Get That Body Moving!

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I hope that this latest blog post finds you all healthy and staying sane. My daughter is just starting week two of her remote learning and we are all adjusting with our new “normal”. We have set up our small apartment with three stations for school and work and so far, it’s working. One thing I have noticed being cooped up inside for a majority of our day is how important it is to get up and moving throughout the day. For the first time in my daughter’s school career, the majority of her work is done on a computer which means she is spending hours on end looking at a screen and I am realizing how important it is for her to get up and move around throughout the day. Seeing this firsthand has made me realize even more than I already know just how important body and brain breaks are crucial and have been encouraging my daughter to get up and move around, especially when she seems to be getting frustrated by something.

Look at how much active your child’s brain is after just 20
minutes of physical movement! 

The importance of brain/body breaks can’t be expressed enough. Here are a few of the many benefits of incorporating these breaks into your child’s daily schedule while remote learning is taking place:
*improves cognitive skills as they complete these activities. Be sure to up the challenge for them as they become more successful with them.
*improves focus and attention which helps with the learning process. We must allow time for movement opportunities in order for our children to learn.
*movement has been proven to actually help “turn on” your brain.
*engaging in organized physical movement helps a child with being able to not only focus and attend but also helps with organizing your work.

Brain breaks are easy to build into your child’s day, especially if they are following some kind of schedule. My daughter gets her daily schedule first thing in the morning and then writes it down on her dry erase board. We know when she will have Zoom meetings and know what assignments need to get done and know when it needs to be completed so we work around that and then think about where to add in some brain breaks. Like most things, what kinds of brain breaks work for children are individual. Below, I share some simple and fun brain breaks that you can do at home.

1. Dance Party-my daughter’s go-to brain break is to have a dance party. We have music playing in our apartment all day long. It’s something all of us love and helps us focus and attend. When it’s time for her to get up and move, she is allowed to pick a song or two of her choice, typically Taylor Swift, put the volume up and just dance. If you have more than one child, put together a family dance party playlist that they can shuffle through during these dance parties.

2. Freeze Dance-during all of my remote therapy sessions, I start with a game of Freeze Dance. Sometimes I have them choose a song which is highly motivating to them to get them up and moving and helps them to get their bodies organized before we sit down and do our work in this non-traditional manner. During each of the freeze moments, I add in some kind of body awareness challenge. For example, I will say to them, “The next time the music stops, make your body a small shape.” There are also a ton of really great video options on You Tube that my kids have really enjoyed.

3. Simon Says-this is an easy game to do, even in the smallest of spaces! I like Simon Says because it is always different and you can pick activities that are appropriate for each child. Jump up and down, touch your toes, touch various body parts, do jumping jacks, run in place, and so much more. This is a great activity to get your kids up and moving but also helps with improving body awareness, body strength, motor planning and coordination and improves executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and self-regulation.

4. What’s Your Name Workout-I have been doing these workouts with my kids at the gym and they love it because it is personalized for them which makes it feel more special. I have included both the beginner’s and extreme workout for you to take a look at. Change things up by having your kids spell out other family members or pet’s names. If your kids are struggling with their spelling words, have them practice them by combining it with the these activities.

5. Alphabet Scavenger Hunt-this is also a great way to work on handwriting but the main goal is to get them up and moving around. Give your child a clipboard with a piece of paper with the letters of the alphabet written along the left hand side of the paper. Depending on how much time they have, highlight a certain number of letters and have them walk around their house or apartment and find objects that start with those letters and write them down. If you have siblings, they can compete against each other or work together to complete the scavenger hunt.

6. Play Charades-charades is a fun brain break activity that can be played with a child and a parent, with siblings or as a whole family. It not only gets kids up and moving around, it helps with developing body awareness. You can have kids come up with their own ideas (might be easier for your older children) or come up with a list as a family and throw them in a bowl and pick them out one at a time to act out. Definitely set a timer because it could go on forever and then lead to kids getting super frustrated. For those of you who prefer to have the work done for you, check out some of the great charades games out there: Charades for Kids, Pictures Charades and Kids On Stage.

7. Animal Walk-this is a really fun activity, especially for younger children and can be silly or serious. Come up with a list of animals and talk about how they move before you do this with your child. I am a big fan of using colorful visuals with kids so I encourage finding pictures of a bunch of animals, print them out and turn them over so they can’t see the picture. Decide on how many animal walks you are going to do, pick that number of cards and place them somewhere the child can see them and start moving! Maybe find some fun animal-themed music (In The Jungle is a good one!) and have it playing in the background.

8. Yoga-not only do our kids need to move around, they need opportunities to practice mindfulness. That is more important right now than ever before as so many kids are feeling confused and uncertain about what is going on. Yoga is the perfect activity to combine both of these things and there are so many fun videos out there, especially on You Tube (people swear by Cosmic Kids Yoga). I have been using the Super Duper Publications Yogarilla cards with my kids for years and I love them. I actually just purchased a new set since mine are stuck at work to use in my remote therapy sessions. At this point, I prefer the cards just because I feel like our kids need a break from screen time with this new school format. These cards are my favorite because the cards are large and the illustrations are great. On the back of each card, there are regular and adapted directions for children with different skill sets and other activities that can be done.

9. Balloon Games-since we are spending more time inside, I recommend balloon ball games instead of using a regular ball so you don’t have to worry about something breaking or someone getting hurt. Just blowing up a balloon is a great activity for kids to help with calming them down and getting them to focus and attend. Here are a couple of balloon games you can have your children play or play with your children during these brain breaks.
*Balloon Toss-set up two spots for you and your child to stand on and tap the balloon back and forth to each other as many times as you can. Keep a tally to see how much better you are getting at it!
*Balloon Tennis-instead of using your hands, make a tennis racket out of a paper plate and stick and use that to toss the balloon back and forth to each other.
*Balloon Catch-try and find something at home that you can use to catch a balloon that is tossed at you. For example, a large funnel or a beach bucket.
*Balloon Head Volleyball-Instead of using your hands to tap the balloon back and forth to each other, use your head!

10. Hula Hoop Games-i’m thinking that now that the weather is getting nicer and my daughter needs more opportunities to move that body of hers, it will be time to get a new hula hoop. The most obvious use of a hula hoop is the traditional way but you can take that and make it more challenging for them. Have them try getting it around a certain number of times or a certain length of time. Keep track of how long they can go so they can see their progress. Here are two other ways to use a hula hoop:
*Hula Jump-stand with the hoop vertically in front of your body and then flip it down towards your feet, jump over it and bring it back behind you. See how many times you can go before having to take a break.
*Hoop Rolling-this was actually one of my daughter’s favorite things to do here in Brooklyn. We are lucky enough to have a long sidewalk with not much foot traffic (even less now) where my daughter can see how far she can roll her hula hoop. She really likes to flick it so it comes back to her and one of her favorite things to do was to have contests with me or her dad.

Many of the activities I suggested are ones that can be played inside or in your backyard. Keeping in mind all of my New York City families and their limited space, I tried to suggest things that don’t require a lot of space or equipment. Keep in mind that not only do kids need brain breaks, grownups need them too. I can say that I have been missing my morning routines, especially my commute. I am one of those strange people who loves that 45 minutes of walking, movement, etc. before I walk into the office. When your kids take brain breaks, do it with them! In order to keep healthy and sane, we need to make sure that we are keeping our bodies moving. Do you and your family have brain games that you have begun to incorporate into your daily routines? What are your family favorites? It would be great to hear what other brain games people are playing. I would love to hear from all of you and am only a click away.

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