Learning Through Movement

Growing YearsChildren learn through movement, yet, more often than not, we tell them to sit still and be quiet while learning new material. Many children are capable of learning visually and auditorially without movement, but some are not. When we get new information, it has to be stored for future retrieval. If a child’s memory storage is impaired, the information never gets stored. Often, the information is stored, but the brain can not remember where it is stored in order to retrieve it. Children with difficulties in storage and/or retrieval of information struggle in school. They become frustrated with a system that ignores their need to move. These children are usually in movement at all times, in their private world. They are intelligent, and gather informal information in the environment using the tool that is successful for them… movement. If you have or know a child that is struggling, here are a few suggestions that might help. Hopefully, some of these strategies will work for your child, making school and studying a happier event.

In School:

Discuss with the teacher the possibility of allowing your child to display a non-distracting movement while learning in the classroom and/or doing seat work. There are several options that might work. Depending on the child, it may be trial and error until the right movement is found. One possibility is to put a small object in the hand to manipulate. This can be a small ball, eraser, pencil, or squeeze ball. Texture may be important to the child’s ability to concentrate and learn. Experiment with different textures. Another option is a cushion with air inside like a ball. The woopie pillows are perfect if you remove their noise valve. The idea is for the child to move in his/her seat without disrupting the class. A third option may be a weighted vest. The occupational therapist at your child’s school can be consulted about how to make the vest. I would try this if the other two types are not successful. Some children need the weighted feeling to help center their bodies. Any of the options should be approached on a “let’s try” basis, as one thing does not work for every child.

At Home:

When doing home work, learning, spelling words, or reading, movement should be encouraged. Before doing homework give your child a physical workout. Try things like moving a stack of books from room to room and back. Bounce a tennis ball against an outside wall, or play with a paddle and ball with the rubber band attached (great for children who lose their place while reading). Jump on a trampoline, or jump rope. After a fifteen minute warm up, immediately start the home work. If your child does well for a few minutes and becomes distracted, stop and do five minutes of the warm up again. Try to increase the time by adding five minutes before stopping. Your goal should be thirty minutes, as it correlates to school instruction. Remember to follow the allowable movements mentioned for school during all study time.

Studying spelling words should include motion and rhythm. An example is to say and spell the word to your child. He/she echos the spelling while bouncing a ball using both hands. If you have a trampoline (large or small), follow the same routine, except jump with every word and letter. You can do anything that has an automatic rhythm in the motion (ball against wall, tennis, badminton, table tennis… no games, just hit the ball). These movements work for remembering anything from chapter summaries to math theorems. Whatever movement you choose, it must offer rhythm, whether rubbing a stone or jumping.