Brain-building activities for better emotional regulation
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One of my favorite Disney characters growing up was Baloo the Bear from the Jungle Book. My brother and I would walk around singing “Look for the Bear Necessities” at the top of our lungs and when we were bored, we’d quote the vultures saying, “I dunno, what do you want to do?” Funny enough, when I recently watched the movie again, I started chuckling to myself as little Mowgli began mimicking Baloo’s bear walk with his hands and legs as he tried so hard to be like his furry friend. Leave it to me to think to myself, “Wow, that exercise is helping his brain! It really is a bear necessity!” Ok, bad joke.
But truthfully, what Mowgli and Baloo did not realize was how great that type of movement and exercise was for brain building and for developing gross motor skills to help attention and focus. That’s when the idea suddenly hit me. Why not share some great animal exercises parents can do at home with their kids to improve their balance and coordination skills for better learning in the classroom? We do yoga and cross fit ourselves at the gym, right, so why can’t our kids get the same benefits, but with a little pizazz?
Before we get started, let’s talk about why these exercises are important and how it will make a difference when your child is in school.
Animal Poses – Brain Benefits
Any type of exercise is great for the brain, but because cognitive development relates to speech, language, problem solving, reading and writing, the animal poses target special areas to help organize the brain and the body for learning these concepts with their teacher and at home. It is also great for physical literacy and executive functioning within the brain.
Have you ever gone to the gym to run out your frustration on the treadmill after a hard day at work, or maybe took a boxing class to get out some pent up anger? If you have, you know how much physical activity can release some of that pent up frustration and energy you may experience after a hard day. Your child’s emotional state is no different. If they experience anxiety, anger, attention issues or sensory sensitivity to tags, loud noises and bright light, these types of exercises can calm those symptoms. This is especially important when it comes time for test taking.
Gross and Fine Motor
Learning to control your physical movement as well as strengthening your core develops a child’s gross motor skills. What does physical activity have to do with learning? As children learn to control the movements of their arms, legs and torso, they eventually learn how to control what happens in the classroom. They can sit still in their chair, they can process the instructions the teacher gave them, and they can hold their pencil correctly when writing. That is why children who struggle in school tend to be less coordinated, especially in sports, or may be clumsy on the playground. Like our bodies, the brain is also a muscle that needs to be “toned” and refined to focus and attend.
Where the Wild Things Are
Enough talk, let’s play!
Dog Walk (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: Remember to have your child walk with the opposite arm and with the opposite leg. This will work both sides of the brain for better development.
Bunny Hop (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: Have your child keep their arms close to their body. Sometimes we see flailing arms and you want to avoid that. They need to control their movement. Controlling their body means controlling their attention and focus. Encourage them to also keep their legs together and pause after each hop. Many kids want to rush through it, but slow and steady wins the race (thank you Mr. Tortoise).
Crab Walk (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: You’d be surprised at how many children struggle with this exercise. If they can’t do it at first, don’t give up. Do it with them if you have to. Help them work both the legs and the hands together while they are walking. Try not to let them go too fast either or they may crash. It’s better to get the movements right than to rush through it.
Frog Leap (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: Frog leaps are great for strengthening your child’s legs and core muscles. Have them start in the crouched position and jump as high as they can and pause between leaps. Again, encourage them to do the frog leaps slowly instead of rushing through the exercise so it is correct. To make the exercise more fun, you can put an item on the floor, for instance a piece of construction paper that looks like a lily pad, for them to leap over.
Bear Walk (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: This exercise is much harder than you would think and it’s important to get it right. To walk like our friend Baloo, your child has to walk using the same arm and leg at the same time, which is opposite from how we did the dog walk. Start with the right arm and leg, taking one step forward, and then switch to the left side. It might be tricky at first, but with practice they will get it.
Seal Walk (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: I think the seal walk is the most fun! This may be harder for younger children so when they are old enough, or ready, have your child try it out. Your child should start on their stomach and begin crawling toward you on their elbows (make sure they have soft padding underneath them). Tell them to keep their legs together, and as they walk forward on their elbows, have them sway their legs back and forth like a fish tale or how you see seals do it at the zoo.
Gorilla Walk (Yoga for kid)
Tip: For the gorilla walk, have your child hold on to their ankles and walk forward with both hands and legs at the same time. It’s important to have them keep their hands on their ankles while they walk forward. Great for balance and coordination!
Penguin Walk (Yoga for Kid)
Tip: If your child has seen Mary Poppins, I bet they already know how to do this exercise. Have your child point their feet outward like a penguin and their hands to their sides (palms flipped up). They should waddle back and forth toward you as they do this activity.
Have a great time!
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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