High Knees Exercise High knees are a great warm-up exercise, they can be used as a cardio burst between resistance training exercises or as part of a high-intensity interval training workout. What are the benefits of high knees? High Knees help to build the correct running technique while also building the strength of hip muscles and shortening leg leavers (making them move faster). High Knees are an excellent full-body movement to increase your heart rate and warm the muscles in both your upper and lower body.  Before you start While you do not need any special equipment to perform high knees, we find using hurdles makes the exercise more interesting and engaging. You can use running hurdles or even a pool noodle cut in half lengthwise and laid flat side down. To set up, lay the hurdles out in a straight line with just under a metre or a two-foot distance between them.   Getting started with High Knees:   Start by practicing lifting your knees high over the hurdles a few times in a row at walking speed. Keep your hips and tummy button pointing forward when lifting your knees up to step over the hurdle.  Tip: By placing your hands on your hips and keeping your elbows pointing to the side, can help to remind you not to twist your hips and tummy. When you are happy to advance to running. Start with knees soft and feet slightly apart, bend your elbows so that your hands are resting at hip level and your hands are pointing forward. Run over each hurdle changing legs each time. Start off slow, working on quality (how well you run over the hurdles) before trying to go faster. A great starting point is running 10 laps in a row.  You can make the High Knees exercise more challenging by using higher hurdles (beginner hurdles are 15 cm height, advanced is 30 cm in height). You can also increase your knee height, your lap pace, your exercise time length, or the number of laps to increase the impact and intensity.  To find more exercises to help improve your child’s running ability check out our Running Skills for Children book Or if you really want to improve your child’s running, sign up for our six-module running program.   


Running is not easy for all kids. Some find it “tiring” or “feel clumsy” when running. But like all things, when we become better at something we begin to enjoy it more. To improve your child’s enjoyment of running, here are some tips to help them improve their running form.

  •  Keep a tall running posture 

It’s important to maintain a tall posture, with their head held high and eyes looking forward. Have them lean forward through their body (but not bending forward at the hips). While running they should aim to keep their head and trunk still, with no side to side or twisting movement in their arms and legs. Have them try to limit their bouncing which will enable them to maintain an efficient running style for longer.  

  • Use your arms 

When running your arms provide you with rhythm, power and balance. When your child runs you want them to keep their elbows bent, with their arms moving backward and forward with their hands gliding past their hips. They should look to keep their shoulders relaxed throughout their running motion and avoid having their hands crossing their body at any point in the stride. 

  • Run heel to toe

To minimise injury we recommend a running style that lands on the ground with the heel, followed by a push off with the toes and the ball of the feet. This will change for sprinting as we tend to land and push off through the ball of the feet. To encourage heel land, shoes that have a good heel cushion are beneficial to help absorb the load of impact. 

Once your child has developed some good running form, it should be easier to begin to build their muscle strength, balance, coordination, breathing fitness (cardiovascular fitness), and power (strength with speed).

To find more starting exercises to safely improve your child’s running ability check out our Running Skills for Children book

Or if you really want to improve your child’s running, find out more about our six-module running program



Building balance is a significant component of child development and relies heavily on the growing internal balance centers (proprioception and vestibular center). Children need to learn to balance before they can progress to higher level gross motor skills like going up and down stairs, skipping or hopping. Having good balance is also important for building running strength as it prepares the leg in flight for landing, therefore enabling a better take-off again for the next step. 

Here are some walking balance exercises to build up your child’s movement balance. To support these exercises you can use anything from a fallen log, a balance beam, a wooden plank, a concrete edge at a playground, a skipping rope laid out, or chalk line drawn on the ground. With all balancing exercises, you want your child to be challenged to the point of almost falling to make the most improvements. 

Start by having your child practice walking forward along the line with a space between each foot. As their confidence and balance grow, begin to reduce the space between each placed heel and toe. 

Once mastered, try these additional exercises to progress and challenge their internal balance centers: 

  • Have your child turn their head slowly from side to side as they walk the line
  • Introduce catching a ball whilst they balance walk
  • Have them try walking along the line backward
  • Try placing toys or other objects like bean bags at a few points along the line. Have your child either reach down to pick them up or jump over them
  • Move super slow, imaging they are on the moon with no gravity


To find more exercises to help improve your child’s balance and running ability check out our Running Skills for Children book

Or if you really want to improve your child’s running, sign up for our six-module running program


With winter sports well underway, it is important to remember children do get injuries that we can help prevent. ACC has been instrumental in leading the change with their ACC SportSmart program development. In collaboration with Netball NZ, Rugby NZ, Touch NZ, Football NZ and League NZ they each developed specific frameworks with focuses on warm-up, training and conditioning, and wellbeing resources that can be found through the following organizations.

