Written By: Elizabeth Hare, PT, DPT

One of the biggest factors for physical development for newborns/infants/toddlers/children is their trunk stability and mobility. In order to reach, kick, roll, sit, crawl, stand, and walk, you initiate movement and stability in your trunk. The trunk is our foundation. For children with typical development, meeting these milestones appropriately allows for the movement and mobility to occur in turn building strength. When children are delayed in meeting physical milestones, they may be stripped of natural ways to achieve these movements and strengthening. As we play with our children through a variety of positioning and handling, we can assist in gaining mobility of the trunk through side bending, bending forward, bending backwards, and rotating equally to both sides which is all required for them to be able to move and play. Trunk stability and mobility is also prerequisite for feeding, speech development, and fine motor development. As these muscles are all connected to be able to control the mouth, jaw, sound production, and hand control to be able to meet milestones in those areas of development as well. The importance to trunk stability and mobility is crucial for global development of our children.

Strategies to achieve trunk stability and mobility:

Allow for open floor play through time on back, side, and stomach.

Why open floor play is so important for infants?

  • Head/trunk control
  • Depth perception
  • Body/Surrounding awareness
  • Hand/eye coordination
  • Strengthening
  • Range of Motion/mobility of extremities and trunk
  • Roundness of head
  • Play flexibility (trying things in different ways)
  • Improved reactions required for catching self from falling
  • Self-soothing & tolerance of transitions
  • Independence

If your child is not yet doing transitions independently, assist them through transitions in a way that would allow them to assist in the process.

Move slowly through transitions to allow for them to help you as much as they can. Picking them up after diaper changes, either assisted pull up to sit (assistance starting at shoulders/neck as needed slowly seeing them assist with their head or directing them to a side then sitting upright. Getting them to tummy time, start on back, then side, then stomach (as tolerated), then side, and back to back, then repeat. Picking them off the floor once they are crawling/pulling, lifting from the chest allow them to bring knees/feet under body to stand before picking them up.

Propped in positions to first reach to midline then reach across midline.

Hold child on back with hands/feet in visual field with head in middle. Prop child in sidelying toy/object at chest height allow chin tuck and hands and feet to toy. Prop under chest to allow elbows under shoulders while in tummy time.

Playful sitting.

Use playful sitting upright tip-over/sit up game from lap or on couch/bed for trunk to work trunk reactions and mobility to catch self and strengthening returning to sitting.

Hope you found information regarding trunk stability and mobility and how to incorporate this into your routines.

Happy playtime!