Core stability exercises for disabled children who are mobile with learning difficulties
This page is for Leopards – children who are mobile with learning difficulties – and has some great activities and ideas to help improve their core stability.
Core stability refers to the strength in and around your tummy and back and the amount of control and balance between all of these muscles. Good core stability means that your tummy and back muscles are all strong and work together well to make sure you can move in all directions, adjust to sudden changes in movement and keep your body balanced and still while your arms and legs are moving.
If you have good core stability, both your arms and legs will work better as they are attached to a stable base. With a good core it is much easier to have good fine and gross motor skills (movement skills).
Core stability is generally built up as we develop and try out new and more complex movements. If children are less mobile, more risk averse, less keen to try new things, spend a lot of their time in sitting or if they have neurological impairments, their core stability may be affected.
If your child’s muscles are weak or if 1 muscle is weaker than the other, or if the messages to the muscles tell them to work too hard (high tone) or not hard enough (low tone) then it is possible that your child will have poor core stability and your child’s other movement skills will be affected.
For the child who is mobile, it is likely that they will have a satisfactory level of core stability to do basic tasks such as walking. However more complex tasks such as running, going up and down stairs (without using the banister), hopping, skipping or climbing may be more difficult. If this is the case your child may have a weak core.
Poor core stability can also impact learning as the child has to regularly move to keep their balance – they may find it hard to concentrate, may struggle to sit still or have poor fine motor skills such as writing or drawing. A good core is a great starting point for any child (or adult for that matter) so working through these activities may be helpful even if your child doesn’t display any particular difficulties.
Here are some core stability exercises to work through with your child. Go down the list and find the first level that they would find a little difficult. This is your starting point. Work on that skill until they can manage it well. If they can’t manage a certain exercise, move them back a section or move onto the next section. You can be practising several exercises/ activities in the same session to keep it interesting.
Make sure your child is successful in their task/ activity 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.
If your child is not yet mobile on their feet, see the Bustling Butterflies page for details of how to challenge their core stability.
Core stability activities and ideas for Leopards
Your child lies on their back and lifts their legs to their chest and holds on to their knees with their arms. See if they can lift their head and hold up to 20 seconds in the ball shape without rolling over or dropping their head
Try playing with a ball in this position – keep their knees up but hold a ball behind their head and then throw it towards their feet. The adult can then hold the ball above the child’s feet for the child to come and pick it up again.
In the same position, throw a ball in the air and the child needs to kick the ball up in the air back towards you with both feet.
Lying flat on their tummy with their arms up in front of them and their legs straight behind them. They should then try to lift their arms and head up off the floor and hold for 20 seconds.
Next try to lift their arms and their legs up and hold for 20 seconds.
They could roll a ball back and forward out in front of them from this position as a rolling game or to knock down some skittle.
Your child should lie on their back with their feet on a gym/ physio ball or on a cushion if there is no ball available against the wall. Move the cushion/ ball up and down the wall and then side to side. Try drawing a picture or writing their name
Lying on their back with their feet on the ball. The child should try to keep the ball still while you try to move it side to side.
Lie your child on their back with their knees bent and feet on the floor. Encourage them to lift their bottom up and try and hold it up for 20 seconds. You can try to drive some cars or other toys under their bottom to help encourage them to hold it up.
They can also try to hold a ball between their knees while they do this.
Progress to lying your child on their back with their knees bent and feet on the floor and encouraging them to lift 1 leg in the air with a straight knee. Now they should lift their bottom and ask them to try to keep their bottom up for 20 seconds with their hips staying level.
Lying on their back with their knees bent and 1 leg up. Lift their bottom and try moving their straight leg up towards their head and then down again slowly. The straight leg shouldn’t go lower than the other bent knee.
With your child sat on the floor and with their hands out behind them, facing their feet and with their knees bent (feet on the floor). Encourage them child to lift their bottom up and hold it so they make the shape of a table.
Make it more challenging by balancing a toy or even a ball on their tummy while they walk around in all directions.
They could pretend to be different animals and make a game of it – try being a snake on the floor, or bear walk on hands and feet, or kangaroo jumps. Make an obstacle course and challenge your child to complete it as different animals.
Your child should lie on their tummy and put their hands at chest level. Push themselves up so that their weight is just on their hands and feet. Hold this position for as long as they can. Make sure their bottom isn’t up in the air but that they also aren’t letting their tummy sag down. Drive some cars under them to encourage the child to keep it up.
Do this facing your child (or with a sibling) and try clapping 1 of your hands to one of their hands. See how many claps you can do – try to get to 20 claps.
These should be done with help from an adult to make sure you child is safe.
Your child should sit on a gym ball with their feet on the floor. They should try and balance while they move their bottom around.
Try to lift 1 foot off the floor and keep balancing
Try to lift both feet off the floor.
Roll your child over the ball on their tummy until their hands reach the floor. Keep walking them forward on their hands until only their feet are still on the ball.
Walk backwards until they are fully back on the ball. You can make this more interesting by encouraging them to pick up puzzle pieces and doing a puzzle or by picking up beanbags to throw into a bucket.
Lie your child on their back on the gym ball. Hold you child’s feet as they reach for an object on the floor behind the ball. Ask them to bring the object back up to throw into a container for an extreme sit up.
Hold your child by their hips with their legs straddling you and their hands on the floor. Move around the floor with yur child walking on their hands, picking up objects for as far as they can go.
Move your hands down to your child’s knees and walk around the room – picking up objects or playing a matching game or skittles.
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.
As your child gets stronger you could try to get from one end of the house to another – even trying going up the stairs.
You could also make an obstacle course to go around.
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
Now try and lift 1 leg straight out behind them. Try and hold this for 1 minute
Can they do an opposite arm and leg at the same time and hold it for 1 minute?
Try the other side.
Try standing on 1 leg with a foot on a ball. Can you move the ball around in circles or up and down?
Now just try with 1 foot in the air.
Can you still do this while throwing a ball in the air?
Now try to stand on a wobble cushion ( a cushion with air in it) or just a small well stuffed pillow.
Can you do this on 1 leg?
And while throwing and catching?
How about on 1 leg and picking up a ball from the floor to play with skittles or target practice?
Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos for Leopards
This obstacle course is suitable for those children who can crawl along the floor.
This video is suitable for mobile children. You can create the laser string quest anywhere in your home and make it as big or small or as easy as you like!
The scavenger hunt is really simple and easy to set up. It can be adapted to suit any disability and household.
Silly Socks and a bit of Boccia
We have created some fun easy to set up games. All you need are some socks.
Stealthy Ways for Handwashing
This video contains tips on how to ‘stealth handwash’ whilst still having fun with various kitchen or household props.