As humans, we are meant to be physically active throughout the day. But as a society we are training our kids to “sit still” and pay attention. This is not only detrimental to their health and their bodies, but it is taking a toll on their developing brains too.
What does movement do for the brain? Well, I’m glad you asked…
-stimulates new neuron formation and neuron growth
-increases blood flow to the brain (nourishment and oxygen…yes, your brain needs those!)
-acts as a natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety solution (hello serotonin and endorphins!)
-increases retention of new information
-improves white matter integrity
And guess what?! Kids who are physically fit have higher test scores. Read more about brain benefits here.
Movement & homework
After years of homework with girls, I was surprised to find how frustrating homework became when our son started school. Yes, there is definitely a difference between raising boys and girls, but there is also a difference in personalities and learning style among all 3 kids. After struggling to get through homework with my son, we did a little investigating. Turns out sitting at school for 7 hours then coming home to sit at the table was a terrible idea, but I just wanted to get it out of the way! Now we make sure he gets a solid hour to run and play before we even attempt to start homework. Wow! What a difference it made! We also incorporate movement into the homework.
Ideas for winning the evening homework battle:
- Take movement breaks: the duration and quantity will depend on the age, but let your child take a break to run a lap around the house or hop on one leg between math problems
- Brain fatigue? Help your child do a handstand. It’s a great way to flood the brain with nutrients to help you think clearly and concentrate. Have them try it against a wall so they an hold the position! It’s invigorating.
- Kick around a ball while you practice spelling new words out loud
- Use a large white board on the wall to practice math or spelling so they can stand and wiggle, or even better, stand on a cushion to challenge their balance
- Use concrete objects such as an abacus, beads on a string, or blocks to help reinforce math concepts
- Play hopscotch to practice sight words- call out a word and they hop on it
- Make a giant number line with sidewalk chalk and let them practice addition or subtraction by walking the line
- Play Simon Says: For example, practice directions by saying Simon Says point South. Or learn colors and shapes- Simon says pick up an object that is round or Simon Says touch something that is yellow. Get creative!
- Go outside– take a walk around your yard or neighborhood and talk about what you see. Maybe your child is studying insects, birds, the water cycle, plants or seasons…go outside and explore! See if they can make connections between their environment and what they’ve learned in school. They are more likely to retain information if they can make a connection.
Movement at school
A high school near Chicago found that students academic progress increased when students started the day with PE class. Read more on that here. I hope that with evidence like this, more and more teachers will build their daily schedule and lessons around movement. Now, I’d rather not see children acting like caged hamsters with those silly “cycling desks” because there are so many more effective and natural solutions, so let’s get creative!
If you are a teacher, read more about the positive effects of integrating movement into the classroom here. I love the example in this article of acting out a math word problem. Brilliant!
Be a responsible parent
As parents, we need to take ownership of our children’s health. So, put away that tablet…give your child more opportunities to move, grow and learn!
Brains also need rest and good nutrition, but that’s another topic for another day…stay tuned.
p.s. Thank you Arts and Minds for inviting me to your class to capture these photos, thank you Soundoff Colorado for supplying the awesome headphones and thank you Ivivva- Cherry Creek for outfitting the kids!