Hopefully, as parent coaches, you are implementing these in your training and warm-up sessions. If you are watching from the sideline and are not sure if your child coach is aware of these you can help spread the word or start some of these exercises with your child at home. Although most of these frameworks are developed for the 10 + age group but the knowledge and exercises can be easily adapted for the younger children. For example; lunge exercises. They may not be able to lunge low but they can start to learn the exercise, build strength and challenges their balance.

Check out links for these specific programs;







Advice on sport for school-age children

For younger children, they have collaborated with researchers to define key recommendations to protect their growing bodies from injury (growing number of serious injuries such as ACL tears), prevent burnout from sport and continue to develop a passion for healthy cultures with exercise and sport.

Key recommendations

  • Participate in a number of different sports (codes)
  • Avoid specialisation in one sport till the child is at least 10 to 12 years
  • Hours of training and games per week should be less than the child’s age
  • Kids should have twice as long free play time (e.g. kicking a footy with friends in the backyard) as they have in structured play (training and game of footy).
  • 4 months off training each year for each single sport
  • Fun and friendship is the primary goal for kids and teens in sport


Remember the key for children in sport is FUN, FUN, FUN. We want to encourage a lifelong love of sports and fitness.  


As a parent, we are striving to provide and support our children so they can flourish. Although we are considering how we are influencing their day-to-day, we are also looking further into the future. How can we help and prepare them for adulthood? This is even more challenging if your child has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. There are so many other elements to their care that you need to consider and make choices about. Treatments or Therapy is one of them and trying to navigate this area can be a minefield.

Iona Novak, Cathy Morgan, Michael Fahey, and their incredible team have produced a guide through their extensive systematic review. If you are not familiar with them, they are leading experts within the field of Cerebral palsy (across the world).  They have done the hard work for us, scouring the literature to determine what evidence supports specific interventions and developed a novel traffic light system to make it clearer. Treatments or interventions are clearly grouped into “Do it” (green), “Probably do it” (Yellow) with a clear cut-off with a “worth it line”. This line highlights that areas below this line are lacking in evidence, or if in red are likely to cause harm. The total opposite of what you are trying to achieve as a parent and clinician.

Evidence for prevention and treatment of CP from Novak et al (2020)
Novak, I., Morgan, C., Fahey, M. et al. State of the Evidence Traffic Lights 2019: Systematic Review of Interventions for Preventing and Treating Children with Cerebral Palsy. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 20, 3 (2020).

It is great to see that therapy options offered at Auckland Children’s Therapy (Motor and Early Intervention)  are in the “Do it” or  “Probably do it” which supports its effectiveness in helping children with CP. If you would like to know more about any of the interventions mentioned above, we are happy to discuss these and see if these are interventions you can add to your child’s therapy program.



Reference: Novak, I., Morgan, C., Fahey, M. et al. State of the Evidence Traffic Lights 2019: Systematic Review of Interventions for Preventing and Treating Children with Cerebral Palsy. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 20, 3 (2020).


It is likely that you have tried turning their head to the other side when they are asleep.  You have tried more tummy time. You have placed the toys on their non- favorite side but back their head goes. Although these are fantastic starting points to help with torticollis or head-turning preference, they are often not enough. If you are getting head shape changes then this just makes it even harder for your baby to turn their heads as often they have a lump or ridge that they have to get over.  At Auckland Children’s Physio this is something that parents are reaching out for us to help with. Starting early to address this means fewer appointments and faster results. The best results we have seen this past year had have been from the babies who are 6 weeks old at the time of their assessment. They have only needed 2- 3 sessions and they are able to turn their heads equally and easily from side to side and can be discharged. We want this for all babies as we don’t want it to drag on and affect how they use their hands, their rolling but also the associate visual and face changes we see in the more severe cases.


Is your child anxious about standing? or walking with their leg turned after their fractured leg has healed? These exercises will help. 

Some young children need a little helping hand to start walking after they get the “all clear” from the doctors. It doesn’t need to take a few weeks of them struggling to walk or need you to continue to carry them around. Unfortunately, not all children are able to be seen by a hospital children’s Physio when their cast has been removed but not to worry.  I have put together a FREE booklet of exercises that you can start with your child to help speed up their progress. Try these exercises if you find they are walking with their foot turned out, finding it hard to bend their knee, or walking like they have a ‘peg leg’. Download a copy here or email us at to get your free copy.

Download FREE booklet here: Lets get playing again!




Baby development

Hands to feet play is an important developmental milestone that we should encourage. Babies learn to move by layering each new skill on top of each other. They also use skills learnt in one position to help develop their abilities in another position. Hands to feet play will develop skills that will be useful when they learn to crawl, sit and in early walking. Most babies will learn to reach their knees by four months and by six months be busy exploring of their toes and feet.  This might even include putting their toes in their mouth!


Our practice philosophy is to promote strength and development through play and exercise. We provide a holistic and comprehensive approach that is backed by clinical experience. We can create a tailored individual program to be implemented at home, childcare or school to help meet your child and family’s goals.

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