Monday, January 25, 2010

Left, Right, Left

It has been about two weeks since my last post. Unfortunately, I have apinched nerve in my neck and had to tajke some time off from tje computer and just about everything erlse. You can tell by my typos, I am only using my left hand to type at the moment.

What this experience has taught me, is how much I utilize my right hand and arm. From brushingf my teeth, to opening a door, to brushing my hair I am a true righty. When I teach, I encourage the children to use both sidfes of their bodies equally. Did you know that when you use the right side of the body, the left side of the brain is activated and vice versa. So, having a balanced body is important for mastering all sorts of physical skills as well as brain power!

I will go further into this concept in a future post, for my left arm/right brain is in over dtrive at the moment.

Here are some fun activities to try with children to challenge our one arm/one side tendencies.

Right/Left Challenge

• Hold a scarf with your right arm and make big circles, making sure to cross the middle of you body. Try it high over you head and low on the ground as well. Then switch arms and have the left arm perform big beautiful circles.  Finally, with a scarf in both hands do this activity one more time.  I call this "making rainbows."

• When teaching, we usually start everything to the right first. Do everything to the left first. Notice if this is harder for you or the kids!

HIGH FIVE - left hand, right hand then both hands after various activities throughout the day.

Simply activities - but not so simple. Learning, activating the brain and the body IS as simple as becoming aware and finding new was of exploring the body but performing the tasks takes practice, patience and a good sense of humor!

Keep moving up down and all around to the right and left!



Friday, January 8, 2010

Movement ABC's and 123's for Toddlers and Preschoolers

It was so exciting when my daughter took her first steps. When she let go of my hands and teetered away. As she got older I wanted to help her discover more about her body, facilitate body awareness and help her with her gross motor skills. But how was I going to do this?  The answer I discovered was simpler then you might think. 

I moved with her!

As your child masters different skills like rolling, crawling and walking it is important to “review these skills.” It might seem silly at first to get on the floor with your child and roll with her. You might think that she already knows how to do this but movement is a layered experience, which means we relearn the same concepts over and over and each time we relearn it we get better at it. Crawling is a contralateral movement and so is walking.  (Contralateral movement is when the right arm and left leg are moving simultaneously and vice versa. So mastering crawling will help a child master walking, running, leaping, etc.)

Cool isn’t it?

Another example is when my daughter as a baby rocked on her hands and knees before crawling. She was practicing pushing from her feet, the same concept that she re-explored when she learned to walk and jump.

Why move with your child?

Well, first it is great bonding time. You are performing an activity together and communicating non-verbally. You get to experience what your child just discovered and believe it or not rolling, creeping and crawling is good for you too! We never stop relearning skills! And lastly, if you start moving with your child at a young age, you are setting up great habits that will last. Exercise/moving will always be a special time together.

Here are some essential skills for the both of you to review and rediscover:
  • Rocking on hands and knees
  • Rolling
  • Crawling
  • Finding new ways of pushing and pulling yourself around the floor on your belly and back

And for my teachers reading this blog, I have done this in preschool classrooms as well to squeals and delight!

Think of it in terms of mathematics.

You can’t learn to divide or multiply before you add and subtract.  The same thing is true for the body.

My daughter and I had some of our best giggles rolling on the floor together.  Let me know what you and your children re-discover together! 

Keep moving up down and all around!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ready, Set, Don't Move!

I am sure we have all said to a child at some point in our life, “Stop moving” or “don’t move.” And I am equally certain that a majority of the requests were met with more wiggling. What does it mean to actually not move, what skills are you asking a child to use by being still?

The first thing is to change the understanding of not moving. When a person does not move or otherwise “freezes” he or she is using a great amount of muscle and brain power. I tell my students that they are in charge of their bodies. Their brain has the power to tell their bodies what to do, and there muscles have the ability to make this happen. Instead of not doing, I ask them to do. Do something amazing while you stop moving, have superpower control over your body. Connect your mind and body together to “freeze” and become as still as a statue. The other thing I confide in them is that this is a very difficult task. When you stop moving, gravity wants to take over. Your muscles have to fight gravity in order to keep still. This means your muscles are working just as hard as if you were doing jumping jacks or push-ups.

Next, I ask them to become aware of how there body FEELS. I ask my students to put their hands above their heads and then not to move. I cue them with “you are in charge of your body,” “your brain tells your body what to do” and then we wait. I compliment them on how hard their bodies and minds are working to keep their body still. Then I ask “how do your arms feel?” Their arms will feel tired, and might even feel sore from working so hard. I tell them the muscles in their arms are fighting gravity; gravity wants to pull them down. The longer their arm muscles resist gravity, the stronger they become!

They are basically doing isometric exercises.

Then I ask them “what is the muscles job?” This is an important question because if you ask a child not to move, then the child needs to know HOW not to move. This is the job of the muscles. I ask them to tap on their upper arm or bicep muscle and then I direct them to bend their arm at the elbow a few times. The muscle made the arm move by contracting and lengthening. Muscles are in charge of moving bones or keeping bones still. The more we activate our muscles the stronger they get!

One more fun activity I do with my students is I ask them to stand very still on one foot. At first kids get very silly and fall down a lot. They might even say that they have a hard time balancing. Then I give the control over to the students. I tell them “you are in charge of your body. If you feel you are falling tell your brain to tell your body to put your foot down.” The result is amazing. Not only do the kids balance longer but they quietly put their foot down if they are falling and try again. Permission and personal control are powerful things.

With little control children have in their lives, the power of controlling their bodies is a very important one. And instead of telling a child “don’t move,” give them permission to use all the muscles in their body at once. This can become empowering, fun and can help them develop important body skills. So, the next time you say “don’t move” explain to the children in your life how hard this actually is, how much brain and muscle power this takes, and how much they are doing by not doing. They’ll want to impress you with their amazing not moving abilities!

This activity works on muscle control, balance and body awareness.

Keep moving (or not moving) up down and all around together!