Stretching before physical activity is just as important as the exercise itself. Children should stretch before beginning any type of workout, dance or sports program because it will help prepare their muscles and joints for the the activity. Stretching will help decrease the risk of injury such as cramps and strains, while increasing flexibility and range of motion. Stretches should be done on both sides of the body and held for at least 10 seconds.
Have your child kneel with both feet pressed together and knees apart. Her arms should be along each side of her body with both palms up. Have her bend over slowly as if trying to touch the floor with her forehead. Hold this position for 10 seconds, breathing throughout. Release and repeat.
Shoulder Blades Stretch
Stretch the shoulder blades by having your child stand with his arms stretched out, parallel to the ground. Keep the palms facing backward with her thumbs toward the ground. Have her press her arms back as if squeezing a ball behind her back. She should continue to breathe normally throughout this exercise and hold for 10 seconds. Release the stretch, inhale and repeat.
Have your child sit on a mat with her back straight and both legs extended in front of her. Bend the right leg until the bottom of her foot is next to the left leg. Lean forward, reach for the toes and exhale. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat with the other leg.
Have your child stand with her legs shoulder-width apart, her right hand on her right hip and her left hand overhead. Have her lean toward the right as if trying to touch her right shoulder with her left hand. She should exhale while leaning over, hold the stretch for 10 seconds, return to the starting position and switch sides.
Tell your child to sit with both legs apart and extended at both sides. Both arms should be extended in front of her with her palms on the floor. Keeping her back straight, have her lean forward at the hips, bringing her hands forward until her chest is as close to the floor as her body allows without pain. Tell her to exhale and hold the position for 10 seconds, return to the starting position and inhale.
Have your child stretch when her muscles are warm by engaging in a few minutes of physical activity first, as stretching cold muscles can lead to injury. Stretching also can be done at the end of one exercise and before starting another. Remember to stop if it begins to hurt, do not force the stretch and avoid bouncy, ballistic movements.