It’s no coincidence that the middle of our body is named the core. It’s the powerhouse of the body and often overlooked in children. I referenced weak core in my W-Sitting post, since it’s one of the reasons that kiddos sit in that funky position. An underdeveloped core can also lead to difficulties in reading, writing, and mastering bike riding.
The core can be thought of as a 3D rectangle in our torso, and includes the muscles of the abdominals, the diaphragm (controls our breathing), and the pelvic floor. It is essential for motor development and plays an important role in interoception. Interoception is the perception of physical sensations related to internal body functions (Mahler, 2021). It is sometimes referred to as internal body awareness, and includes hunger, thirst, and needing to go to the bathroom. We can improve understanding of these important internal body functions by developing the core.
the central or most important part of something
These muscles are also involved in alignment and posture. The core keeps us upright and allows us to hold our head steady so that we can read the words off of the board or catch a ball that is thrown toward you. A well developed core keeps you sitting up tall in your chair and lets your eyes scan back and forth without having to turn your head. This makes for an efficient reader and improves hand-eye coordination for sports and hobbies.
A strong core is key in emotional regulation and breathing. A weak core may cause you to slouch and encourage shallow breathing. When the diaphragm is strong, it can contract to take a deep belly breath, which is the key to getting that ‘flipped lid’ back on. Regular belly breathing practice not only strengthens the core, but helps build our window of tolerance to keep our bodies and brains feeling safe.
Signs of an Underdeveloped Core:
Slouching when writing, holding their head up with the non-writing hand
Wiggles and moves around in their seat a lot
W-sitting (forming a W with legs splayed out)
Fatigues easily and has difficulty playing on playground equipment
Dislikes rough and tumble play
Poor balance and/or coordination
Not only are sit-ups terribly boring, but they don’t target the most important muscles. Here are some games that are designed to work your core.
Side Sitting Transfers: Start with sitting on the floor on your left hip. Move from this position onto your knees and into side sitting on your right hip, without putting your hands on the floor.
Bum Shuffle Races: Sit on the floor with legs straight out in front of you and shuffle forwards by lifting one side of your bum off the floor at a time. See who can cross the kitchen fastest to get a snack!
Exercise Ball Marches: Sitting on a large exercise ball, alternate lifting your legs off the floor as if you are marching.
Reaching Games: Encourage your child to reach out for objects at different heights and distances to strengthen the trunk. Hand your child a long bubble wand and then hold the jar off to the side so they must balance to reach.
Tummy Time: Lying on your belly to colour, watch TV, or complete a puzzle is a great way to build up core and postural muscles.
Animal Walks: Take turns calling out different animals, or pull them out of a hat for a competition. Here are some ideas from the CBC to get you started.
Obstacle Course: Include climbing over, jumping, crawling, and an unstable surface. Couch cushions or pillows make great core challenges. Time them for an extra challenge.
Now ditch those crunches and head outside!