27 Easy Prone Position Activities to Improve Strength in Kids

Prone Position Activities for Kids

Tummy time is not just for babies!  Prone position activities improve strength in kids needed for good posture and to support fine motor development. It also provides sensory input that helps increase attention for learning. 

A prone position, or lying on the stomach on the floor, is one of the important developmental positions that kids need.  

Tummy time can be challenging for some babies.  And many little ones spend time in seats or carriers and don’t have as much opportunities for being on their stomach on the floor.  

This impacts their physical development.  

But the good news is that this important developmental prone position can be used with older kids to improve skills.  

Any of the occupational therapists I know and work with, as well as all my physical therapist colleagues, use prone position activities with kids as much as possible!  

Example of a Teacher Using the Prone Position for All Kids During Learning

A teacher I worked with years ago was incredible at incorporating my occupational therapy strategies into her classroom.  She was always asking for tips and even wanted to understand the why behind the strategies!

This teacher also recognized the developmental and postural changes over the years in her students. [Sidenote, this was in 2008. The changes are sadly so much worse now 🙁 ]

Anyway, our plan for her classroom was to embed more vertical surface work and prone position activities on the floor into her routines.

During calendar or story time, instead of having her students sit on her carpet, she had each child lie on their stomachs.  From consulting with me, she knew what cues to give to make sure they were in the correct position when they were on their bellies.

This teacher explained to her students how to use their upper back and neck muscles to hold their head up.  She encouraged them to keep their forearms and hands on the floor. 

The first month involved some groans and moans from the kiddos.  Many needed breaks to rest their heads in their hands. Some even rolled to their sides with their heads down on the floor. 

The teacher gradually increased the frequency and amount of time spent in prone positioning (lying on their stomachs.)

After a couple months of working on this, she approached me with a proud smile.  “They’re ALL able to stay on their stomachs during carpet time.  No one gets tired and props or rests their head! And no one complains anymore!”

The difference in each child’s strength and stability was noted as well as increased muscle endurance.  And so was their ability to sit and attend!

Prone position activities

Five Benefits of Prone Position for Kids (Lying on the Stomach on the Floor)

Prone position activities on the floor have several benefits.  Just simply having children lie on their stomachs for activities is super helpful for them and really easy to do! 

The benefits are listed below.  The biggest impact prone position exercises and activities have are to improve seated posture.  Check out Correct Sitting Posture for Your Student for more information.  

Increases attention and focus

Pressure from the floor gives sensory proprioceptive input to the body and brain.  When lying on the belly for prone activities, different muscle groups are stretched and working against gravity.  This gives more input to the brain and helps with body awareness.  The overall deep pressure input and the heavy work for the upper body is both calming and alerting for the nervous system which improves attention and focus. 

Strengthens muscles in the back and neck for improved posture

Lying on the stomach and participating in prone extension activities activates muscles against gravity that are needed for sitting upright.  It strengthens the back, upper back and neck muscles that in turn improves a child’s ability to sit upright and attend when sitting. This is especially important to counter the increased screen time that’s causing hunched necks and backs already in young children!  Additionally, when lying in a prone position, it stretches the abdominal muscles; stretching helps muscle activation, further contributing to core stability.

Stabilizes the shoulder

Prone position activities are a simple and great way to provide the necessary strength and stability in the shoulders.  Children need strong cores and strong shoulder muscles in order to use their hands optimally.  Additionally, lying on the stomach in a prone position keeps the shoulders still which allows for isolated smaller movements of the forearm, wrists and fingers.  

Stabilizes the forearm and hand

When a child keeps the forearms flat on the ground to listen to a story or teacher, the pressure on the pinky side of the forearm gives stabilizing input to the pinky side of the hand.  The pinky and ring fingers are meant to stabilize the hand as the other three fingers move to manipulate objects.  This improves fine motor skills.  It supports grasp development and dexterity within the hand.

Increases visual attention to the task

For children who tend to be more distracted with movement and activity around them, placing their work on the floor reduces extra environmental distractions.  

Prone Position Activities for Learning and Prone Position Play Activities

Have children lie on their stomachs during any or all of these daily activities:

  • Circle time
  • Story time
  • Morning meeting
  • Lesson introduction
  • Reading a book
  • Taking notes
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Fine motor games
  • Dice games
  • Project work time
  • Play based learning 
  • STEAM activities
  • Puzzles on a mat or floor puzzles
  • Drawing a picture
  • Coloring
  • Sticker books
  • Playdoh or modeling clay
  • Craft activities
  • Practice worksheets such as mazes, dot to dots, hidden pictures

Prone Position Exercises for Kids

Prone Position Activities and Prone Position Exercises for Kids

For children that need more time on their bellies to strengthen the upper back and shoulder muscles, try some of the following fun activities and exercises.  

A scooter board is a great activity for improving muscle strength in the prone position. Depending on my therapy goals for a child, scooters are a great way to build postural muscles while also working on motor planning and other learning strategies.  

For example, I will set up a puzzle, matching game, or use bean bags with letters or numbers and have the child pull them self back and forth to find and match the objects.  I make sure that children use only the arms to pull with the feet in the air; use this for completing a puzzle or for matching activities.

  • Work over a small therapy ball or exercise balls
  • Pull the body back and forth on a scooter board while on the stomach 
  • Hold the superman pose with straight arms and straight legs while on the floor on the carpet (encourage kids to hold for longer periods after they have time to practice, going for personal bests each week)
  • Lie on the stomach (on a blanket, cardboard or scooter board) and spin the body around to activate the vestibular system  
  • Army crawls across the floor
  • Seal walks on the floor
  • Hold yoga poses such as cobra, bow (fish), locust (shark or swimmer) 

Benefits of Prone Activities AND Vertical Surface Activities, FREE PDF Handouts

It is so simple to change the position of a task that you’re already doing.  A simple change has many great benefits for kids.

Share this post to help more kids! 

If you know of anyone with babies, toddlers and preschoolers, share this post with them. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends tummy time 2-3 times per day with babies. Many parents have a difficult time getting this in with their little ones, but it’s never too late to work on it!

The info in this post has been summarized into PDF documents for your reference. Instead of creating one page per topic, I have them bundled together.  Head over to Benefits of Vertical Surface Activities for Kids (30+ Ideas) to read about vertical work and to grab the free printables. 

Related Posts 

OT Motor Coordination Activities for Kids

Gross Motor Indoor Recess or Rainy Day Activities for Kids  

40 Core Strength Exercises for Kids  

Flexible Seating for the Classroom or Home 

Check out This Classroom Exercise Program to Improve Core Stability, Attention & Focus, and More… (use SENSORY and sensory-motor strategies)

Gain lifetime access to a BRAIN BREAK EXERCISE SERIES that helps ALL kiddos…

Use these specific occupational therapy exercises to improve:

Attention… focus… core stability… crossing midline… sensory processing… visual development… & more… Click for more info!

School-Based OT

Amy Hathaway MOT, OTR/L, CIMI-2 is a licensed and registered occupational therapist.  She is the founder of Develop Learn Grow. 

Amy has 22 years of experience as a pediatric occupational therapist.   She enjoys collaborating with teachers, parents, therapists, administrators, and support staff in preschools & schools, as well as coaching and guiding parents of infants and toddlers in their homes.

She is married and has three children.  Click to read Amy’s bio.  

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