Feeling tired or stressed? Get moving.
Can't focus? Get moving.
Kids acting grumpy? Get moving.
There really aren't too many things that aren't helped by adding a bit of movement! And even if being physically active might not be your (or your child’s) go-to-activity, a little goes a long way. There are a seemingly endless number of benefits to adding even a little more movement to your day. It boosts our social and emotional well-being, lifts our physical energy levels and helps us to sleep better. It even helps activate parts of the brain that increase our ability to focus and concentrate. All of these benefits have a positive ripple effect on other areas of our lives.
In Carla Hannaford's book "Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head" she describes the critical importance of movement for a child's development and growth, far beyond just their physical health. Movement is responsible for developing hearing, eye sight, listening ability, focus, concentration, self-control and much more. Focusing on this one Tool of Maturity - the body - can help to support every area of a child's overall growth and development.
Movement is also an effective way to shift the energy when it's negative or contractive. When you first start to notice a grumpy mood coming on, try to find an excuse to get your child up moving. They may resist at first but once they get going it will be easier to help them shift their energy.
In the classroom I would sometimes start the day with a spontaneous morning walk, instead of morning circle, when I noticed the energy was a bit off. Getting outside in the fresh air and playing a game of “follow the leader” with lots of silly and unexpected movements lifted our spirits and helped us start the day feeling more connected.
Sometimes being a bit creative and focusing less on the fact that you’re getting them moving can be a helpful way to motivate. While spending time with a four-year-old friend of mine, he went into the house for something and then was feeling reluctant to come back out and play. He wanted to stay inside with his mom who was trying to rest, likely hoping he might get some screen time if he stayed in. Sensing his resistance I quickly and enthusiastically urged him to come over to hear the super secret idea that I had.
The mystery of it and my enthusiasm got him off the bed to start with. Knowing his love for the garden and the flowers I whispered “Let’s make a bouquet for mom! You can pick out all the flowers you love!” He instantly perked up and got his shoes on, motivated not so much by the movement itself but by the beautiful flowers and doing something nice for his mom. Making it a bit of a secret only added to his motivation. He never gave being in the house a second thought after that.
You can try it on yourself as well. Next time you're feeling stuck, frustrated or overwhelmed, just get up and move! Even a quick walk around the house or a few jumping jacks can reset your energy and help you to get perspective or find solutions. Research has shown that just going for a walk can stop the stress response by bringing more oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
There are lots of ways, big and small, you can easily incorporate more movement into your day. Here are a few ideas to try with your family today. Pick one and let us know how it goes!
Ideas for More Movement
Turn an ordinary activity into a game or a race - bunny hop to bath time, race to the car when you’re leaving, or set a timer for super speed clean up.
Put on a favorite song and have a five-minute dance party when getting ready in the morning or while cooking dinner to get everyone moving. You can also incorporate "freeze dance" by pausing the music at random times (as a bonus you can add a deep breath or a yoga pose when you freeze!).
Make a new habit to walk or bike together to places nearby (anything less than a mile or two) rather than taking the car.
Try a yoga posture together to start or end the day by having your child pick a pose card - they can even make up their own postures or play a game of “Yogi Says” (aka Simon Says).
Create a temporary safe space for crawling, jumping or tumbling with couch cushions, pillows, blankets etc.
Go geocaching! It's like a great big treasure hunt - a great way for families to get moving outside that incorporates the intellect and will power as well.
You’ll notice that most of these recommendations are about moving together. Our enthusiasm and participation are a great way to motivate even the most reluctant child. Plus, it's a great way to nurture connection and allows us to model positive behaviors. What are your favorite ways to move with your family?