Health is the primary goal of the kids right from childhood. good posture is important for the overall health of the body which can be achieved by some stretching exercises. Stretching makes the muscle movements so flexible.
Stretching offers kids many physical, mental, and health benefits. Scroll down to know more about the stretching activities and their benefits.
What are Stretching Exercises?
Stretching exercises are a form of physical exercises where the specific muscles or muscle groups are fixed and stretched to improve the flexibility and elasticity of muscles and achieve comfortable tone. This activity increases the muscle control, flexibility, and range of motion. Stretching is one of the therapeutic actions that help to alleviate the cramps.
Stretching is the best way to improve the muscle flexibility and give good tone to physical fitness. To increase the performance athletes use stretching before and after the exercise. It will also help them to reduce the risk of injury and increase performance.
Types of Stretches:
Stretches are of active or passive. Active stretches use the internal forces generated by the body to perform a stretch. Passive stretches use the external forces for stretching.
Here are the two types of stretching:
Dynamic stretching: It is a movement-based stretch which is aimed to increase the blood flow while loosening the muscle fibers. Dynamic stretching is usually associated with the slow and controlled active contraction of muscles. One form of the dynamic stretching is ballistic stretching which is an active stretch that involves bouncing or swinging back and forth at high speed to make the muscle movements beyond its range of momentum.
Static stretching: The static exercises will help to take the joints to its end range of motion and can hold there using the external forces. The more advanced forms of static stretching are proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), it includes both the active muscle contractions and the passive external forces. It helps to contract either the antagonist muscles, agonist muscles or both.
Benefits of Stretching Exercises:
Here are a few benefits of stretching exercises for kids:
1. Increases muscle flexibility:
Increases the muscle flexibility which plays the crucial role for the overall health. It can also help to perform the everyday activities with the ease.
2. Increases range of motion:
You can achieve more freedom over the movements when you are able to move the joints through its full motion. Stretching delays the reduced mobility that usually comes with the age.
Studies found that both the static and dynamic stretching play effective role in increasing the range of motion.
3. Improves performance in the physical activities:
Stretching prepares the muscles for the physical activity and makes your kid more active. It may help to improve the performance in sports or exercises.
4. Increases the blood flow:
Performing the stretches on a regular basis improves the blood circulation that helps to reduce the recovery time for the muscle sores.
5. Gives good tone to the muscles:
Stretching specific muscle groups encourages the muscle alignment and reduces the musculoskeletal pain which in turn give good tone for the muscle.
6. Prevents back pain:
Tight muscles decrease the range of motion. This puts strain on the muscles in the lower back. Stretching helps to heal the existing back injury by stretching the muscles.
Stretching protects your kid from the future back pain. Strengthening the back muscles is the key to reduce the strain of the muscles.
7. Is a great way for stress relief:
If you are stressed, there is a chance that your muscles may get tensed. Muscles are likely to get tightened up in response to the physical and emotional stress. Focusing on the areas which are at the risk of holding the stress like neck, shoulders, and neck may yield the good results.
8. Keeps the mind fresh:
It not only helps to helps to improve the flexibility but also helps to calm the mind. Encourage your kids to focus on the mindfulness and meditation exercise while stretching which reduces the stress and gives the mental break.
9. Reduces the risk of headaches:
Stress and tension may interfere with the regular life of your child and may lead to frequent headaches. Along with the stretching, proper diet, adequate hydration, and plenty of rest will help to reduce the episodes of headaches.
When Should Kids Stretch?
Your kids should do stretching at least three times a week. It is recommended for the kids to stretch before the physical activities such as running, playing soccer, before sports or any other fitness activities. Warm up should be dynamic not the static.
Cool down routine should be done after the physical activity. It should be some static stretches to concentrate on the muscle groups used in the exercise.
Show your kids how to stretch into a position where they feel tightness of the muscles. Consult doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer about the safest stretching exercises for your kid, if they have any injury.
Stretching Exercises for kids:
Stretching exercises will help your kid to achieve perfect muscle tone and good control over them throughout their life period. Here are a few best stretching exercises for children:
1. Overhead arm stretching:
This basic stretch will help the kids to get relief from the muscle tensions and stimulates the process of injury recovery. They also help to promote the flexibility, rage of motion, and length of the muscles.
How To Do:
1. Make your kid to stand straight with their feet placed separated at the regular distance.
2. Ask them to raise both the hands over the head and stretch out the fingers.
3. Make sure that the arms should be in line with the ears. While the shoulder blades remain in the relaxed state stretch out the arms as much as possible.
4. Allow your kid to hold this position and lower their hands after 5 seconds.
2. Tree Pose:
It is a best stretching exercise for thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders. While adding tone to the abdominal muscles, it strengthens ankles, and calves.
