Hey, kids! Here’s a picture for you to take a look at.
Do you know what this picture represents? Yes, it’s the brain—a very important part of the body.
What does the brain do? By itself, not much. You could say it’s a kind of memory-building machine that helps you learn from your experiences.
The brain functions together with the spinal cord (inside your backbone) so you can play and explore the world. Your brain helps you think, and also tells your muscles (via motor neurons) to move however you are able, so you can dance, kick a ball, hold a pencil, or balance on one foot. It builds new memories by helping you remember things you do and create language to code that experience.
Did you know that your brain is always changing? It is constantly sending and receiving messages from your senses and muscles. Every time you see, hear, touch,…move in a new way, you actually grow your brain. Every time you solve a new problem and do something different, you’re expanding your brain.
Do you remember ever learning a new song, like “Row, row, row your boat”? What happened the next time you heard “Row, row . . .”? Yes, you started humming the tune or singing the words, because it was there in your brain from when you first heard it. This is how the brain grows. It grows memories. One memory builds on another, and memories are connected—by sight, sound, touch, and movement.
When you learn an important new skill, like reading or writing, you use memory pathways that connect different parts of your brain. These pathways are called neural networks, or nerve networks. Like the freeways your parents drive on, these memory connections get more and more familiar and comfortable the more you use them. Every time you move, your muscles create a flow of nutrients—of oxygen and glucose—that feeds every part of your body. Every time you draw a picture, tell a story about something you did, or read someone else’s story, you connect what you’re doing now with things that you did before—your past experiences.
As a teacher, I developed “Brain Gym”—26 simple activities—to give my students fun ways to see, hear, touch, and move that would enhance their learning. Your brain has pathways to your whole body; when you use your body, you’re using and growing your brain. Do you want to grow your brain right now? Let’s stand on one foot. Are you wobbly? Can you stand on one foot and count to five? Can you do it and count to ten? What about the other foot?
Now let’s do the Thinking Cap from the Brain Gym activities. Gently pull back on your ears and slowly unroll them, three times, from top to bottom. Now stand on one foot again. Are you less wobbly this time? Can you stand on one foot and count to a higher number? What about the other foot? Did you feel a difference, even a small one? If not yet, experiment with slowly doing another Brain Gym activity, such as the Cross Crawl, then check your balance again.
You just grew your brain for the skill of balancing, and you can use movement to help grow your brain for other skills too. Remember, learning is a process, and the best learning happens when we can match what we want to learn with how we want to move once we’ve learned it. Next week, or next month, you’ll probably remember even better how to hold your balance. And maybe by then you’ll be doing even more things with your improved stability, like balancing better and better when you ride your bicycle!
Photo Credit: ID 18894695 © Alexandr Mitiuc | Dreamstime.com
The Thinking Cap is one of 26 Brain Gym® activities described in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition by Dennison and Dennison, © 2010. An experiential, movement-based approach to learning, including the Edu-K balance process and the 26, are taught in Brain Gym® 101: Balance for Daily Life.
© 2013; 2016 by Paul Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in your area.