There are various reasons a child might need to engage in range of motion exercises. Whether a child has a disability, has childhood arthritis, is recovering from an injury or shows signs of low muscle tone, range of motion activities are important in keeping joints and the surrounding muscles and tissue from becoming inflexible or too tight.
Arms and Shoulders
Infants and toddlers who need to work the muscles and joints in their arms can benefit from simply reaching for food, toys and other objects. By holding an object just out of range of your child, you encourage stretching of the arms, elbows and shoulders. Children can also maintain and improve range of motion in the arms and shoulders by doing shoulder rotations and extensions. Kids can do shoulder extensions by raising each arm forward and upward over their heads and attempting to touch the inner arm to the ear. Shoulder extensions can also be done by reaching back behind the body as far as possible. Shoulder rotations involve having your child move her shoulders up, down, forward and back with the arms at her sides.
Kids can engage in range of motion exercises for the wrists while sitting down. To increase wrist flexibility and maintain motion, have your child sit near a table or other elevated flat surface and rest her forearm on it, making sure her hand hangs slightly over the side of the surface. Instruct your child to point her fingers toward the ceiling, then down toward the floor. Other range of motion activities for the wrists include rocking the hands back and forth sideways and gently moving the hands in circles.
Hands and Fingers
Range of motion activities for the hands and fingers can be done basically anywhere. Children can complete these exercises while sitting or standing. Instruct your child to complete finger bends and spreads by alternating between making a tight fist and stretching her fingers as far apart as comfortably possible. Other hand and finger activities include finger-to-thumb and thumb-to-palm touches, where kids touch each fingertip to the pad of the thumb then touch the thumb to the palm on each hand.
Children should complete range of motion activities for the legs while lying on a bed or other firm surface that provides adequate support like a yoga mat. Engage your child in leg range of motion activities including leg lifts toward the ceiling and side-to-side leg movements. Kids can also benefit from performing in and out leg and knee rotations by rolling each leg inward and outward with the leg straight first, then bent at the knee.