The Benefits of Getting Down
Written by: Jean O’Brien Murby, PT, PCS
The development of a child’s motor skills requires many fundamental developments to occur. One critical building block is head and trunk control, or what therapists refer to as postural control. Postural control allows a child to sit in a high chair as well as step forward to kick a ball. Children need to be able to hold upright postures and move their bodies through space while interacting with people, toys and their environment. Whether a child experiences typical or challenged motor development the strengthening of core muscle groups is very important.
So how can we help our children develop their postural control especially during these times of being at home? One simple idea is to spend more time on the floor. Lying on the floor for a brief rest, sitting on the floor while reading and playing provides increased activation of the back, abdominal and pelvic muscles. Here are some helpful activities and positions which can help us in achieving this goal.
Lying supine (on back) and stretching overhead, while focusing on long or taking deep breaths.
Lying prone (on belly) allows increased rib expansion during deep breathing, stretches the flexor muscle groups which are maintained in a shortened length when sitting for long periods of time. Try lying on an elevated surface with a pillow beneath your abdomen to increase trunk range from the floor surface.
Rolling hugging your chest or rolling with arms extended overhead will ask more of the core/trunk muscle groups as your child rolls in either direction. Try rolling up a small incline for more of a challenge.
Playing games in quadruped (all fours) position allows weight bearing through the shoulders and hips while those core muscles stabilize your posture. What animal postures can you imitate?
Try sitting on an unstable/compliant surface while on the floor such as a cushion or pillow or to increase the challenge sitting on a ball with parent support, if needed, for safety. Children who need more advanced skills can try anti- gravity positions such as crabwalk and wheel barrow walk, kneeling, half kneeling positions which can be challenging and fun when used during a play activity.
You get the “core” message here. Time spent out of our chairs and couches matters especially when jobs and school calls for prolonged sitting and screen time. The simple transition to the floor can be easily integrated with many of our daily routines when we are all home together. Spending time on the floor can help all of us develop better postural control.