More and more research is showing that neurological and motor development are intrinsically linked. Our neurological systems are developed first and foremost by and through movement. Early stereo-typed movements made by all infants lay the foundation for and are instrumental in creating and strengthening pathways to higher brain centers.
Bringing movement into our classrooms can not only benefit children’s cognitive skills, but can serve as a foundation to learn and integrate social/emotional, psychological and physical skills.
Cognitive Benefits of Movement:
Children are moving creatures. Movement is their first language. They learn experientially. Movement and music make learning easy and natural. Adding movement gives children a tangible reference point, promotes sensory integration, and aids in sequencing and recall.
Movement improves connections in the brain, it helps increase oxygen and blood circulation which in turn elevates mood and cognitive function.
Tip: Prior to a quiz or test, lead your students in a brisk, 10-minute walk around the perimeter of the classroom. It will help activate thinking skills, reduce anxiety and the stress hormone, cortisol.
Social/Emotional Benefits of Movement:
Movement rituals provide a consistent familiar framework for children to develop social and emotional security. Participating in such activities helps children learn to understand and practice age-appropriate social norms, raises self-esteem and aids in developing communication skills.
Tip: Incorporate at least one consistent movement ritual every day. Beginning and ending the day with a simple movement exercise that students execute as a group can help create community, respect and empathy. A good-morning song and dance that include hand-claps, foot stomps and moving as a group is a fun and inclusive way start the day.
Psychological Benefits of Movement:
Movement can elicit chemical changes in the brain that can help both invigorate and calm a person. Use movement instead of words. It is much more effective in eliciting permanent change than any lecture to or talk with a child.
Movement activates Dopamine, Serotonin and Norepinephrine, chemicals in the brain that reduce stress and help elevate moods. Mindful movement aid in lowering the stress hormone, cortisol.
Tip: Incorporate simple mindful movement sessions into your week. 5-minute meditation, stretch and breathing breaks rejuvenate and re-center children.
Physical Benefits of Movement:
The physical benefits of movement have been recognized for years. As our lifestyles have changed, we are moving less and less. Physical movement helps circulation, blood flow, muscular structure, helps increase balance, coordination and concentration and helps keep us at a healthy weight.
Incorporating specific movements can aid in working on postural reflexes that are under-developed and not providing the necessary foundation for academic success.
Tip: Incorporate exercise breaks throughout the school-day – jumping jacks, hopping, marching and skipping.
All learning is based on physical skills – let’s start helping our children develop those skills! Especially in today’s climate, children have limited movement opportunities and spend too much time on computer screens. As their movement opportunities diminish, our kids will, no doubt, experience an increase in learning challenges, emotional instability, behavioral issues and disinterest in physical movement.
Let’s take this opportunity to think about a new school-house. A school-house build on a strong foundation that provides for and addresses the manner in which children naturally learn. Why do we continue to force children to learn in a manner that is virtually antithetical to the way their brains and bodies are designed?
We need a change. Our children need a change. Movement is the answer. Movement is the ultimate essence of change.