How To Do:
1. Make your child to stand firmly on the ground with the right foot while slightly lifting the left leg.
2. Ask you kid to bring up the left knee and place the sole of the left foot on the upper thigh.
3. Make your child to join both the hands and raise elbows in such a way that making the forearms parallel to the ground.
4. Let your child to hold this position for about 10 seconds and repeat the same with the other leg.
3. Toe touch:
The great treatment for the back pain is the fitness. It will help to stretch the hamstrings and the four muscle groups in the back of the thigh.
How To Do:
1. Allow your child to stand straight with their feet together.’
2. Ask them to touch their toes by bending over their waist and without bending their knees.
3. Your child may not touch their toes initially ask them to stretch as much as they can.
Alternative to this exercise is ask your child to sit with their legs outstretched. Make your child to bend forward to reach for the toes as much as they are comfortable. Ask your child to hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds before returning to the normal position.
4. Arm circles:
This is one of the basic stretches for kids and help to increase the blood flow near shoulders by loosening the shoulder muscles. This exercise forces the muscle of the upper arms to contract and relax.
How To Do:
1. Make your child to stretch their arms out to the straight parallel to the ground.
2. Ask your child to draw the circles starting with the smaller circles and growing to the larger ones in the clockwise direction.
3. Then ask your child to make the circles in the anti-clock wise direction.
4. Make sure to make the movements slow to prevent the child from flailing the arms around.
5. Standing calf stretches:
This stretching exercise promotes flexibility of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Enhancing the strength of calf muscles help your kid to be able to run faster.
How To Do:
1. Make your child to stand three feet away from the wall.
2. Ask them to place their hands on the wall for the support.
3. Ask them to move the right foot forward while stretching the left foot backward.
4. Make your kid to hold this position for few seconds before doing the same with the other leg.
6. Quad stretches:
This improves the flexibility of the larger muscle found in the front thigh. This is a warm up exercise used after the physical activities and exercises. It protects your kids from the injury and enhances their ability to perform various activities.
How to do:
1. Make your child to straight in front of a wall or chair.
2. Ask them to fold the leg at the knee making the foot face backwards. Make them to hold the foot of the folded leg.
3. Make your kid to hold this position for few seconds and repeat the same with the other leg.
7. Butterfly Stretch:
It promotes the flexibility of the inner thigh adductor muscle. They help your kid to maintain the stability and balance. This stretching opens the hips which are at the risk of becoming tight after sitting for longer periods.
How to do:
1. Make your child to sit with the folded legs.
2. Make them to bring their feet closer such that the soles should come in contact with each other.
3. Let the knees to stay apart while maintaining the soles in contact with each other. Make sure that the back of your kid should remain straight and slightly lifted.
4. Ask your child to flip the knees up and down like the wings of the butterfly.
5. Make your kid to move the legs for about 10-30 seconds before returning to the normal position.
8. Knee lunge:
It is a great stretching activity to strengthen the quad muscles. It strengthens the hamstrings that help the knees. It also helps to achieve the balance and coordination between the knee muscles.
How to do:
1. Make your child to stand straight with their hands on the waist. Maintain the back straight in line with the hip.
2. Ask your kid to take one step forward making the knee in line with the ankle. Knee should not go beyond the toes.
3. Squat down with the other leg and it should be in a stretched position. Ask your kid to hold this position for few seconds and repeat the same with the other leg.
The other variation of this stretch is side lunge in which your child is supposed to step to the left or right instead of making it in the forward direction.
9. Downward facing dog:
It helps to calm down the brain and helps your kid to get relief from the stress and mild depression. It promotes the energy reserves of the body and strengthens the arms and legs.
How to do:
1. Make your kid to stand straight and make sure that they should not bend their knees.
2. Ask your kid to raise their hands and move forward till they touch the ground. Make sure that there is enough distance between the legs and hands.
3. When the kids are in this position ensure that their back is stretched out and their gaze be fixed towards the toes. Make them to hold this position for 10 seconds.
10. Cobra stretch:
It is a good abdominal stretch especially good for the one who spend majority of their day sitting with less physical activity. It gives nice lengthening for the muscles located in the anterior neck, shoulders, chest, and abdomen.
How to do:
1. Make your child to start with the downward facing dog position and ask them to go down on the floor by bending the elbows.
2. Now make your child to raise chest forward and upward with their neck stretching out and ask them to hold this position for few seconds before coming back to the normal position.
11. Warrior pose stretch:
This stretch helps to offer flexibility to lungs, shoulders, neck, and belly. It also helps to strengthen the muscles of the back. This stretch promotes the strengthening of the thighs, calves, and ankles.
