For kids, stretches should be part of an overall, daily physical activity routine. Even though flexibility often seems to come naturally to children, we should pay attention to their level and type of activity to make sure stretching is included. Especially during growth spurts, children's muscles may be tight, and stretching can help.
Get stretching during the summer when it is too hot to be outside. Let the kids enjoy these fun, playful stretches to keep them agile and active.
Here are our top five recommended stretches for children.
This pose is a great way to start any stretching routine. Kneel with toes touching and knees spread apart. (Some people prefer to keep knees together. Try both ways to see which is more comfortable.) Slowly bend over and touch the floor with the forehead. Arms can be at the sides, palms facing up, or extended in front of the head with palms on the floor. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply; hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
Kids are sure to enjoy this yoga-influenced stretch with a fun name. This is good for the spine and also strengthens the abdominal muscles. Start on all fours with the spine and neck in a neutral position. The back should be flat like a tabletop. Eyes should look straight down to the floor. Inhale, drop the belly down and slowly lift the neck and head up. This is the cow half of the pose—picture a cow's swayed back with bony hips.
Next, on an exhale, lift the belly and spine so the back is arched like a cat's. Eyes look toward the bellybutton.
Alternate 5 to 10 cat-cow stretches, then return to the neutral hands-and-knees position.
Reach for the Stars
This simple, yet effective stretch works the upper body, shoulders, and arms. Stand up straight with feet together. With back straight, reach arms straight up and overhead, without locking elbows.
Hands can be touching or apart. You can also do a very gentle back bend here. If you choose to bend backwards, keep chin and neck lifted.
Kids are usually quite adept at the butterfly stretch, which works the inner thighs and echoes the criss-cross pose they may sit in anytime they are on the floor.
In a seated position, place the soles of the feet together and hold them with the hands. The legs are now forming the butterfly "wings." Elbows can be between the legs or resting on the knees. Gently press the knees down to increase the stretch. To add a spine stretch, bend forward from the upper back and reach forehead toward feet.
Sit on the floor with legs apart. The width of the straddle is up to you—whatever feels comfortable and a little challenging, without causing any pain.
Once seated, bend slowly over the right leg, then to the centre, then over the left leg. Hold each position for at least 10 to 30 seconds, without bouncing. These stretches work the lower back, inner thighs, and hamstrings (the large muscles on the back of the thighs).