When you are first teaching stretching exercises to children, start with short holds, from 1-5 seconds and repeat each stretch a few times. As they mature and are actively looking to gain flexibility, guide them into holding a stretch for up to 30 seconds at a time, with a few repetitions within a stretching session. This will help to prevent injury and begin to teach them proper stretching methods.
To help the kids stay focused, try listening to music or to have a few people stretching at the same time, so it becomes less of a chore and more of a fun, social activity. This helps to keep stretching entertaining for kids of all ages.
Simple Stretching Exercises for Kids
This yoga pose is so aptly named, no wonder kids love it! To do it, start by kneeling on the ground with your legs together. From there, bend over and allow your torso to rest on your knees and your forehead to rest on the ground. Your arms can either be extended above your head on the ground in front of you or to lie beside you in this resting pose.
Lie down on your stomach. Keeping your elbows slightly bent and by your side, arch your back and look up to the roof. This stretches out your back and opens your chest.
Lie down, crossing your leg straight over your body.
Start lying with your back flat on the ground, and arms extended out to the side in a ‘t’ shape. From there, bring one of your legs across your hips to the opposite side of your body, keeping both legs straight. This is a great low back, hip, and leg stretch for adults and kids alike!
Circle your arms.
Stand up tall and circle your arms, working on your shoulder, chest, and back muscles. There are many variations of this stretch- you can circle your arms forward or backward, one at a time or together, or even rotating them in opposite directions at the same time. For bonus fun, you can have your child imagine that their arms are helicopter blades, and they are flying over the city.
Touch your toes.
This flexibility exercise for kids is simple and effective. Toe touches allow them to feel the muscles of their hip flexors and back, while demonstrating why flexibility is important. Simply stand with your feet shoulder width apart and bend forward, seeing if they can touch the floor.
Smell your armpits.
Move your nose forward as if you are smelling your armpit. This is a great stretch to get a little silly with but teaches your children how to safely stretch and move their neck.
Swing your leg side-to-side.
While you can do this active stretch without any support, it is most effective when you balance yourself with a wall or chair. Plant one foot firmly into the ground and swing the other from side-to-side. This encourages blood flow through your leg and can help relieve tight hip muscles.
Sit on the ground and bring the bottoms of your feet together in a diamond shape. From here, lean over, keeping your back straight, and press on your knees with your elbows. This opens your hip muscles up in a different way and it encourages young children to practice their shapes.
Get on all fours and gently begin to arch your back up towards the ceiling, curling your chin to your chest into a cat pose. Hold it for a few seconds before reversing the stretch and pushing your chest towards the floor, lifting your head back into cow’s pose.
Lie on your back, bending your knees over to the side.
While this is similar to a previous stretch, this one is different in that you keep both legs together and bent as you allow them to drop to one side. One of our founder’s kids (aged 14) says that this is one of her favourite stretches of all time!
Look at your belly.
When you tuck your chin to your chest, not only do you get a great neck stretch, but it also works on your upper back muscles, too! Hold this static stretch for a few seconds until the muscles begin to release, bring your head back to normal, and repeat a few more times. The opposite to this stretch is to look directly up to the roof, which moves your neck muscles in a different way to loosen tension.
Circle your wrists.
Standing or sitting, take a few moments to circle your wrists clockwise and counterclockwise. This helps to relieve tension in your wrists and keep them agile for whatever activity you want to do next, whether that’s throwing a ball around or drawing indoors.
Cross your arm over your chest.
Pull your arm across your chest, applying mild pressure with your opposite hand to increase the stretch. For a neat experiment with your kids, compare how different this stretch feels as compared to circling your arms around.
Heels together, toes pointing outwards.
Pull your heels together with your toes pointing outwards, while leaving the bottoms of your feet flat on the floor. For a contrasting stretch, do the opposite motion and pull your toes together while flaring your ankles outwards.
Reach your arm up as high as possible.
Stand up tall and extend your arm up as far as it can go, then repeat on the other side. To enhance this arm exercise for kids, have them imagine that they are a dinosaur or giraffe which allows them to actively play while they stretch!
Lie on your back and bring your knees to your nose while keeping your legs straight.
While the traditional form of this stretch is to sit in an ‘L-shape’ and bend forward to touch your toes, lying on your back and allowing your legs to fall towards you is a fun variation. This allows gravity to deepen the stretch and it affords kids the chance to play around and be silly while having fun with their stretching exercises.
Stretching exercises for young kids
When kids are very young, they can be very impressionable and open to trying new things. While your little one might be open to copying your movements, you might have to incorporate a bit of imagination into your stretching session.
Try having your child “moo” while doing the cow pose to encourage playing while exercising. Outside of the traditional stretching poses, ask your child to move like a giraffe, a playful puppy, or a dragon. Using their imagination will encourage them to move their bodies in different ways, using exercises that work, which will help them to grow healthy and strong.
Teaching stretching exercises to older kids
As kids grow up, some don’t want to “play pretend”, as they want to be seen as a big kid. If your child is in this stage, approach stretching with an energy that matches theirs, and take the time to explain a bit about each stretch.
Most kids love learning, and this is a great chance to explain about physical activity, the basic muscle groups of the body, and why they should stretch. Keep explanations to their level, though, to keep them engaged and enjoying the art of stretching with you.
You can also mix in other fun exercises for kids in between stretching, such as crab walks, using a jump rope, or doing jumping jacks, to demonstrate that exercise and building healthy habits can be an enjoyable activity they can do all of their lives!
If you would like to discover more stretches for kids (and yourself!), download the WeStretch app for free today! The fundamental routine is completely free, with hundreds of stretches that will help you to stretch every inch of your body!
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This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your health care practitioner if you have any concerns.