick or walking frame for some of the time. For example those with mild Cerebral Palsy.
This page give arm strengthening exercises and activities at home which will help to strengthen your child’s shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
Good shoulder, elbow, wrist hand and finger strength helps us to carry out our hand and fine motor activities for day-to-day life.
If your child has some difficulties with using their hands, then strengthening their shoulders, arms and hands may help them with their hand function.
Arm strengthening exercises and exercises at home are a great way for your child to prepare for fine motor skills. These resources are suitable for children who are mobile on the floor (e.g those with cerebral palsy or younger children with Down Syndrome) but if you feel like these resources suit your child then please use them.
Before trying these exercises, take a minute to prepare your child. If they have any tightness or increased tone in their upper limbs, stretch out their fingers, hands, elbows and shoulders before the activity so they have as much movement as possible to play. To wake up their muscles, try squeezing their hands, tips of their fingers and their arms. You could also use a brush along their skin, or a vibrating massager. All of these can help to make your child more aware of their fingers/ hand/ arm which can then help them be more accurate and learn more effectively as well as being able to feel and enjoy the activity better.
Find the level for your child in each activity. Make sure your child is successful in their game as this will motivate them to continue. As you push them to get to the next level, they should be able to manage a few of their attempts to keep motivated-even if they are not successful at all of them.
Remember to praise the effort rather than the result to motivate them to keep putting in effort and not be put off if they don’t succeed.
Fun shoulder and elbow strengthening exercises and activities to try at home with your child.
1) Help your child onto a roll or a wedge with their hands on the ground and their shoulders over their hands. Use cushions or your leg if you don’t have a roll or wedge at home. Try to encourage them to lift their head which will in turn make them push through their hands. Books or the TV are great for this activity.
2) To progress this, encourage play in this position so they lift 1 hand. This could be helping to turn a page of a book or playing with balls.
3) If they manage this then move them further forward over the roll or wedge (or cushions) so that more of their weight comes over their hands. Try lifting a hand again for play.
1) Start just trying to maintain a hands and knees position with your child. It may be easier to start with the child sitting back on their heels and just balancing through their arms.
2) As they get stronger, move their bodies forward until their shoulders are over their hands and their hips are over their knees. While they learn to hold this position, watching activities are the best – watching a tablet, reading a book etc so they don’t have to move their arms.
3) Once they are stable on their hands and knees, practice lifting 1 hand to play. They could play on a tablet with 1 hand or play with rolling balls.
1) On their hands and knees – reach 1 arm straight out in front of them in the air – you can challenge them to balance a beanbag or soft toy on the back of their hand to keep it up. Try and hold for 1 minute.
2) Now try and lift 1 leg straight out behind them. Try and hold this for 1 minute.
3) Can they do an opposite arm and leg at the same time and hold it for 1 minute? This will challenge their shoulder, elbow and hands stability muscles.
4) Try the other side.
1) Hold your child by their hips with their legs straddling you and their hands on the floor. Move around the floor picking up objects for as far as you can go.
2) Move your hands down to your child’s knees and walk around the room – picking up objects or playing a matching game or skittles.
3) If you can, hold your child by their ankles. Make sure they keep their bottom in the air and don’t hang their tummy’s down. Again find a game to make this more entertaining.
4) As your child gets stronger you could try to get from one end of the house to the other – even trying going up any steps or the stairs.
5) You could also make an obstacle course to go around or over.
1) Any climbing using hands will be good for hand and shoulder strength and stability. This includes climbing on furniture or up the stairs. The more weight which goes through the arms, the better.
2) The most challenging activity is hanging on a bar or going along monkey bars. Maybe try getting your child to hang off a door if you don’t have access to a bar to hang from.
Fun wrist, hand and finger strengthening exercises and activities to try at home with your child.
See this ‘Our Home’ video on hand strengthening with playdough – kneading, pulling apart, squashing or wringing the playdough can all be great hand strengthening exercises.
2. For finger strengthening, try hiding objects in the dough and your child has to manipulate it to get the toy.
Squeezing bottles is a lovely way to strengthen fingers. Fill an empty toothpaste tube with liquid or yogurt or a bottle with a spout with any liquid and have fun squeezing the liquid out.
Put soft salt/playdough in a plastic bag and make a small hole – squeezing it out can make a lovely snake of dough.
3. Squeeze stress balls -Encourage your child to squeeze this or just poke into it with their fingers. See our ‘Our Home’ video for an easy way to make a stress ball at home.
Cut a piece of hard card into a head shape. Your child can use the clothes pegs to make hair.
Wrap string around some chair legs and peg pegs to the string for your child to remove.
Or do a scavenger hunt. Clip pegs around the house on bits of material, paper, drawer handles etc. The child can then go around the house or the room (depending on their mobility) to find the pegs and take them off. See this ‘Our Home’ video which shows how to use a tablet to set up a scavenger hunt.
Using home implements can be brilliant for strengthening. For the whole hand use your kitchen or BBQ tongs and get your child to try to pick up bigger items such as socks, soft toys, small cushions.
You could set this up as a scavenger hunt too. Take photos of objects they need to pick up with their tongs from around the home/ room and bring back to the start.
For finger strengthening, use tweezers instead of tongs and pick up small items such as coins. See how quickly they can pick up 10 coins and put them in a bowl the other side of the room.
Use any spare nuts and bolts (and washers) you have around the house to make shapes with card.
Just draw the shape of a dinosaur, snake, tree etc. cut slits or small holes in the card and your child can amuse themselves screwing the nuts and bolts together to make great pieces of 3D art.
Use a large piece of newspaper and ask your child to scrunch it into the smallest ball they can with 2 hands.
Now ask them to do it with 1 hand. The manipulation needed for this will strengthen all the small intricate muscles of the hands.
Using scissors is a great way to strengthen hands. You can start by cutting dough as this teaches the right way to cut. Make a snake out of dough and ask then to cut it into pieces.
Move on to cutting straight lines on card and/ or paper. As their skills develop you can be inventive with your cutting and draw interesting shapes for them to cut.
See this ‘Our Home’ video for instructions on how to make a Minecraft man chain with straight line cutting.
4. These activities should be supervised at all times.
More fun resources for Bustling Butterflies
Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos
Kneading, pushing, stretching, twisting and especially pinching are all great techniques to develop fine and gross motor skills.
Make your own juggling balls
This video shows you how to make your own juggling balls with materials you’ll find in your home!
This obstacle course is suitable for those children who can crawl along the floor.