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Stretch for Your Best!

This stretching exercise lesson for kids helps them understand what stretches are, why they are important, and how to do them the right way.


3-14 Years Old


30 Min

What You Need

Yoga or other types of mats or a dry, soft, flat area in the grass


Healthy Families Newsletter

English (pdf)

Spanish (pdf)

To find out how this health safety lesson fits Physical Education and Health Education standards click here.

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps children understand that stretching their muscles is a part of a healthy lifestyle at all ages. This activity will teach several easy stretches for kids to do together.


Provide kids with information on the positive benefits and importance of stretching:

  • Stretching is important at any age
  • Stretching:
    • helps move joints through a full range of motion, by keeping ligaments (attach muscle to muscle) and tendons (attach muscle to bone) flexible
    • prevents injury
    • improves athletic performance
    • encourages a healthful lifestyle
    • helps ease sore or tight muscles
    • promotes better posture
    • avoids stiffness and speeds recovery of muscles after running or playing sports
    • encourages blood to circulate to the muscles and joints throughout the body
    • reduces stress

Before the beginning of these stretching exercises for kids, inform participants of the proper way to prepare:

  • The President’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports states, “warmed-up tissues are less likely to be injured.”
  • Stretching before warming up increases the risk for pulled muscles and doesn’t promote increased flexibility, so it’s best to wait until the end of physical activity, or at least warm-up, by walking or jogging and gradually increasing heart rate, for five to 10 minutes before stretching. Warming up helps to deliver more blood to the muscle and helps the muscle become warm and able to stretch easier.
  • Warm-up phase should not cause you to feel tired. Tell the kids to stretch for the feeling of a gentle pull, not a painful feeling. Advise them to stretch after exercising.

Activity: Stretching

On yoga mats or other dry, soft, flat areas, such as in the grass, lead the way in the following easy stretches for kids. Note the parts of the body that each pose stretches.

Toe Touch

A toe touch stretch is a basic stretch for kids, an easy one for most to perform. This stretch targets largely the muscles of the legs, especially the calves and hamstrings. From a standing position, the kids will bend over at the waist and reach for their toes with feet together. If the kids can’t quite reach their toes, they can stretch just as far as is comfortable. From a sitting position, each kid sits with legs outstretched and together. They then bend forward, reaching for the toes or as far as is comfortable. In both stretches for kids, they should hold the stretch for 15 seconds and then release.

Neck Half Circles

This stretch for children starts by touching the right ear to the right shoulder. The kids then roll their heads around, chin to chest, in a half-circle to the left shoulder, and then back again, chin to chest. Slow movements in this stretch for kids are important to protect the neck muscles from injury.

Shoulder Circles

Begin this kids’ stretching exercise by having them shrug their shoulders and rotate them forward and down in a circle. Switch directions after five or six turns by shrugging the shoulders and then moving backward in a circle.

Arm Circles

Arm circles can be used to stretch the muscles supporting the elbow and shoulder joint where the arm attaches to the shoulder. The child holds their arms out to the side, creating a horizontal line with their arms. The child then draws circles with their hands, starting with small circles and slowly growing to large circles, then back to smaller circles. Start first by drawing circles clockwise, and then switch to counter-clockwise. Keep the movements slow, and prevent the child from just flailing his arms around.

Side Bends

Have each child stand up straight with arms to the outside of each thigh. Slowly move the fingers down toward the outside of one knee, while bending at the waist. Alternate sides, do 10 side bends on each side.

Reach for the Stars

Just like the title of this stretch for kids, have the kids reach up as high as they can while standing on their tiptoes. This stretch can even be done while lying down on a mat. The goal is to reach their hands and feet away from each other.

Child’s Pose

The child’s pose is a stretch for kids, taken from yoga. It can be used outside of yoga as part of your child’s stretching routine for more of a full-body stretch. To perform the child’s pose, the child gets on their knees with feet together. The child then sits on their heels and bends their body forward until the forehead touches the ground. Bring the arms around to each side of the body, resting with their palms facing towards the sky. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then return back to an upright kneeling position.


After these stretching exercises for kids, ask them to recall the reasons for stretching offered in the Lesson Introduction above. Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue stretching together at home. Find more health lessons for kids from Health Powered Kids to help children and families live their happiest and healthiest lives.

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