CORE STRENGTHENING WITH YOUR BABY'S TOYS

This is an oldie but a goodie! Coming up with exercises you can do with your kids toys is actually pretty fun. So when you can't stare at your baby swatting at her toys for another minute get moving! Here are some ideas to get you started.

Shauna


Winter has been especially, well, wintery this year. Not only has it been super snowy, but it's been really frigid. Don't get me wrong, I love winter, but it is a challenge to enjoy it when it's colder than mars. And when you have a wee one that you don't want frostbitten or lost in snow drifts, it means long days cooped up inside. Cabin fever starts to set in. Add the too-cold-to-go-out weather to the fact that B has the clings these days, and it can make the day seem THAT much longer. Coming up with new things to do, for both of us, can be a challenge. Maybe he just likes my awesome tower building skills or glockenspiel playing abilities, but he definitely prefers to have me in close proximity. If I attempt any kitchen activity he scoots over and attaches himself to my ankle like a little leach. So we play. And read. And play some more. And sing songs. But it's those times when he is lost in his own little world, motoring his trucks around, that I wonder what I can sneak in in those two minutes of "me" time. Sitting amidst all of the toys spattered all over the living room floor, I start thinking about how better I could use my time while still hanging out in his periphery.

And that's when things get all crazy up in 'da house.

Here are three exercises you can do using your baby's toys. Yes, that's right.

Of course, if you recently gave birth, had a c-section or have any ongoing aches or pains, check with your doctor, midwife or favourite athletic therapist before trying these or any exercises.

Silenced Sophie

Toy to grab: Sophie la Giraffe (or any annoyingly squeaky toy should do)

What you're working on: Core stability and strength

This is actually a basic core exercise that I often use to help my patients gain a better understanding of their core and it's role in stabilizing the spine in it's neutral position. I've just never done it with a squeaky toy, until now! There are multiple progressions, from basic core engagement (working on finding that core - it's in there!) to more dynamic exercises involving arm and leg movements.

Lie on your back with your knees bent up, feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. This is the fun part - place Sophie under your lower spine. Relax. You'll get a big squeak and your babe will wonder why you're smothering Sophie. Poor, poor Sophie.

Start the exercise by engaging your core. This mean tightening (aka engaging, contracting) your whole lower trunk/abdominal area (front, back and sides) without moving any part of your spine or pelvis.

Pay attention to:

1. NOT hollowing your abdomen - it should stay where it was when it was relaxed, but now it has tensed up (as if you are bracing for a punch to your gut).

2. NOT flattening your spine towards the floor. This is where Sophie comes in handy. If your push your spine into the floor (flattening it) Sophie will squeal and let you know that you are doing something wrong. Likewise, if you arch your lower back Sophie will let you know. Keep Sophie silent with a neutral spine position!

Once you can do this correctly, add in a SLOW and CONTROLLED arm and/or leg movement. Here are some variations, progressing from easier to more difficult. Only progress to the next level (over days, weeks!) if you are able to keep your core STABLE (not moving a micrometer!) while moving your arms/legs.

And don't forget, keep Sophie silent!

Try for five to ten arm/leg movements on each side, alternating sides.

Bird-Dog with Ball

Toy to grab: small ball/truck/car (or any toy that rolls)

What you're working on: Core and glute strength

You might be familiar with Bird-Dog. It's a pretty common core exercise, often done in yoga. Well, this is Bird-Dog with a ball, toy car or truck. Or any other small, lightweight rolling, sliding thing. Even a Kleenex box works!

Essentially, do your Bird-Dog, but with your ball on your lower back. If you do the exercise incorrectly, your rolley toy will fall off. Your job is to keep the toy from falling off your lower back.

Pay attention to:

1. Keeping your spine in it's NEUTRAL position. Do NOT over arch your lower back to keep the ball in place (this is called cheating).

2. Keeping your pelvis from shifting left or right, or rotating. It should remain NEUTRAL as well.

Start by extending one leg at a time, alternating sides - squeeze your glutes (bum, buttocks) to extend the leg. Remember, don't over arch or extend the lower back when you do this!

Progress to extending opposite arm/leg, alternating sides. Try for five to ten on each side. And don't' forget, NO movement should happen through your trunk. Move SLOWLY and in a really controlled way.

Plank with Plushies

Toys to grab: two plush toys

What you're working on: Core stability

Put a spin (or a slide) on your regular plank by adding small arm slide outs. Slide out using any soft baby toy under your hand.

Pay attention to:

1. Keep your core stable and spine in a neutral position (like always!).

2. Only extend (slide) your arm out as far as you can comfortably and without losing your good core position and stability.

Do this exercise from your knees until you develop a solid base of core strength. It won't take long if you do a little core work every day. Try to do five to ten arms slides on each side, alternating.

Progress to doing this exercise from your toes.

Hope you have some fun with these ones! Your little one will at least be entertained!