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14 Simple Stretching Exercises for Kids (Good Before or After Sports)

Stretching should be a regular part of children’s exercise routine. Before or after sports (whether soccer, handball, or ballet) or after a long bike ride, before bed, or anytime your child’s muscles feel tight or cramped, encourage them to try some simple stretches. We’ll show you 14 simple stretches for kids that stretch the major muscle groups.

Important: Kids (and adults) should stretch when their muscles are warmed up. So if your child hasn’t been playing sports, he or she should warm up briefly before stretching, such as by dancing, jumping, or jogging in place.

Stretching exercises for children: stretching the whole body

stretching after sports kids

The following stretching exercises for children do not have to be done in this order. However, it is generally advisable to stretch the spine first and then move from the upper to the lower body. It is best to perform the exercises with the children. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat a few times (possibly switching legs or arms). And don’t forget to breathe.

Important: If your child has an injury or plays a specific sport, consult a physical therapist or athletic trainer to determine the safest and most effective ways to stretch.

1. the child’s pose

children pose balasana for stretching muscles

This aptly named yoga pose (balasana in Sanskrit) is a great way to begin and/or end a stretching routine. It is very relaxing.

Kneel so that your toes are touching and your knees are spread apart. (Some people prefer to keep their knees together. Try both variations to see which is more comfortable for you or the children). Slowly bend forward and touch your forehead to the floor. Your arms can either be stretched out on the floor in front of you or beside your body, palms down. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, holding the position for 3 to 5 breaths.

2. cat hump

stretching exercises for kids back

And here is another simple stretching exercise from yoga teachings, still known as “cat-cow”. The Chakravakasana exercise is good for the spine and also strengthens the abdominal muscles. Start on all fours with the spine and neck in a neutral position. The back should remain flat, eyes facing the floor. Inhale, drop the abdomen down and slowly lift the neck and head up. This is the cow half of the pose – imagine the curved back of a cow with bony hips.

Then, as you exhale, lift the belly and spine so that the back is curved like a cat’s. The eyes look toward the belly button. Perform 5 to 10 cat-cow stretches alternately.

Stretching exercises for children with focus on arms and shoulders

3. stretch arms overhead

stretching exercises with kids arms over head stretching

This simple but effective stretch trains the upper body, shoulders and arms. Stand upright with your feet together. With your back straight, stretch your arms straight up and over your head without bending your elbows.

You can interlock your fingers and do a very gentle backbend here as well. As you bend backward, keep your chin and neck upright.

4. stretch arms wide

shoulder stretch kids arms stretch wide

This exercise works the arm and shoulder muscles. Stand with arms extended and thumbs pointing down. Gently push your arms back as if you were squeezing a ball between your shoulder blades.

Alternatively, you can slowly rotate your arms so that your thumbs are pointing up. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds. Then rotate the arms back to the first position. Hold again and gently push the arms back. Repeat a few times, always moving slowly.

5. shoulder stretch

shoulder stretch children before gymnastics

Extend the right arm in front of you at shoulder level and move it to the left. Bend your left arm and place your left wrist on the back of your right arm, just above your elbow. Your left palm will be facing to the side. Using your left arm, gently press your right arm across your body until you feel a good stretch. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat the exercise.

6. triceps stretch

shoulder and triceps stretching kids

This stretch works the muscle on the back of your upper arm. Raise your right arm above your head, palm facing inward toward your head. Then bend your elbow so that your fingers touch the center of your upper back. Grasp your right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it back until you feel the stretch in your right triceps. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Then switch arms and repeat the exercise.

Stretching exercises for children with focus on legs and hips

7. stretch hip flexors (iliopsoas stretch).

hip flexor stretching exercise iliopsoas stretching

This may look like a leg stretch, but it actually works out the muscles in the groin. Start by kneeling on a mat or soft surface. With your back straight, place your left foot on the floor, knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Place both hands on your right knee and now push your hips forward as far as possible. This will stretch your left hip and groin. Keep your torso and head in line, the knee should be vertically above the heel.

Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds without wiggling. Switch legs and repeat.

8. butterfly stretch

playful stretching for kids

Children are usually quite adept at the butterfly stretch, which exercises the inner thighs. When they sit on the floor, they often adopt almost the same sitting position. This position is sometimes called the lotus seat – although a true lotus seat requires the feet and ankles to rest on the thighs, which is very challenging.

While sitting, bring the soles of your feet together and hold them with your hands. The legs now form the “wings” of the butterfly. The elbows can be between the legs or resting on the knees. Gently press the knees down to increase the stretch. To stretch the spine, bend forward from the upper back and bring the forehead toward the feet.

9. straddle with forward bend

stretching exercises kids learn splits

Sit on the floor or a mat with your legs apart. The width of the straddle is up to you – whatever feels comfortable and a little challenging without causing pain.

Then, slowly and with your back straight, bend over your right leg, then to the middle, then over your left leg. Hold each position for at least 10 to 30 seconds without slumping. These stretches work the lower back, inner thighs and hamstrings (the large muscles on the back of the thighs).

10. quadriceps stretch (anterior thigh muscle).

stretching exercises for kids soccer

This exercise stretches the large muscles on the front of the thighs that we use when running. Stand next to the back of a chair (a wall or tree works too; you just need a support to keep your balance). Support yourself on the chair with your left arm, angle your right leg and grasp it with your right hand. Gently press the foot toward the body until you feel the stretch at the front of the thigh. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds and then switch legs.

You can also do this stretch with the opposite arm holding the foot. It’s a little harder to balance this way, but the chair helps.

11. calf stretch

achilles tendon and calf stretch kids

Place your palms against a wall. Extend your right leg forward and the other leg backward. Gently press forward until you feel the stretch in the calf muscle (back of the lower leg). The heels should remain on the floor. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.

Switch legs and repeat the exercise. This stretch feels especially good after jogging.

12. lateral lunges

stretching exercises legs kids

This stretch works out the inner thighs, also called adductors, and the hips. Stand up straight with your legs hip-width apart. Bend one leg at a 90-degree angle and keep the other leg extended, with toes and heels pointing outward at about a 45-degree angle. Feel the stretch in your inner thigh and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Keep your back straight. Switch sides and repeat.

13. crossover toe touch

stretching exercises for kids toe touch

Stretch the back and thigh muscles with a Toe Touch. Stand with arms hanging loosely at your sides and feet together, knees very slightly bent. Slowly roll off your back and reach your hands to your toes. Actually touching the toes is optional! Hold the stretch without wiggling.

For a variation, cross your legs while standing. Keep the knees slightly bent at all times. Remember that not everyone can touch their toes. Reach only as far as you can without pain. A little discomfort or tightness is okay.

14. stretching the hamstrings

stretching exercises for kids soccer hamstring stretching after gymnastics

While sitting, stretch your left leg straight forward with your toes pointing up. Bend the right leg and place the sole of the right foot on the knee or inner thigh of the left leg. Stretch the toes of the left foot forward until you feel the hamstrings stretch (the hamstring muscle is located on the back of the thigh). Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.

Switch legs and repeat. This stretch is sometimes called a hurdler’s stretch because it mimics the position of a runner’s legs when jumping over a hurdle.