How to do:
1. Ask your child to stretch out the legs at the comfortable angle extending beyond the hips.
2. Ask her to turn the left toes inwards and the right toes outwards while making the right foot at the ninety degrees to the body.
3. Make the child to stretch out the hands making them parallel to the ground and ask them to stay in this position for few seconds.
4. Ask them to do the same with the opposite legs.
12. Child’s pose:
This can be done at the beginning of the yoga that stretches the muscles of the lower back. It stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. It also relieves the stress and fatigue by calming down the brain.
How to do:
1. Make your kid kneel down with the knees spread apart and the toes touching each other.
2. Make your head to bend forward touching the head on the floor and extend the arms straight forward beyond the head to touch the floor.
3. Move lower half of the body making the buttocks to touch the heels and ask your kid to hold this position for few seconds.
13. Cat-cow pose:
It helps in stretching the back torso and neck. It offers gentle massage to the spine and belly organs. It brings the mobility in the spine, shoulders, neck, and pelvis.
How to do:
1. Make your child begin by starting with the table top position where the child is on the legs and arms and the head facing straight.
2. Make sure that the arms should be under the shoulders and ask them to inhale and flex down the back as if it is sagging which is cat pose
3. Now ask them and make the back to form the arch by squeezing the belly inwards. This is called the cow pose.
4. Make your child to repeat this pose for five or more times depending on their preferences.
14. Camel pose:
It adds flexibility to the spine while strengthening the back muscles. It improves the breathing by creating the space in the chest and lungs and offers a great aid to the respiratory ailments. It improves the digestion by stimulating the kidneys.
How to do:
1. Make your kid to knell down with the enough space between the legs.
2. Ask your kid to place both the hands on the lower back and thee hands can be used to push the back gently forward.
3. Ask your kid to go all the way such that they can hold their ankles with their hand.
15. Triceps stretch:
This stretch helps in loosening the connective tissues, increases the range of motion and improves the blood circulation. It helps in building the wide range of strength.
How to do:
1. Make your child to sit or stand in the upright position.
2. Raise the left and bend it in order to touch the center of the back.
3. Use the right hand to offer the support to the left elbow.
4. Ask your kid to hold this position for few seconds and repeat the same by changing the hands.
16. Cross body shoulder stretch:
It helps in stretching the shoulders and offer great support for the muscles and the joints.
How to do:
5. Make your child to stand straight with the feet at the normal distance.
6. Raise and move the right arm to the left side and make it stretch by pushing the elbow with the left arm.
7. Ask your child to hold this position for few seconds and repeat the same with the other arm.
Stretching games and activities for children:
Here are some dynamic stretches that help kids to gain the muscle tone and give flexibility to their muscles.
1) Jumping rope:
Jumping rope is a great cardio exercise for kids. Jumping rope at the slow pace is the best way to boost the blood pumping activity. Rope jumping helps kids to improve their attention, balance, coordination, and stamina.
2) Alphabet Stretch:
This activity can be performed by dividing the kids into groups. Give each group a secret alphabet and ask them to make the letter with their bodies. They are allowed to sit or stand while making the alphabets.
3) Mirror challenge:
Make the kids to face each other and ask them to mimic each other. The one who is able to twist more wins the game.
4) Exercise circle:
This is a good warm up exercise that fits the kids of all the ages. Make the kids to stand in circles and make the leader to stand in the middle of the circle and do some exercises which the entire group will mimic. Now ask the leader to choose the other kid to come up with the different stretching activities.
5) Martial Arts:
Karate, taekwondo, and jujitsu help kids improve their flexibility as they involve the back stretches.
Get your kid’s friends into the activity to give your kids company and make this more interesting. Allow your kids to stretch to their own extent remembering that they are more flexible than adults.
Safety measures to follow while stretching:
Parents should teach their kids some safety measures to prevent kids doing the wrong postures or over stretching which may harm them.
Here are a few safety tips for the children to avoid the injuries:
• Allow your kid to warm up for 10-15 minutes before stretching or exercising.
• Breathing should be normal while your kids practice stretching. It is not necessary to hold the breathing in any case.
• Every stretch should be performed for 10 to 30 seconds.
• Overstretching is to be avoided to prevent the injuries.
• Tell your child to stop stretching if it hurts. Ask them to pull back gently to the comfortable position if they reached the point where it is hurting.
• It is necessary to perform the stretching evenly on the both sides.
• If your child has any underlying medical condition talk to your doctor before starting the stretching exercise.
• Make your kid to stretch regularly to remain flexibility.
In conclusion, stretching helps kids become active and make their body flexible. Indulge the stretching into their daily activity by making it more interesting.