At-home learning tips from a teacher: Let’s get moving!
In my experience as a classroom teacher, movement breaks throughout the day were vital in keeping children engaged and preparing them to learn. In fact, my class always started the day with morning exercises. This included everything from stretches to breathing activities to jumping jacks. As the children became more comfortable with this routine, I would choose a volunteer to lead morning exercises, which was a great incentive to the students. We talked about how it can be hard to sit and focus for long periods of time, and that morning exercises were getting our bodies ready to learn. Moving our bodies helps us increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, helping us think clearly.
We can move!
One of my favorite movement break activities that kids can be involved in is the “WE CAN.” To create a WE CAN, save an aluminum can from your household and peel off the label. Then fill it with popsicle sticks or even pieces of cut paper that read “We can ____." Along with your child, brainstorm different movements that you can do, such as march, ballet, tap dance, arm circles, tree pose, and so on. When a popsicle stick is pulled from the WE CAN, read it out loud and complete the movement it says. For example, “We can...do jumping jacks!” Movements can be added all the time as you and your child brainstorm new ones. If your child suggests a movement and you are not sure what that would look like, ask them to demonstrate. I had a preschooler that asked for a “Thriller dance” movement, which he was able to demonstrate, and it became a class favorite.
We all need breaks
Other movement breaks I enjoy include simple yoga poses, breathing exercises and movement games. Follow the Leader is a popular movement game in which one person demonstrates a movement, and the next person copies that movement and adds their own. This can continue until there are so many movements that it becomes challenging to remember them in order.
When you feel the need to fidget
Dots and squeezies. If your child is sitting for an extended period of time, teach them that they can do some movements to help their body when it feels wiggly. An exercise I often demonstrate before reading a story is “dots and squeezies.” Dots are done by taking the thumb of one hand and pressing it into the palm of the other hand in various spots. Squeezies are done by taking one hand and gently squeezing all the way up your arm to your shoulder. These can be done silently on your own body while still listening to a teacher or caregiver.
Did you know?
Crossing the midline (an imaginary, vertical line down the center of your body) is important to the development of using both sides of the body together. This is a skill that children develop over time. Midline crossing is used during activities like putting on shoes and socks, writing and cutting. Doing activities to promote midline crossing will help with the coordination and communication of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. One simple activity to promote this skill can be done while standing. With your right hand, tap your left knee while lifting your knee slightly into the air as if you are marching. Then, switch sides. I called these “step-taps” in the classroom.
To learn more about midline crossing, check out this blog post by Tracey le Roux, titled "Crossing The Midline.”
What else would you like to hear more about from the classroom? How did these activities work for you? I look forward to your comments!