Muscle-strengthening activities aren't just for adults. In fact, the American Council on Exercise claims muscle-building programs and activities can boost a child's self-esteem, increase his mental discipline and help with socialization. Stronger muscles also help kids with day-to-day activities, improve sports performance and reduce the risk of sports-related injury. To pique your child’s interest in exercise, get creative. Use fun activities to get your child moving and beef up his muscular strength.
If you're looking for a fun outdoor activity to strengthen your kid’s muscles, head to the monkey bars at your local playground. Swinging from one bar to the next strengthens the upper body, boosts muscular endurance and improves coordination. Challenge your child to move all the way across the monkey bars without stopping. Closely supervise young children so you can catch them if they lose their grip.
Children typically like playing with basketballs, baseballs, footballs and soccer balls. To strengthen their muscles, introduce kids to the medicine ball. “Strength & Power for Young Athletes” recommends beginning with a light medicine ball and increasing the weight by small increments as your child gets stronger and more adept. The squat toss effectively strengthens the legs, chest and arms. To practice this activity, your child stands with his feet about hip-width apart. Holding a medicine ball directly in front of his chest with both hands, he squats down until his thighs are parallel to the floor, then quickly jumps straight up while throwing the ball high in front of himself.
Young children often enjoy partnering activities. The wheelbarrow exercise allows kids to work together to strengthen their muscles. To perform the wheelbarrow, your child lowers himself to the floor in a pushup position. Another child stands behind him, grabs your child's ankles and raises them to the height of his own waist. Your child's body should be straight, without any sagging of the back. The "wheelbarrow" child walks on his hands as his partner steers him across the floor. At the far end of the room, the children switch positions. In group settings, make this activity more fun by suggesting kids race each other. The wheelbarrow strengthens the pectorals, deltoids and triceps.
Another way to make muscle strengthening fun is to have kids mimic animals. For example, encourage children to try the inchworm. The American Council on Exercise points out that inchworms are a full-body exercise that works the arms, shoulders, chest, abs and hips. To practice the inchworm, your child spreads his feet about shoulder-width apart. While keeping his feet flat on the floor, he bends over and places his hands on the floor in front of himself. His body should form an inverted “V.” He walks his hands forward until his stomach is about three inches off the floor. When his body is parallel to the floor, he walks his feet forward, returning to the inverted “V” position. Kids can repeat the inchworm until they've moved across the floor.
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training for Kids -- A Guide for Parents and Teachers
- PlayCore: Overhead Equipment Use -- The Developmental Benefits and Use Patterns of Overhead Equipment on Playgrounds
- Strength & Power for Young Athletes; Avery Faigenbaum and Wayne Westcott
- American Council on Exercise: Inchworms