Thinking on your Feet
The link between physical exercise and cognitive performance is well established in the field of Neuroscience and Childhood Development and yet woefully downplayed in modern education. There are a number of contributing factors as to why, many of which aid a sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately at the Claremont School we subscribe to a pedagogy that integrates movement and action into all areas of learning. Furthermore, we encourage our students to limit their screen time outside of school and select extracurricular activities that support their physical wellbeing.
With the summer fast approaching we would like to share with you some simple ways to integrate exercise into your child’s learning process.
JUMP INTO ACTION: Hopscotch
Hopscotch is a simple but effective way of getting your child moving and practicing mental math or sight words. Encourage your child to create a hopscotch pattern using chalk (outdoors) or tape (indoors). Then place the individual letters from a sight word in each box. Have your child call out the letters as they jump into each box. Once they reach the end of their hopscotch table ask them to spell out the sight word. You may substitute letters for numbers in order to practice mental math skills. Recommendation (5 – 10min): Have you child review their sight words or times table on their hopscotch pattern before breakfast.
BALANCING THE BRAIN AND BODY: Balance Beam / Tape
On 2×4 strip of wood or length of masking tape write out the alphabet leaving a couple of inches of space between each letter. Next, place beanbags or coasters over the letters that spell the practicing sight word. Have your child maintain their balance and while uncovering each letter. You may wish to record the letters for them on a piece of paper or challenge them to hold the letters in their mind. Once all the letters have been uncovered have them unscramble them to form the correct sight word. It is important that you review the sight words that are being practiced prior to this activity.
Recommendation (5 – 10 min): This is a fun, quieter activity to do in the evening before bed.
WALKING AND TALKING: The Art of Conversation
Engaging children in conversation can be challenging. Cliché questions often inspire cliché responses. Fortunately there is a simple and healthy way to combat this problem – walking. The act of walking decreases activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our “fight or flight” response and increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows the mind to relax and make creative connections. Aim to go for 20 min – 60 min walk with no specific destination or agenda. You will be amazed at the number of learning opportunities that can surface over the course of an hour walk.
Recommendation (20 + min): Try to avoid busy streets and seek out forest paths or green space for your walks.
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology – CSEP – recommends that children between the ages 5 -11 engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily. Unfortunately many children are not meeting this recommendation. According to Statistics Canada only 33 % of Canadian children are meeting the daily requirements of physical exercise.
For further reading:
- Harvard Health Blog: regular exercise changes brain improve memory thinking skills
- The Guardian: how physical exercise makes your brain work better
- The Atlantic: exercise seems to be beneficial to children
- Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology: Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines
- Statistics Canada: Physical activity of Canadian children and youth