“Bicycle,” by Rhydonia Anderson, captures the whimsy and expressiveness of two-handed doodling.
Rhydonia Anderson, Ed. S.
As a Brain Gym® Instructor, I’ve had many remarkable experiences using the 26 Brain Gym activities—first as a therapist at an alternative school, and later as a School Counselor.
I was initially drawn to the the Brain Gym concept of basing new learning on learning that is already familiar to the student. I also quickly came to appreciate the educational model of “drawing out” rather than “stamping in”—a playful mindset encouraging growth. Both of these Brain Gym perspectives are consistent with what I later experienced in my studies at graduate school, qualifying as a Marriage and Family Therapist.
My husband, Virgil, and I, now “officially” retired, have continued to teach one of our favorite Brain Gym courses, Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision* to those who work in schools and developmental therapy centers. As former teachers, we’re comfortable with these professionals. We don’t want to bore our audiences (like we’ve sometimes been bored in staff development meetings); so it works well that Double Doodle Play is filled with activities that keep everyone moving. In the workshop, participants discover how to draw and paint with both hands (bilateral drawing), as they explore their visual experience of color, shape, texture, depth, movement, and more.
“Lighthouse Study,” by Virgil Anderson, offers an example of negative space
Three busy pairs of arms create a Double Doodle group mural.
A student completes a Double Doodle butterfly design based on the Nines game.
In vision as in artistic composition, the white or empty space that surrounds an object—the background—can become just as important as the object itself—the foreground. Double-doodlers are sometimes surprised at how, without any effort, these shapes of “negative space” naturally emerge in a bilateral drawing to define the boundaries of positive space (the object, or foreground), bringing it into balance.
The Double Doodle Play emphasis on process and spaces reminds me of my training in Marriage and Family Therapy, which was also oriented to spaces and to process, more than product. I learned a systems model of relating, which taught me to attend to the space between myself as a therapist and the client, rather than identifying the client as “separate,” and to stay in the process of interacting.
Once, when Virgil and I presented Double Doodle Play at a staff in-service, we were at the school all day, with the teachers, therapists, and aides coming in during their conference periods. A school director later asked me, regarding a couple of the teachers in particular, “What did you do? Those two aren’t usually so settled.” What we’d done that created such a good effect was to guide them through a combination of Hook-ups and the Positive Points, the two Brain Gym activities oriented to self-calming.
Partners enjoy Mirror Doodles as they reflect back one another’s movements.
Virgil invites an elementary student to do Iso-Doodles (photo was taken in the therapy room, thus the swing).
“Waterfall Study” by Virgil Anderson
Two students enjoy the “give ’n’ take” of the Iso-Doodles activity. If we all pull together . . .
The success of that in-service led to our largest audience yet—70 parents, staff members, and special ed teachers, all seated at those little elementary cafeteria tables. We didn’t keep them sitting long; they were soon standing, moving, playing, and doing bilateral drawing—in the air and on paper. At the end of the workshop, one woman told me that this was the most useful in-service she’d ever attended.
Several years ago, when Sylvia Sue Greene, a Faculty Member of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, first offered the Double Doodle Play workshop, I was interested but doubtful. I emailed her that I couldn’t draw, and Sylvia responded, “You can use both hands, can’t you?” Since I knew her to be recovering from a stroke and still teaching, I felt humbled by her question and chose to take the workshop.
Virgil had taken one Brain Gym 101 workshop; he’d driven me to a class I co-taught, and simply took the class since he was already there. His goal, he said, was to get a deer; he considered this “a joke,” since he didn’t put much stock in it—until he got a deer the next time he went hunting! With some encouragement, he then agreed to attend a basic day-long Double Doodle Play workshop. The teacher, Gail Dennison, was impressed by Virgil’s creativity and mentoring spirit as an educator, and invited him to accompany me in attending—the following day—the Teacher Practicum for Double Doodle Play. He’d be qualified to teach the Double Doodle Play workshop once he completed the prerequisites, which he did!
The one-day Double Doodle Play includes movement, drawing, and painting activities, done solo, with a partner, and as a group. It serves as a fun introduction to Brain Gym—with tools for maintaining and improving everyday visual and movement skills. People often make gains in their visual responsiveness as they play together in ways that engage seeing, tactility, or tool-holding abilities, while learning to notice both one-sided and whole-body habits of moving.
Wind and Water, a partner Doodle game, delights players as they discover a relaxed use of the hands for mark-making.
