Movement is very, very important for learning. Why?
Movement nourishes the brain with oxygen. The brain is electrical. To function properly, it needs two things: water and oxygen. Movement increases the intake of breath, which provides fresh oxygen to the brain. Children who move while they learn to retain the information better because the data moves through the electrical currents smoothly.
Movement provides energy. The brain produces endorphins -- a neurochemical that causes excitement and increased energy, which makes the brain more receptive to learn. Simply put, a happy child learns more when excited and inspired.
Movement and rhythm are vital for language development. Exercise stimulates the frontal lobes, which is very important in language development. The key window for development of the frontal lobes--through movement--is between the ages of two and six. When children are allowed to freely move during this time, it affects their lifelong communication skills.
Movement balances the hemispheres. The right hemisphere is connected neurologically to the left side of the body. The left hemisphere is connected neurologically to the right side of the body. When we move both side sides--through crawling, walking, swimming, or any other activity that uses both sides of the body--the hemispheres connect and communicate with each other. They synchronize. They harmonize. This makes for a healthy, whole brain.
Movement makes strong memories. The rate of conscious absorption for children watching a lesson only is about 20%. The rate of conscious absorption for children viewing a lesson while moving is about 80%. Please note: The subconscious absorption is always assumed to be 100%. What is measured here is the "conscious" understanding and use of the material. When a child is moving, the information is recorded in more areas of the brain.
Movement HEALS brain tissue. The brain has a remarkable ability to heal itself. Whether it is the increased oxygen or neurochemicals, brain growth and repair is greatly accelerated when children move. These are not empty words. We have seen children and adults with severe brain injuries heal in percentages great and small by simply adding movement to their learning ritual.
FROM A TWEEDLEWINK TEACHER:
“I worked with a baby who was born prematurely and deprived of oxygen during birth. He couldn’t crawl at 10 months, so his mother and I lovingly exercised his legs and arms and made them move in a cross-pattern crawling movement while he laid on his back. Weeks after doing this routinely 2 or 3 times a day, he was off and moving on his own and his language abilities noticeably improved.”
FROM A MOTHER:
"My daughter had seizures at 8 months of age. I could see that her eyes were glazed over after each episode. I used the cross-pattern exercises--playing patty cake with her--until I could see her eyes grow clear and meet mine in a direct gaze. She is now in elementary school and her seizures are behind her. Her brain activity is considered "normal to gifted." I will always be grateful to know about infant movement exercises. They really changed her life."
GET STARTED NOW!
So, now that you know that movement is important--please be okay with your little one moving around your classroom or home. In fact, move a daily ritual… and include the whole family! Here's what you can do.
For young infants and toddlers (and brain-injured older children), you might need a little help to get started.
CROSS PATTERN - PATTYCAKE
Cross patterning integrates right and left hemispheres, encouraging the hemispheres to work together. To do this exercise, put baby on her back and touch her right hand to her left knee, then her left hand to her right knee, repeat (like “patty-cake”). Older children can stand or march and touch right hand to left shoulder, left hand to right shoulder, then to the hip, then to the knees, etc. A variety of cross-pattern exercises are taught in Paul Dennison’s Brain Gym® for children, teens, and adults.
To develop upper body muscles, have your baby on her tummy as much as possible. Encourage the use of her hands to push herself up and to move forward. You can put toys a little bit out of reach to motivate your child to go forward.
Balance can be strengthened by gently dancing to music with your baby (supporting the neck) or rocking in a rocking chair. We use yoga balls! Children love to roll forward, back, side to side, and in circles. Please make sure that you always support the head and neck when doing any activity.
Crawling is natural for babies, but if your child has missed this or any other steps leading up to walking, then you need to actively go back and have your child crawl again. Glenn Doman, author of “What To Do About Your Brain-Injured Child" teaches that crawling develops key areas in the brain. He believes that physical development is intrinsically linked to mental development. When there is brain damage in a certain area of the brain, he teaches parents to go back to each stage of development in infancy and practice the basic movements that lead up to independent mobility:
(1) lying on tummy, pushing the head up,
(2) rocking on hands and knees,
(3) creeping and
Stroke patients and severely brain-injured children have seen improvements using his method.
For young children, movement is as easy as running, swimming, or taking nature walks together. Yes--together! Moving as a family is good for relationship-building. Need some ideas?
Fly a kite.
Play football or soccer.
Go to the playground.
Take a nature walk.
Jump on a trampoline.
In the end, you do not need to do anything fancy.