Many aspects of early childhood development are interconnected and interdependent. Gross motor development connects to fine motor development, which connects to cognitive development, and so on—a veritable Dem Bones of ECE.
Core muscles refer to a rather broad selection of muscle groups that can help children develop attention, endurance, and other important life skills. Our July 18, 2016 article explored the importance of helping children develop their core muscles. While the shoulders are part of the core muscle group that’s integral to whole-child development, it’s important to note that the shoulder bone is (directly) connected to the success-in-school bone.
Developing shoulder strength is a prerequisite for fine motor control. Research indicates that fine motor skills are a strong predictor of a child’s later achievement in math, reading, and science. So let’s work those shoulders!
Here are some fun ways to incorporate shoulder strength development into your daily routine.
Shoulder Strengthening Exercises for Kids
Prewriting Transition: Crawl, Push, Lift
Transition into writing/drawing activities with these fun exercises.
1. Start on one side of the room. Have children army-crawl to their seats in preparation for their writing or drawing activity.
How to do the army crawl: Lie on your stomach and raise your upper body on your elbows. Your elbows should be bent with your hands facing inwards so that each hand can touch the opposite elbow. Place all your weight on the area between your elbows and wrists. Drag yourself forward, one arm in front of the other without using your legs.
2. Once children reach their chairs, instruct them to use their chairs to do raised push-ups.
How to do raised push-ups: bend over and grab onto opposite sides of the seat of a chair then slide your feet back until you are balanced on your toes. Assume a plank (flat body) position, and then start doing small, slow push-ups, counting them together. Start with two or three, and slowly increase the number of push-ups over time.
3. Have the children sit in their chairs for chair push-ups.
How to do chair push-ups: Place the palms of your hands on the sides of your chair towards the front. Now lift yourself up for a count of three, trying to lift your feet off the ground as well. Repeat several times.
4. Now you’re ready for your writing or drawing activity!
What’s more fun than doing animal poses?! Start your day with this shoulder-strengthening series of yoga exercises. Remember to remind the children to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply at least one time during each pose.
-rest mat or yoga mat
1. Start with the Praying Mantis. While standing place your palms together in front of you like a praying mantis. Now work those palms! Press them together as hard as you can for a few deep breaths.
2. Move into downward dog from a standing position. Explain that this is a pose that dogs do to show that they want to play and is often referred to as a play bow. Place both palms flat on the floor in front of you, shoulder-width apart. Step one leg, then the other back so that your bum is in the air and your body forms an inverted V-shape. Your back, arms, and legs should be straight. Look up and hold this for several breaths, barking loudly on each exhale.
3. Lie on your stomach. Then point your toes, and lift your upper body with your arms, placing your palms flat on the floor. Hold this for a few breaths, howling like lonely dogs on the exhale.
4. Now move into cobra pose by simply bending your elbows towards your feet. Hiss like snakes when you exhale during this pose.
5. Finish with cat pose. Keep your palms on the floor and push yourself back so that you’re balanced on your hands and knees. Keep your arms straight. Now arch your back toward the ceiling. Meow or purr on the exhales.
It’s a bird, it’s a crane… It’s a penguin?
Fly like a superhero and flap like a bird. Use scooter boards to enhance these three shoulder exercises.
1. Have children lie on their stomachs on their scooter boards.
2. Fly like a super hero. For this exercise, children will lie on the scooter board on their stomachs. Instruct them to hold their arms out straight in front of them like a flying superhero—their arms should not touch the ground. Have them hold this pose and try to propel themselves forward using their feet.
3. Flap like a bird: Have children hold their arms straight out at their sides, like a bird holds it wings. Then, have them flap their arms using quick and small up and down motions. Can children propel themselves with their feet while they fly?
4. Swim like a penguin: With their arms straight out from their sides, have children use only their arms to propel themselves forward. This is how penguins swim through the water!
Do you do any shoulder strengthening activities with your students? Share with us below!