There’s much laughter as students draw with eyes closed, in the Wind and Water game.
The simplicity and variety of the Double Doodle activities encourages participation. I especially love the partner activities, such as Mirror Doodles and the cooperative Wind and Water (see photo above and at left). I see Wind and Water as a great relationship-builder—taking turns being the wind and the water can increase awareness of and ameliorate any power struggles, as well as help release the need to be “perfect.”
We also enjoy the cooperative games, which quickly build a sense of community. For example, in one class, we had teachers sit four to a table, with two crayons for each person. We gave one person a sheet of paper, and when I said “Start!” that person began drawing a Double Doodle (I had Virgil’s help in monitoring the groups, in case anyone needed materials). After a few seconds, I called “switch!” and the drawing would be passed to the next person to be continued— a process that always generates a lot of laughter. After all four people had each had three or so turns, I called “Stop.” We have sometimes done this Cooperative Drawing game to music—each person drawing a shape to represent the music. At yet another school, when we stopped, we had each table’s group make up a story for their picture. The day ended with each group sharing their story while displaying their picture.
Daniel’s Natural Bridge, drawn after visiting the bridge, in Clinton, AK.
Barbara’s Wolf, a student drawing done with crayon and colored pencils
Close up of “Field of Dreams,” by Virgil Anderson
Students form a Double Doodle Train, simultaneously exploring shape-making while enjoying tactility.
Another cooperative game is the Double Doodle Train. I like to call this a “Tactile Train”—a fun, alliterative name. I have students compare the tactile message they receive at the “start” to the one they receive at the “end,” which is never the same! (Like the “Gossip” game, where a message is whispered from one to the next around the circle, then compared at the end to the original message.)
For our internship, Virgil and I spent a day teaching Double Doodle Play at the school where I’d been a counselor the previous year. The art teacher commented about a boy in junior high who’d done Mirror Doodles with Virgil, saying that he didn’t ordinarily mix much with classmates but had really participated on this day.
When I spoke with that teacher the following year, she reported that, due to scheduling difficulties, she now had 8th graders and seniors together in one class, and that the 8th graders—who had experienced Double Doodle Play for just one class period the previous year—were actually more creative than the seniors!
She later wrote to me: “I want to thank you for giving me another key to helping my students. Colored paper and the Double Doodle have especially helped one of my students. [This] student was very disruptive, so I let her Double Doodle one day. She loved it and settled down. Within a week she was writing complete sentences. (The sentences were just her thoughts, and not answers that she should have been giving, yet an important baby step.) She is becoming part of the class rather than being a problem in the class. At the beginning of the year she was always angry. She now seems to enjoy the class, and takes part in class activities. Thank you so much for your help.”
~ ~ ~
*The Double Doodle activity expands on the bilateral drawing work of G. N. Getman, O.D., from his book How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence, ©1962; 1992. The Double Doodle was first included in Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, by Paul and Gail Dennison, ©1986, Edu-Kinesthetics, Inc., Ventura, CA. The games and activities described here are from the course manual Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision, by Gail E. Dennison, © 2006; 2007; translated into nine languages.
For a Spanish translation of this article, go to ¿Por qué me encanta enseñar el Doble Garabato…? -1- and -2-
For more about Double Doodle Play, check out these blog posts:
Double Doodle Play Brings Emotional Harmony Following a Stroke
A Soothing Double Doodle Heart for Kids of All Ages (a basic tutorial on the Double Doodle)
Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings (1 min video)
Double Doodle Holiday Play (a tutorial of Christmas and winter images)
Rhydonia Anderson, Ed.S.
Rhydonia Anderson, Ed. S., of Arkansas, a licensed professional counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, is a former specialist in school counseling, now enjoying retirement. Rhydonia’s career experiences include serving as a home economics teacher, an outreach therapist for a mental health clinic, and a counselor in an alternative learning environment for students who had difficulty in regular school. She identifies herself as a lifelong learner. Rhydonia’s husband Virgil Anderson, M.S. Ed., taught life sciences in junior and senior high school and is also now, along with Rhydonia, experiencing the “freedom of retirement and housebuilding.” He loves to hunt, fish, and do woodwork, including timber frame.
On June 20 of 2015, Rhydonia and Virgil will be co-teaching the introductory workshop Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision in Peoria, Illinois. The Peoria workshop is approved for 8 CEUs for educators and also for 8 CEUs for health professionals and allied health professionals, through the University of IL College of Medicine in collaboration with the Continuing Education Institute of Illinois. To register, or for more information, contact Helen Cox, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhydonia welcomes your comments, questions, and feedback, and can be contacted at email@example.com.
