Exercises: Upper Extremities Infant (Passive)

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Range of motion exercises help keep your baby's joints and muscles loose and easy to move.  An exercise program is planned for each child’s needs. The goal is to keep his or her muscles and joints flexible.  Exercise time can be fun for you and your baby. Turn on some music and make a game of it. You will enjoy it more and so will your baby. You may want to try these exercises after bath time or diaper changes. Exercises should be done several times a day with your baby.

Exercise Tips

  • Always do the exercises with your baby lying on his back.
  • Hold his arm above and below the joint being exercised.  For example, if you are moving his elbow, put one hand above and one hand below his elbow.
  • Move his arm gently.  Wait until your baby is relaxed and then move his arm in the direction you want it to go.  Do not move his arm if you feel resistance.
  • Move the joint slowly.

Do each of these exercises 10 times with your baby’s affected arm. Hold each exercise for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat these exercises several times a day.

Shoulder Flexion 

Shoulder Flexion: (Raising arm above head) Use one hand to hold your baby above his shoulder.  Use your other hand to hold his wrist. Raise his arm so his hand is over his head with his thumb pointing up. Keep his elbow straight.

Shoulder Abduction 

Shoulder Abduction: (Raising arm to side) Use one hand to hold your baby above his shoulder. Use your other hand to hold his wrist. Move his arm to the side away from his body until it is straight out to his side. Palm down.

Shoulder Rotation Elbow Flexion and Extension

Shoulder Rotation: Use one hand to hold your baby’s upper arm steady. Hold his forearm with your other hand. Bend his forearm up then down. His arm should turn at the shoulder and his elbow should remain bent at a 90° angle. This exercise can be done with your child’s elbow next to his side or away from his side.


Elbow Flexion and Extension: (Bending elbow) Hold above your baby’s elbow with one hand and at his wrist with your other hand. Bend his elbow and then straighten the elbow.

Wrist Flexion and Extension 

Forearm: (Palm up, palm down) Hold your baby’s upper arm with one hand and his wrist with your other hand. Turn his forearm and hand up and then down.

Wrist Flexion and Extension 

Wrist Flexion and Extension: (Bending wrist) Hold his forearm with one of your hands and his hand with your hand. Move his hand forward and then move his hand back.

Finger Flexion and Extension 

Finger Flexion and Extension: (Closing and opening hand) Hold his hand at his wrist with one of your hands and his fingers with your other hand. Bend his fingers and then straighten his fingers.

Thumb Abduction and Adduction 

Thumb Abduction and Abduction: (Thumb in and out of palm) Hold your baby’s hand with one of your hands and hold his thumb with your other hand. Move the thumb away from the side of his hand.

Exercises: Upper Extremities Infant (Passive) (PDF)

HH-II-186 5/11 Reviewed 12/17  Copyright 2011, Nationwide Children's Hospital