How to select the right exercises to help your child with low muscle tone and joint hypermobility

All children can improve their motor skills

Author  Pam Versfeld MSc Phyisotherapy    Updated May 2024

All children, no matter what the underlying condition is, have the capacity for learning new skills and improving their ability to perform everyday activities. 

All it takes is regular opportunities to practice the task and the right sort of help and guidance.

This is especially true for children with movement and attention difficulties, including autism. a very cautious nature, DCD,  dyspraxia, sensory processing disorder, joint hypermobility, Down syndrome, low muscle tone, and cerebral palsy,

Step 1: Where do I start?


The challenge is to put aside 15 minutes a day for for goal focused, fitness, coordination and attention training. 

Why 15 minutes a day? Because most families can manage to find a small slot of time in their busy day and just 15 minutes of focused training is enough time to make a real difference. 

15 minutes of intensive exercise is enough to improve general fitness, strength and flexibility: fit children do better academically, have more stamina for the school day and are more confident.  Read more

Step 2: Identify what is most important 

Most children with a developmental movement condition experience a range of difficulties in many aspects of their daily function and participation in family, school, play ground and sporting activities. The long list of things a child needs to learn can be overwhelming: where does one start?  

Fortunately with most children there are just a few that that stand out as being of particular concern.  These are the ones you need to tackle first, the one's your child will be motivated to work at, the one's that are going to make the most difference. 

A good place to start is by identifying your child's strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of all the activities that form part of your child's daily routine.  Mark the activities that your child can do well with a large tick and those that need improvement with a small circle. Now you are ready to select the ones you would like to work on. 

The interesting thing about making a list of strengths and weaknesses helps parents to gain some perspective: all the things that can be done well probably far outnumber those that are causing difficulties. 
This allows you as parent to devise a plan of action from a position of strength – and perhaps look for ways to draw on those strengths to help in other areas. 

Step 3: Identify your child's strengths and weaknesses

Sit down with your child and make a list of all the actions and tasks that form part of the child's day. Write down everything that happens between getting up in the morning and going to bed at night.   (Look here for a basic daily routines list to help you do this.)
Now put a big tick next to all the things that are done well and easily.
Put a little tick next to the things that can be improved or be done a little better, or faster or with less help. 
And lastly mark the things that are really hard and causing big problems  and perhaps need some serious work. 
The interesting thing is that you have already improved matters a great deal, because your list will have highlighted all the things that can be done well and these probably far outnumber those that are causing difficulties. 
Now you can start your plan of action from a position of strength – and perhaps look for ways to draw on those strengths to help in other areas. 

Step 4: Choose what to work on 

Now you are ready to choose one or two tasks or activities that  you and your child would like to work on and improve. 

Think about why your child is having difficulties with each task. What can be changed to make it easier for your child to accomplish the task? Can the task be adapted?  Will a some extra skills training with guided practice or fitness training be helpful?

Step 5: Decide when and where 

Lastly decide when and how: You need to think about whether you want to incorporate the training into your daily routine or want to put aside some time in the day to work on the activity. 

Everyday family life  provides multiple opportunities for tweaking and improving basic skills. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Getting dressed in the morning - especially over the weekend when there is a little more time
  • Preparing and eating breakfast 
  • Getting ready to leave the house for school
  • Helping to prepare supper 
  • A walk in the park or around the block, a trip to the shop, 
  • Playing games indoors or out of doors 

When a child faces challenges in many daily activities, it is important to select just a few to work on at any time. 

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