© 2015 by Rhydonia Anderson. All Rights Reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.
Playful flowers, leaves, and curlicues drawn with two hands at once make a colorful design.
Flowers are always fun to draw, and especially welcome in the springtime. Their shapes can be quite soothing and relaxing to make when using two hands at the same time. Whether you want to make a card or picture to express your gratitude to someone special, or to simply reflect on and celebrate such qualities as playfulness or beauty, this project is a great way to connect with nurturing feelings. All you need is some paper, marking pens (crayons or paint can also work), and a few minutes time, to create a cheerful or whimsical image. (See the photo at bottom right for a suggested layout of your tools.)
In the image that you see here, I’ve included five distinctive radial flower shapes that I often use in my workshops with teens and adults of all ages. I’ve taught the more simple shapes to children as young as five (though please be sure they can do one shape easily before showing them more). People generally find the making of Double Doodle flowers to be a calming and reflective activity—one they are often surprised that they can do.
Begin by taping your paper to a smooth surface. Then take a moment to relax yourself, especially your arms, by doing a few strokes of the Cross Crawl, all of PACE, or perhaps Lazy 8s or the Arm Activation, if you’re familiar with these. This will help you orient yourself to the page in terms of your center—your sternum—while simultaneously feeling the reach of your arms and symmetry of your hand motions. I made the above left image while standing at a table, as I often do. Or you might want to work on an easel.
You might begin with a dandelion-like design.
An image like this does not require working on the midline of the page, but calls for us to see the midpoint and midline of each individual flower-shape that we draw. You might begin, as I did, with a different colored marker in each hand, with the marker tips resting next to one another in the center of your visual field. I first drew a dandelion-like design: With both hands on the center point of your dandelion, create outward strokes away from the middle to make the shape. Add more dandelion shapes to your bouquet, as you like.
The first petal motion for the Looping Flowers.
Next I drew the three looping flowers in the upper-middle area. These are fun to do in one flowing motion: the first petals are made as your hands move up, down, and then
loop back up; the second petals move down, then loop up and out diagonally, the third loop out to the sides, and so on.
A completed Looping Flower shape with six petals.loop (see the image at left); the 2nd petals are made as your hands move out to thesides, in toward the middle, and then loop; the 3rd petals are similarly made with a downward, then upward motion.
The first two petals for the Heart-Petal Flower.
The third flower has tiny heart-shaped petals (see image at right). Simply draw two hearts at once, side-by-side, to make the top two petals, then continue with the side and then the bottom petals. You can walk around your paper or draw the hearts upside-down. Again, this is most fun to do in a smooth, flowing motion. As you work, let yourself—your movement and looking—be more and more from a place of comfort and soft focus. Doing the Double Doodle invites relaxation of the eyes and hands, so if you feel yourself tensing up with old movement patterns, pause and do more large motor movement before continuing.
A Heart-Petaled Flower.
Next, I made two playful roses at once, by first drawing the calming outward spiral, then encircling it with two or three rounded waves to suggest the thick and sensuous petals .
The fifth flower is simply made by drawing two 6-pointed stars at once: Your two (fine-point) markers touch at the midpoint, then quickly brush out and away to make three radiating lines. Can you find my ten tiny Star-Flowers?
Finally, you can add leaves, curling vines, or curlicues, to fill the space. If you wish, go back to each flower and layer it with two (or even three) more colors, as I did. With your dominant hand, you might color in a shape or two, or add other asymmetrical touches, as you like.
I used a variety of thick and thin colored markers, as well as two colored pencils.
I’m confident that you’re final image will surprise you with the joy of coordinating your hands and eyes, and the beauty and mystery of asymmetry that seems to accompany the Double Doodle process.
For more information on the Double Doodle, read A Soothing Double Doodle Heart for Kids of all Ages.
The Double Doodle is one of the 26 Brain Gym® activities, from Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, by Dennison and Dennison. To find an instructor of the workshop Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision, developed by Gail Dennison, click here.
For a translation of this article into Spanish or Catalan, click here or paste http://kinemocions.com/ca/primavera-cinco-flores-con-dobles-garabatos/.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International. For more information, or to find an instructor in your area, go to www.braingym.org.
(C) 2014 by Gail Dennison. All rights reserved.
