Ridiculously Easy Upper Body Strengthening Exercises for Kids

These shoulder exercises for kids can help to improve their shoulder girdle stability. This may aid in developing their fine motor skills.

Before You Start!

Be cautious!

Make sure that you and your child are medically and physically fit to carry out these exercises. If your child is in therapy, please check with your child’s therapist before trying any of these exercises and activities.

Motivate your child!

If your child is reluctant to do “exercises”, call them by another name – I call them circus tricks and we do a few circus tricks at a time, it’s a great motivator for children with poor gross motor skills.

Make it a game!

Take turns -which means that your child gets to be the leader in follow-the-leader, or the circus trainer, and that you, the parent or teacher, can get to do the exercises as well. Children are very motivated to do even the ones they find demanding, if they know that they will get a turn to be in charge. Ham it up and make them laugh!

Quality is better than quantity!

All exercises for kids should be done slowly with as much control as possible –  have your child do one or 2 good repetitions rather than many sloppy ones.

This is not therapy!

The advice and learning activities on this page are NOT a replacement for evaluation and treatment by an occupational therapist. They are meant to enhance your child’s normal development.

* Please contact your health professional if you are concerned about your child’s development.

Leopard Crawl

If you are physically fit, demonstrate by lying on your tummy and pulling yourself along with your forearms. Encourage your child to not splay the arms too wide, or to use the legs too much – the leopard crawl should work the upper body the most.

This is a great obstacle course or follow-the-leader activity (especially if an adult is involved!). Going under tables and chairs is a great incentive, and as an outdoor activity, it lends itself well to a jungle or army themed party!

Pushing Games

Pushing exercises encourage your child to activate the shoulder girdle muscles by pushing hard.
Encourage your child to keep their elbows slightly bent, so their arms are not straight. This helps the shoulder girdle muscles work most effectively.

Discuss the differences between effective and ineffective positioning, then have fun trying out the following activities:

Wall Push

Tell your child the wall is falling down, and ask your child to push it to keep it up!
You can have your child push for a count of 5 or 10 seconds, run around the garden, and then come back for another push.

Make sure your child has only their hands on the wall (no forearms, trunk or shoulders), and try and keep elbows slightly bent.

People Push

Have both pushers put their hands together with both pushers keeping elbows slightly bent.

Stand with one foot behind the other and on the count of 3, PUSH each other as hard as possible until one of you moves backwards. (Cue a sibling to let a younger child win).


Have your child crouch facing the wall, putting their hands on the ball.

Have your child “walk” the ball up from the floor with his/her hands until the ball is at shoulder level.
Then “walk” the ball along the length of wall, keeping it at the same height. Repeat a few times. Your child’s hands should cross over as the ball moves along.

Aim for slow controlled movements – the child who wants to do it quickly can sometimes be compensating for the lack of stability needed to do it slowly in a controlled way.

Classroom Shoulder Stability Exercises

These are great shoulder girdle exercises for kids to do before they start a writing activity. They are also good to help fidgety kids focus because they give great proprioceptive input!

Hand Pushes

Place palms together, with elbows out and forearms held horizontally.
Have your child push their hands together as hard as possible and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat a few times.

Chair Push Ups

Have your child sit on a hard chair and place their hands on either side. Then PUSH, until his/her bottom rises off the chair. Hold for 3 – 5 counts.

Ask your child to try and lift his/her feet off the floor and hold them off while doing the push-ups.

Thanks for reading my blog! I hope you found this page helpful!


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About the Author

Alyssa Hulthen