Exercises For Infants and Toddlers

You might not think that a baby who can’t walk yet needs to exercise, but they do! Exercise for infants helps them gain control of their motor functions and strengthen the muscles they need to hold their neck up, roll over, crawl, and, eventually, walk!

Exercise for toddlers is important, too. Even after they’ve got the hang of walking, you should still guide them through light exercises. They will help them build strong muscles, healthy bones, and get their energy out so they sleep better! 

Exercising with your infants and toddlers is a win-win.


Exercises For Babies up to 6-Months

1. Grip the Finger

This exercise will strengthen muscles in the arms, shoulders, core, and back. You can start this exercise with your baby at 6-weeks.

Lay your baby on their back and hold out your index finger. When your baby grasps your finger, pull back until they are almost sitting and then slowly bring them back onto their back.

2. Tummy Time

Letting your baby lay on their stomach for a few minutes at a time will help strengthen the muscles in their stomach, shoulders, back, and neck. It will also help your baby learn to crawl!

Just lay your baby on their stomach, on a soft surface. They are likely to automatically raise their head, so their face isn’t touching the surface. Once they get used to the position, they are likely to push themselves up onto their arms and start looking around. 

3. The “Bicycle”

This is usually used for helping a baby relieve gas, but it’s also great for strengthening the abdominal muscles, legs, hips, and knees, as well as enhancing flexibility.

Lay your baby on their back and hold onto their lower legs. Slowly and carefully press one leg at a time against your baby’s belly. You can do both legs at the same time and experiment with rolling in a circular motion.


Exercises For Babies 6 to 12-Months

1. Toe to Ear

This exercise is more like a stretch. It will help your baby limber up to walk comfortably.

Lie your baby on their back. Hold one of their legs straight and try to reach the toes toward the opposite ear. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Wheelbarrow

The wheelbarrow exercise for babies helps with head control, neck strength, arm strength, and back strength.

Lay your baby on their stomach and grasp their feet or knees. Slowly lift until their hips are raised off the surface they are laying on. This will force your baby to raise their head and support themselves on their arms/hands.

3. Tug Up

Babies and toddlers usually think this exercise is a game! They’ll have so much fun with it that they won’t even know they’re actually working out their back and core muscles.

Lie your baby on their back on a soft surface and gasp their forearms. Pull your baby up until there are in a sitting position and their back is straight. Then, slowly lower them back to a laying position.

4. Mountain Climbers

Don’t worry – this exercise for babies is much, much easier than the mountain climbers adults do! And it’s great for building leg strength. 

Sit on the floor (or your bed) with your legs in front of you, bent at the knees. Place your baby on you so they are standing on your hips. Lean back a little and encourage your baby to walk up the incline you’ve made with your stomach and chest.


Exercises for 1-2-Year-Old Babies

1. “Sit Ups”

Just like sit-ups for adults, this exercise for toddlers helps strengthen the back and core. 

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Have your toddler lay in between your legs and grab your hands. Help them pull themselves up to a sitting position and then return to laying on the floor again.

2. Opposite fingers to toes

This exercise is great for flexibility and strengthening the upper back, legs, shoulders, and arms.

Sit on the edge of a surface like a couch or your bed. Put your toddler on your lap, facing away from you. Grasp one of their ankles and the opposite wrist. Stretch them straight and try to bring them together until they touch. Stretch them straight again and repeat with the opposite fingers and toes.

3. Squat

That’s right, it’s never too early to learn how to squat! This exercise for toddlers is great for strengthening the quads, glutes, hips, and knees. You can even do them together!

This toddler exercise is simple. All you have to do is do a squat and ask your toddler to copy you. Show them to place their hands on the floor for stability before standing back up.

4. Hip Raise

Hip raises are great for strengthening the back and glute muscles – in babies and adults!

Have your toddler lay on their back with their knees bent. Scoot your hands underneath their bum and help them raise their hips until there is a straight line from their knees to their neck, or as far as they can go without straining. Ask them to hold the position without your hands there to support them – just for 1 second – then assist their bum back to the floor.


Final Thoughts

Although exercise is just as important for babies as it is for adults, it’s not something that you have to force them to do every day. Exercise with your baby when they are in a good mood and make sure to never push them farther than they can go – emotionally or physically. There’s no set or rep count here. It’s all for fun with the added benefit of being good for their bodies!

Exercises like the ones mentioned here are a part of our routine here at Meaningful Beginnings. Your babies will learn how to properly execute motor functions, practice them with helping hands, and have fun in the process!

Check back here on the Meaningful Beginnings blog for more advice on topics like parenting, early education, family health and wellness, and more!

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Emily Pham

Infant Teacher

My name is Emily and I am an infant teacher. My aim with this position is to learn how children develop as unique individuals and learn how to support their holistic growth. I am currently a student at San Francisco
State University majoring in Child and Adolescent Development. With this experience, I am hoping to get a sense on whether I want to continue to work in the classroom or if I want to learn the administrative side of education. The experience of working directly with children is gratifying and I wish to create a safe space for children to explore with all of their senses as they develop their own personalities. I hope to be able to help build a strong foundation so that the children can have the confidence and ability to express themselves.