It’s suddenly fall again. There’s a change in the air . . . a new tension and resolve. The blues and greens of summer are turning orange and brown. I’m hearing questions from children that they often ask at this time: Can we make decorations? Can I have a different costume? What can I be for Halloween?
I know many youngsters (and grown-ups, too!) who anticipate Halloween with great pleasure, yet I also know some who don’t seem to be quite ready for all the excitement. So here are some playful Halloween images that call on the typical colors and themes of Halloween yet are a little brighter and perhaps more humorous in tone, giving the child within us some choices regarding the more “scary” elements.
I created these three projects using the Double Doodle process (if you don’t know how, click here for a way to begin). Most children by age 9 and older can easily draw Double Doodle ghosts (as in picture two; newbies may initially want to draw these right around a midline fold). They’ll also have fun with the slightly more difficult Double Doodle-style tree (like this one with a face), made by letting the hands move fluidly up and down to the right and left of the midline of the page. These don’t have to be precise mirror-image shapes; enjoy experimenting with asymmetries within a symmetrical context, as seen here. And feel free to fine-tune your image using your dominant hand. After all, this is your design.
A whimsical scarecrow is a bit more challenging. I explain to youngsters that the scarecrow, usually in the shape of a human and dressed in old clothes, has been important to farmers around the world. It’s often homemade—a decoy used to keep crows and other birds from eating seed or ripening crops, thus it’s name. The scarecrow is placed in an open field, like the cornfield suggested here. Your Double Doodle can be as simple or elaborate as you like.
The owl, as I’ve drawn it here, still rests on the midline yet leaves room for asymmetry. I’ve added a gnarled branch on which he sits, and a full moon to reflect on.
As you Double Doodle, notice how relaxed your eyes, hands, and mind become. Notice, too, the pleasure of choosing your own colors and shapes, and of letting your unique versions emerge. I see that, for children, any “scariness” is diminished by the power of their own personalized doodles. Perhaps this is part of the power of symbol itself—from image to alphabet to word. Beginning with a child’s first scribbles (“Look Mommy, it’s a kitty!”) to more structured mark-making, the excitement we feel as we construct a visual mark to represent some element of our world can rarely be matched by a pre-made art project or computer graphic that merely duplicates someone else’s ideas. This excitement is the very essence of what nurtures a love of symbols and literacy—and ultimately, of reading.
To see a 1 min. vimeo of children’s Double Halloween Doodles, click here. For a tutorial on Double Doodle Halloween pumpkins, click here. To see how the Double Doodle can be used for drawing and painting, see Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole Brain Vision. For Christmas Double Doodle images, Double Doodle Holiday Play.
Happy Halloween! May you enjoy the parade of trick-or-treaters that come to your door. It’s fun to talk with youngsters, hear what they have to say about their costumes, and to take a moment to admire these (and as mentioned, you might be helping to instill a love of artful creating plus the language to go with—the heart of loving to read and write). At our house, we give out small trinkets—rings, games, colored pencils and such, and enjoy the inevitable surprised delight that children express when they realize they’re getting something besides candy.
*The Double Doodle is one of 26 Brain Gym® activities from Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition by Dennison and Dennison, ©2010. The introductory course Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision offers a full day of exploration built on mirror-image mark-making and painting. For the name of a Brain Gym instructor, see the Foundation website, below. For a Double Doodle Play instructor, click on the link and look up 105DD under courses.
** See Research Nugget: Visual Skills and Reading.
For a translation of this article into Spanish, click here: Magia de Halloween con el Doble Garabato!
© 2013 by Gail Dennison. All rights reserved.
Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International/the Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Click here for the name of an instructor near you.
Use to hands at the same time to draw a Halloween pumpkin!
Two hands, two markers . . . let’s draw Double Doodle pumpkins! Part of the fun is being surprised by the kind of face you create on your jack-o’-lantern. Will it be funny, sad, mad, or scary? Will you give your pumpkin face some teeth, eyebrows, a stem hat, a downward mouth, or a ghoulish grin? Well, get your giggle on . . . bring a pout or your biggest growl and get ready to be amazed!
Here are two Halloween Pumpkin faces drawn within minutes of one another by a 6-year old. You can see the fine-motor skill he’s developing as he experiments.
Getting in the groove.
To begin, fold your paper vertically, choose your colors, and then let your hands start flowing smoothly from the top of the pumpkin’s stem (just on the fold mark, and slightly to the right and left) down and up a few times, to make the stem, then across the top of the pumpkin, down the sides, and together at the bottom, as you see in the opening photo.
