Get your child moving to improve learning!

Realize that kids need to move! 

During my first year of teaching elementary school, my colleagues forewarned me that the day after Halloween would be the most active school day for students and the most difficult day to teach. Arriving to work that Nov. 1, I learned that my fellow teachers were absolutely correct. I even wanted to check the class's ant farm to see if there were any escapees!

That day, I realized that I could use this excess energy for learning rather than letting it work against me. I quickly thought of several ways that we could incorporate movement into learning. While other teachers were battling the sugar wars, my students and I were learning and loving it. It turned out to be one of the most effective days of our entire school year.

Thanks to advances in research on how the brain works, we now know that most of the brain is activated during physical activity. From some of this research, I learned that too much sitting is detrimental to learning. Eric Jensen, author of a number of books on brain-based learning, and Rae Pica, author of More Movement, Smarter Kids say it best, "Sitting for more than 10 minutes at a stretch reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue resulting in reduced concentration. Movement, on the other hand, increases blood vessels that allow for the delivery of oxygen, water, and glucose to the brain. This can't help but optimize the brain's performance!"

Whenever your child has "ants in his pants" or just needs a break from sitting when completing schoolwork and homework, try the "Get Moving Approach" and implement one of the following activities:
  • Take a break and do jumping jacks, toe touches, or sit-ups.
  • Snap and clap letters to spelling words.
  • Jump on a mini-trampoline while practicing math facts and spelling words.
  • Ride a stationary bike, rock in a rocking chair, or swing in a porch swing while reading aloud.
  • Dance, sing, or act out letters for spelling words.
  • Roll a ball back and forth to each other or have your child bounce a ball as he spells words or practices math facts.
  • Assign a simple task to keep your child focused when you read aloud. Have him raise his hand or touch his nose when he hears a certain word.
  • Stand up to complete work. He can even take turns standing on one leg. This is helpful if your child has been sitting for long periods of time, especially after a school day.
Here are a couple of Rae Pica's books if you'd like some additional ideas.

If you are interested in more information on taking "Brain Breaks," watch this Mom Squad segment for more tips.