Monday, March 6, 2017

Say 'Hello to the Sun' with Tatty Bumpkin - Stretching and Activating Key Muscle Groups for Writing

By Sue Heron - Head of Training at Tatty Bumpkin and Paediatric Physiotherapist. 

At an education conference in 2015 Mr Bob Drew, headteacher at Grearies Primary School Essex, highlighted teachers at his school “had noticed very weak upper body strength particularly in four and five year old boys." 
He explained that over the past two years his teaching staff had initially noticed the children’s handwriting was becoming increasingly ‘spidery’. On looking carefully, they established that the children’s pencil grip was also very poor.  
Mr Drew speculated that this shaky pencil grip was related to weakness in the upper body, possibly a result of increased use ‘soft touch’ digital technology and less frequent physical activity.

Weak upper body strength related to poor pencil grip? 

As a paediatric physiotherapist I feel Mr Drew could be correct as we need strong shoulder, back and tummy muscles to support our arms as we write or draw. 

When your child does Tatty Bumpkin’s Sun pose they will not only be gently stretching tight shoulder and chest muscles they will also be strengthening their upper body. 

Tatty Bumpkin’s Sun Yoga Activity

  • With your child find a clear space on a carpet or mat. Make sure you both have room to stretch out your arms. 
  • Take off your socks and shoes to prevent slips and to help your child feel the floor accurately. 
  • Remember if you, or your child, start to feel uncomfortable as you do the pose - listen to your body and do stop! 
The Pose 

Stretch your arms out wide and above your head to be a lovely sun!
  • Start Sun pose standing on your mats with your feet hip width apart. 
  • Slowly stretch your arms out to either side with your palms facing upwards. Encourage your child ‘to reach as far as they can go’ or to see if they can ‘touch the walls on either side', they might be surprised how long their arms are!  Hold this position for a few seconds to make the stretch extra effective. 
  • Then take your arms above your head in a wide arc keeping your elbows straight - encourage your child to copy you. Try to do this movement slowly so your child has a chance to really work those upper body muscles i.e. their shoulder, tummy and back muscles. 
  • Gently bring your hands together above your head so your palms are touching, slowly look up at your hands and feel how tall you are! Caution - Don't extend your neck too far back. 
  • To finish, slowly bring your arms back down to your sides and look straight ahead. You have both made a big sun shape with your arms with you head in the middle!
  • If your child is younger they may find it easier to do Sun pose sitting on the floor or back on their heels - see below. As this is a more stable position they will be able to concentrate on the main movement of this pose -  stretching their arms out wide and above their head.

Would you like to make Sun pose harder?
Encourage your child to take a big breath in as they bring their arms above their head and to breathe all the way out as they lower their arms back down.

Why Sun Pose is ‘Good for Me’

Sun pose will give your child a chance to: 
1. Stretch and strengthen their upper body muscles 
Even young children can spend a great deal of time sitting and playing with objects,  toys, (and digital devices) which they hold in front of them. In this playing position they can tend to slump, hunch their shoulders and not work their upper body muscles. 
When your child does Sun pose they will exercise all these upper body muscles i.e. their chest, back, tummy, shoulder and arm muscles whilst giving these muscles  a really good stretch! 

2. Refine their head movements for whiteboard skills 
As your child moves their head in Sun pose they will be stretching and strengthening their neck muscles and refining their postural skills i.e. keeping their body still whilst they move their head. In the class room, your child will use these selective head and neck movements as they look up to the white board and back down to their desk. 

3. Become more aware of their breathing
As your child takes big breaths in Sun pose they will become more aware of their breathing and how it feels to take deeper breaths. When they breathe in and raise their arms above their head your child will be giving their chest muscles an even bigger stretch!  

Love Tatty Bumpkin x

Tatty Bumpkin Sessions 
Tatty Bumpkin sessions provide children with a chance to be active as they learn key skills. All the sessions are directly linked to the 'Early Years Foundation Stage' and the 'Curriculum for Excellence' (Scotland). Find out about sessions running in your area at

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