Reaching and Hip Stretch Exercises for Babies with Down Syndrome

Gross Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome book cover

Featured Exercises for Children Born with Down Syndrome in the Birth to Walking Stage:

  1. Back-Lying in Your Lap
  2. Back-Lying and Reaching Upward without Support (below)
  3. Hip Stretch (below)
  4. Supported Kneeling at a Sofa Cushion
*Before trying these exercises, please consult your physical therapist and doctor. 

We recommend reading the goals and ideal timing for motor skill development in babies and children with Down syndrome if you haven't already.

Why do these exercises? Learn your child's possible tendencies and the goals of the movements here.

Activity: Back-Lying and Reaching Upward

Baby with Down Syndrome Reaching for Toy
  1. Place your baby on the floor with her head looking straight ahead, not turned to either side.
  2. Position yourself sitting on your heels in front of her.
  3. Place a large toy on her chest and have her reach and touch it with bone or both hands.
  4. If her legs are very active, support them to calm them down and then she will be better able to reach.
  5. When she is able to consistently reach to her chest to play with the toy, hold it slightly above her chest so she needs to reach higher.
  6. Watch her legs and support them if she holds them apart.

Activity: Hip Stretch

Hip Exercise for Baby with Down Syndrome
  1. Bend your baby's hips and knees to 90 degrees and hold the back of her thighs with the palms of your hands. Mover her thighs gently toward neutral rotation (knees pointing up to celing) and if you feel resistance, stop there and wait for her legs to relax. When she relaxes, move her thighs more until 5-10 degrees of internal rotation (knees turned slightly inward toward each other).
  2. Talk to her and maintain the stretch for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Practive 2-3 times a day and you will feel less stiffness each day.
  4. When she can independently move her hips to neutral rotation and adduction (knees pointing up to the ceiling and knees together) then you can stop this exercise.

Next try Supported Kneeling at a Sofa Cushion.

This content has been excerpted from Gross Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, 2nd edition, by Patricia C. Winders, PT.

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