For an overview of Children's flexibility and the decline in this ability in children over recent years, see our article 'CHILD FLEXIBILITY OVERVIEW'.
In the article above, the conclusion is that there are massive benefits in both emotional, social and health terms to being fit and flexibility is a key component of that. Carers ought to make sure that children participate in activities which aid their flexibility.
Children naturally have more flexibility than adults due to having softer bones and healthy younger joints but even children can gain something from improving on flexibility.
Don't use static stretches to warm up, always use dynamic/moving stretches and throw a bit of light cardio into the equation e.g. running on the spot, jumping jacks etc.
Listed below is a range of potential flexibility exercises for children. These are categorised as fun flexibility exercises, classic flexibility exercises and sports that encourage flexibility. It is probably wise to focus on the fun exercises with some classic ones added from time to time just to mix things up. However, if your child can choose to get involved in a sport that inherently requires flexibility then you've cracked it!
As ever, keep good posture and safety in mind too.
Fun Flexibility Exercises for Children
Design a floor stretching game on cardboard. make various shapes then say put your knee in a circle and your hand in a diamond. Let the kids design the mat! Or buy a classic mat like twister.
Dancing is a great way to improve flexibility so games of musical statues where the music stays on longer than normal and no-one is given 'out' but a point is awarded to the best statue.
With a group of children, instruct half of the children in the group to form bridges with their bodies. Tell them to form an obstacle course so that the other half of the group can crawl under. Switch group functions after one group have completed the course, and have the crawling group make body bridges.
Pretend to be an animal and move around like the chosen one. Take it in turns to choose an animal.
Kids circuit training : set up a dozen exercise stations (e.g. touch toes 10 times, throw a ball in the air high and catch 10 times etc.
Simon says or follow my leader can be used : Simon says stretch to the sky 5 times , simon says jump up in the air 3 times etc. Take turns being the leader with the kids.
Sports that Encourage Flexibility
Skating/Ice skating are great flexibility sports so just go and have some fun.
Swimming is a great sport for flexibility so any pool games are great. For example, hold a ball out of the water for as long as you can, swim and push a soft floating ball in front of you etc.
Dancing is a super activity for flexibility and dancers are usually extremely flexible.
Gymnastics is another sport that demands a huge amount of flexibility and you only have to look at gymnasts to realise this! Obviously, gymnasts will regularly perform many stretching and flexibility exercises as part of their training regime too.
Other sports that encourage a large amount of flexibility naturally are mixed martial arts, tennis and diving.
Even children can improve their health and sporting prowess if they work on their flexibility. Ideally choose a sport that inherently increases this. Otherwise consider some of our fun flexibility exercises or classic stretches.
There are lots of classic stretches children can do for various sports and activities. For example, these videos show 'Shoulder warm up', 'Back and side stretches', 'Hip and Front Leg Stretch', 'Back and Leg stretches' and 'Ankle stretches'.