If you’re new to the Double Doodle, please click here for more detailed instructions; the pumpkin faces are most easy for those age eight and up, although adults might help guide younger hands. (A big thank you to the 9-year old who drew the top pumpkin in our pumpkin banner, below left!)
A Double Doodle pumpkin and his pumpkin head friend (drawn by an 8-year old)—ooh . . . which face is the scariest?
Now that you have your symmetrical contour, place your markers where you want the eyes and draw mirror-image shapes (see samples, below, some of which we cut out and pasted asymmetrically on orange poster board). Follow with the nose and mouth. Add lines and other features as you wish. You might enjoy tracing over your lines with different markers to layer additional colors, or scribble in with crayons, finger-paint style, as we did here. Decorate as you like. Notice how your hands enjoy moving effortlessly together like this—a kind of movement quite different from doing a one-handed drawing.
A youngster focuses on the pumpkin’s indented ribs, running from its stem at the top to a single point at the bottom.
A 6-year old finds a more simple way to suggest the pumpkin’s ribs.
And there’s no need to think of this by the rules of ordinary drawing; the Double Doodle doesn’t fit the same criteria. This is more about the fun, zest, color, and surprise of the shapes, and how each can be uniquely your own, than about it looking like someone else’s picture. So enjoy any quirks or unexpected squiggles that you make.
This free-flowing design of bat with pumpkins was drawn by a 10-year old.
Once you’ve completed your pumpkin face, you might want to add a leaf or two. Many types of pumpkins have heart-shaped (cordiform) leaves. For autumn, add some yellow, green, brown, or maroon colors, and maybe a serrated edge and some prominent veining (as in the leaves on the banner at left) to make the image more leaf-like.
For inspiration from nature: Do a scavenger hunt outside to see how many different kinds of cordiform leaves you can find! Besides the pumpkin leaf, you can also find the heart-shaped leaf in viola and hosta plants, as well as in the periwinkle and morning glory, to name a few. They’re seen in great variation in lime, linden, and redbud trees and many other plants. (This form is opposite to the hand-shaped palmate outline, with lobes radiating from the base, seen in a maple leaf.)
For design fun: Double Doodle some heart-shaped leaves and tear-drop-shaped seeds, like the pumpkin seed, as a design around the outside. Color in the face shapes on your pumpkin in finger-paint style.
Delicious to know: Chewy pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses (abundant in minerals from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein, and zinc) high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants. They make a great snack! When you carve a pumpkin, simply wash and drain the seeds, and dry them for about 30 minutes. Then mix in a tablespoon of oil for each cup of seeds and roast them on a cookie sheet in a 250° oven for 10 to 20 minutes (stirring every five minutes or so) until they’re golden brown. Sprinkle them with salt, or with cinnamon and a little ginger and allspice.
For more complex Double Doodle Halloween images, click here.
To see other examples of how Double Doodle Play can be used for drawing and painting, click here.
Parents and educators: Scientists continue to study the puzzling genetic and environmental factors that determine handedness. In the Edu-K work, we’ve been finding for more than 40 years that using two hands together like this helps people learn to do more fluid mark-making, regardless of whether they’re right- or left-hand-dominant. See if handwriting is easier for you after doing a few minutes of the Double Doodle.
In a Psychology Today blog, coach, author, and world-class endurance athlete Christopher Bergland reminds us that “Researchers remain perplexed as to why the human brain seems to be more asymmetric than the primate brain and why the ratio of right- to left-handedness in humans is 9 to 1. Primates are evenly split 50-50 between left- and right-handedness.
Bergland concludes that humans should “ideally engage both hands to maximize brain function and performance . . . you want to create symmetry and become close to ambidextrous by fortifying the link between the right brain and left brain of both the cerebrum and the cerebellum.*”
*“Are Lefties More Likely to Become Champions and Leaders? The History and Neuroscience of Why Left-Handed People Have an Advantage.” Published on August 12, 2013, by Christopher Bergland in The Athlete’s Way
The Double Doodle and other Brain Gym® activities that support sensorimotor skills are described in detail in Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition, 2010, by Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison.
Many sensorimotor skills are taught experientially, through movement and play, in the courses Brain Gym® 101: Balancing for Daily Life, Double Doodle Play: A Window to Whole-Brain Vision, and Visioncircles: 8 Spheres of Perceptual Development. Click here for the name of a Brain Gym® Instructor in you area. Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International.
© 2013 by Gail Dennison. All rights reserved.