Okay, so regular readers won't be surprised to hear from me that the next learning tip is to get the kids up and moving! Many parents are surprised by this one for some reason. There are a couple of reasons why movement is beneficial to learning:
- When we exercise, the body releases endorphins which are natural chemicals that help relieve stress and make us feel good.
- Exercise increases blood flow to the brain which in turn helps with cognition.
- Physical exercise prompts new brain cells to multiply, strengthens their connections and protects them from harm.
I can't stress enough how helpful getting our kids up and moving can help them do better at school and learning activities. Why then do so many schools limit recess!! This is one of my major complaints about the school system. Of course as a public school employee myself, I understand why physical education and recess end up so low on the totem pole (thank you very much no child left behind). Despite this, however, we need to advocate for our children to ensure that they have regular periods of physical activity throughout the day.
Okay, I'll get off my soap box on this one as I feel that I may be preaching to the choir here (yes, that is a compliment to all of you my well informed and knowledgeable readers!). So, how can you make movement work for your kid? Here are some tips:
- Try to get them outside or involved in some sort of physical activity at least twice a day, e.g., once in the morning, once in the afternoon/evening. I know this can be hard to do during the winter months, so take advantage of those play areas at the mall. Or, many gymnastics studios offer an open gym period where for a small fee your child can run, jump and work all those wiggles out for an hour.
- Get them moving before periods where they are going to need to concentrate, e.g., get them out running around the yard or riding their bikes for fifteen minutes or so before they sit down to do their homework.
- Incorporate some movement before your wind down process in the evening, e.g., get them out doing something physical for as long as possible after dinner. It's amazing what fresh air does for their ability to sleep well ;)
- If you are trying to do a sit down activity such as reading a book and they have the wiggles, get them marching, crawling, jumping, rolling for ten minutes or so. It is a great way to work those wiggles out and enhance their ability to concentrate.
- There are even some who believe that physical activity can help hyperactivity. You can read more about that here.
We regularly use physical movement with the kids in the classroom. If it is too cold to go out, we take them down to the gym. In particular, we try to get them moving before any circle time activities. It is amazing how much easier it is to maintain their attention and focus after running in the gym!
If you are looking for some good resources on the benefits of movement and learning, check out Smart Moves and Brain Gym. They are both excellent resources! What about you? Do your kids get regular physical activity? Have you noticed an improvement in their concentration, focus and mood after getting some exercise? Post your thoughts and observations!