Kids need to move! The vestibular system is the sensory system that processes and controls movement. The “control panel” that helps kids understand balance, posture, a sense of upright positioning, and alertness in response to movement is located in the inner ear. Guess how this system is activated? BY MOVEMENT, of course!
Just like adults, kids start fading when their bodies have to remain still and quiet for extended periods of time. How do you stay alert when you have to sit at a meeting or listen at a conference for long periods of time? At first, we are engaged, but as we sit still for awhile, it’s natural for our attention to start to fade.
In order to maintain focus, we may shift in our seats, cross and uncross our arms, cross our legs or ankles, stretch our backs or roll our necks. Even these slight movements help trigger the vestibular system, giving us feedback about posture and alertness and helping us reenergize and refocus.
So imagine if we gave kids more frequent opportunities to get up and move throughout the school day. They might be able to attend to their teachers for longer periods of time. They may demonstrate calmer, more appropriate behavior in the classroom. And they may participate more and be more engaged in their learning – showing their teachers what they know! For some kids, this could make all the difference!
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Here are some of my favorite simple movement break ideas:
1. Stand up and stretch!
2. Take a walk to the drinking fountain for a cool drink. A little movement combined with an alerting oral sensory experience may be just enough to get kids’ focus back after sitting for a long period of time.
3. Let kids take a moment to bounce on an exercise ball…roll, shift, bounce, lay on their stomachs.
4. Keep a kids yoga deck in the classroom. Every so often allow a student to draw a card and have the whole class try out the pose together!
5. Write questions related to the lesson on index cards and hide them under kids’ chairs ahead of time so they have to get up and find them throughout the lesson.
6. Call out “Stand for five!” – letting kids know that they must work standing up for five minutes.
7. Provide lots of opportunities for students to work in alternate positions such as lying on the floor, in bean bag chairs, leaning up against the wall. Check out our post about Functional Posture for Kids in the Classroom for other ideas about seating and to learn more about why kids may be struggling with this skill.
8. Extra recess!!!!!:)
9. Pass a ball up and down the rows of desks like Hot Potato.
10. Take “shake” breaks or dance breaks. Turn on the music! Here are three great examples:
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