If your kindergartener comes home talking about a “hook-up,” don’t be alarmed. He’s just sharing about Brain Gym! Here’s a great post from Kari Strandstra, our kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, about how we integrate mind and body at our school.
Here at NUA Sparrow, we know that learning and movement go hand in hand. We incorporate movement exercises in every morning circle and all throughout the day, knowing that children learn best when they are in action and fully participating. Movement helps to connect the mind with the body. Many of the movements we do daily cross the midline, create bilateral integration and help myelinate the neurons on both sides of the brain. This helps the children learn in a “whole- brained” way. When children have bilateral integration, they are much more able to have success with many fine motor skill activities.
One set of movements that the kindergarteners are doing daily and the other classes are now incorporating is called Brain Gym, which is a series of simple and enjoyable movements to enhance the experience of whole brain learning. These twenty six moves were created by Paul E. Dennison, based on developmental movements naturally done early in life when learning to coordinate the eyes, ears, hands, and whole body. They include midline movements, lengthening movements and energy movements. The midline exercises increase bilateral skills. The lengthening exercises develop and reinforce the neural pathways that help them connect what they already know in the back of the brain with the front part of the brain that helps them process and express that knowledge. The energy exercises help to establish connections between body and brain and aid in overall energy.
In the kindergarten room, we always start the day out with five to six of the main movements, led by a weekly Brain Gym leader. Throughout the day, children will instinctively (and independently) do a Brain Gym move as if they know it will help them to center and ground. As a teacher, I see greater concentration and calmness after we do the exercises. It also helps with physical coordination and the ability to communicate. I have talked with parents who use these movements at home and they find it helps especially in the areas of focus, problems with transitions or dealing with frustration.
Here are a few of our morning Brain Gym Moves:
Brain Buttons — This exercise involves placing a thumb and forefinger on either side of the sternum, just below the collar bone, and pressing lightly in a pulse. The other hand should do a similar thing over the navel area. This is also designed to improve blood flow and focus.
Cross Crawl — This exercise involves putting the right hand on the left knee as you raise it, and then the left hand on the right knee, like marching. This is designed to coordinate the two brain hemispheres, which is useful for spelling, listening, writing and general comprehension. Once you get the hang of it, you can try it with elbows or reaching backwards to the heel of the foot.
Hook Ups — This exercise involves crossing the right leg over the left ankle. Then cross the wrists and link the fingers. Bend the elbows and turn the fingers in toward the body until they are resting on the chest, then breathe slowly for a few minutes. This is intended to calm the mind and improve concentration.
It is interesting to note that many of the movements that Rudolph Steiner prescribed nearly one hundred years ago align so much with the Brain Gym movements. He encouraged movement all throughout the day and knew how essential it was for natural human development. He talked about the importance of bilateral symmetry in form drawings and the movements of eurythmy, knowing that mind and body are very much connected.
Take a moment to read a couple of these articles on Brain Gym. It’s not just for children – it also works for adults! You may find some interesting new movements that you and your child may want to try at home. Also, you may want to ask your child to teach you some of the movements! Enjoy!