Did you know there are some fun activities to do on an exercise ball for you and your child? These activities help build your child’s core, shoulder stability, and make moving fun! Keep reading to learn a few tips from Milestone therapists.
A great way to use an exercise ball with your kiddo is to have them lay on their belly on the ball and have them look up ahead of them.
This promotes extension and engagement of both upper and lower back core muscles that are important for your little one to strengthen for good posture and stability. Plus, this can be made fun because they can “fly like Superman”! And let’s be honest – who doesn’t want to do that?
You can also take their hands in front of them and pull them back and forth, side to side, or in a rocking motion to give them different sensory inputs and make it even more challenging to stay on the ball. The best part is that this can be done with any kiddo at any age. It’s an excellent way to help your child enjoy tummy time and strengthen those back muscles!
If your child can sit on the exercise ball by themselves, a great way to challenge their core and trunk muscles is to encourage them to transfer toys from one side to the other (keep their feet on the ground!). By rotating their trunk on a moving surface, they are using more core muscles and are using both arm and leg muscles to move!
They can pick up bean bags from the floor and put them in a bucket, move stickers from one part of a wall to another, or they can move their toys from one side of the ball to the other. These are just a few options, so get creative and have fun!
If your toddler cannot sit on the exercise ball by themselves, you can help them challenge their core and learn how to balance by standing in front of them to hold their hands while they sit on the ball. This will help promote core strengthening and stabilization, while including the arm muscles that are important for catching and throwing. This is such a fun way to see your child have fun!
Another fun activity to use the exercise ball is to have your little one lie down on their stomach on the ball, and they can either use a fishing toy or use their arms to pick up items from the ground!
This is a great way to entertain them while they are working hard on extending their back and engaging their core.
This doesn’t sound as fun as the others (I mean, who wants to do sit ups?), but I promise it is for your child! Lay your little one on their back on the ball, and secure them by holding their legs down gently, pressing into the ball, which will stabilize them. Now ask them to sit up!
If they don’t quite get the motion right away, or they aren’t having fun, what you can do is place them on the ball in a sitting position, and bounce them gently up and down! Once that is mastered you can start moving the ball gently side to side and forwards and backwards. This will not only challenge their core, but promote proper development of their righting reactions and protective reflexes. What’s super fun about this is that if you move the ball quickly, they’ll fall against the ball (they’re safe because you’re holding their legs!) and they have to sit up again to continue the game! This is also an excellent way to give a variety of vestibular and sensory inputs.
In the end, this process should always remain play based and really fun for you and your kiddo! Never forget that and you’ll be able to come back to these exercises again and again!
Written by Sophia Aspin, PT, DPT