Improving Trunk Control During Child Development

babies-644263_1280In terms of physical development, the trunk is the king of the body. In order to maintain a certain position or to move properly, we must be able to control our trunk. Trunk control also determines how well we hold our head up and how well we move our hands, arms and legs. Since every single system (digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, etc.) is present in the trunk, it is also the mechanism through which we get nutrients to the rest of the body.


During child development, when a baby begins to flip from their belly onto their back and roll from side to side, they are unknowingly stimulating their trunk and developing control. This is why going through the stages of development is so important for every infant. All of a baby’s developmental milestones should occur in order. For example, if your infant can’t roll properly yet, then their trunk is not ready to transfer to a more vertical position like sitting upright. The same is true for going from sitting to kneeling. This requires much control of the trunk, head, and limbs. In order for your child to move on to standing, which is a highly functional position, it will require a huge amount of balance since they need to stand on a narrow base of support (their feet). Each stage of development prepares a child for the next one.


A good way to help improve trunk control is by working with your baby on the floor. Guiding them through rolling and crawling on the ground before they’re ready to move into a more upright position is a great way to start. It’s important that there’s no fear of falling down and that your baby feels comfortable and safe.


Another thing to note when helping your baby improve trunk control is that there should be no exercises, only functions. Exercise means you are repeatedly asking your child to roll over and over again without any goal in mind. Rather, it would be better to show them a clear purpose for why they need to roll. For example, guiding your baby to roll to the table, to the bath or to their favorite toy are forms of complete function. By guiding your child this way, they will be encouraged to be more independent in their daily routine and it will help improve their trunk control drastically!


A photo of Tarek, diagnosed with CP, gaining trunk control at the LIFE program!

Please remember that every child is different, and so the rate at which they develop good trunk control will vary. For children who are born prematurely or are developmentally delayed, it may take longer. Your child is capable of things no one can predict, so try to remain positive and focus more on building your child up in their current developmental stage rather than on how fast they reach their milestones.


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About the author

Natan Gendelman has written 135 articles for Enabled Kids.

Natan Gendelman is licensed as a physical therapist in Russia and Israel. After moving to Canada, he was certified as a kinesiologist and osteopathy manual practitioner. Natan has more than 20 years of experience providing rehabilitation and treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, pediatric stroke and acquired brain injury. He is the founder and director of Health in Motion Rehabilitation, a Toronto-based clinic whose main objective is to teach their patients the independence necessary for success in their daily lives.

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