By Anne Gerber, Occupational Therapist, and Ronni Rowland, Writer
Are you looking for short activities that ease stress, release energy and enhance learning? Each of the following “Brain Gym” movements are not only fun but also engage the brain and can be performed in a small area at home, outside, or in a seated position. These can also be used in the classroom to help children to focus, reenergize, and develop motor skills.
What is Brain Gym?
Brain Gym activities were developed by a team of educators and they imitate many movements from a person’s first years of life when learning to coordinate the eyes, ears, hands, and whole body.
“How you use these exercises is much more important than what you do,” explains Anne Gerber, Occupational Therapist at ELG. “Start with basic movements and with what your child already knows.” When used appropriately and in a light-hearted way, these activities can calm stressful situations, provide enjoyable transitions, bonding moments and more.
Try these fun “workouts” with your child!
Brain Gym Activity 1: Cross Crawl
- From a standing (or sitting) position, raise your right knee and touch your left elbow to your right knee.
- At the same time, swing your right arm behind you, as if marching.
- Return to a “resting” standing position.
- Now raise your left knee and touch your right elbow to your left knee.
- Continue, “marching” for about two minutes, shifting back and forth between the two positions.
The Cross Crawl expends energy and improves concentration and comprehension.
Brain Gym Activity 2: Figure 8s
- Draw figure 8s either in the air with your finger or on a piece of paper.
- Draw the figure 8s quickly and loosely.
- Alternatively, use a colorful scarf or different materials to draw the figure 8s.
Drawing figure 8s with the dominant hand loosens muscles in the arm and wrist, and prepares the child for a fine-motor activity like writing. Using the non-dominant hand engages the creativity portions of the brain.
Brain Gym Activity 3: Brain Buttons
- Put one hand over your stomach.
- Use the thumb, index finger and middle finger of your other hand to gently press the slight indentations below your collarbone on each side of your sternum.
- Rub the soft spots back and forth, using a pressure that is comfortable yet stimulating.
- Do 4 deep slow breathing cycles.
- Then change hands and do another 4 deep slow breathing cycles.
The Brain Buttons activity focuses attention, increases blood flow to the brain and supports left and right brain hemisphere connections.
Upcoming Brain Gym workshop!
Teachers can join ELG on Saturday, February 18, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, for our free workshop, “Motivation is Fun(damental): Practical Tips and Tools to Inspire Students to Learn”.
Anne Gerber will host one of the workshop sessions, “Brain Gym Movements: Have fun and strengthen students’ brains.” You’ll have a chance to perform Brain Gym exercises and variations first-hand, and learn more about their benefits to children of all ages.
With a B.A. in Occupational Therapy from the Academy for Occupational Therapy in Cologne and Sensory Integration Certification from the University of Southern California, Anne Gerber is well suited to support children with sensory integration needs, gross- and fine motor difficulties and learning problems. A world traveler, Anne has had internships in children’s hospitals all over the world, using her occupational therapy skills in a variety of cultures, before joining ELG in 2006. She primarily works with children in international primary schools. Anne has particular expertise working with children with visual problems and Strabismus.