A Soothing Double Doodle Heart for Kids of All Ages: A Short Tutorial

A Double Doodle HeartThe Double Doodle, one of 26 Brain Gym® activities, is a drawing made using both hands. You can do a Double Doodle in the air, on paper, or even on someone else’s back (it’s calming, relaxing, and comforting!). There are many kinds of Double Doodle*, but most of them are created by drawing a symmetrical design, with the hands mirroring each other side by side.

The heart-shaped Double Doodle design shown here is a simple and easy doodle with which to start exploring the fun and benefits of making mirror-image marks. If you are new to the Double Doodle, I suggest standing and using a large sheet of paper—on a flipchart or taped down vertically on a tabletop. In Brain Gym, when possible we connect with a whole-body (proprioceptive) context for using our hands and eyes. So before beginning, do a few repetitions of  the Cross Crawl. By letting your arms swing freely as you move, you can use the Cross Crawl to relax your arms and hands for a more free-flowing Double Doodle.

Next, center your body in alignment with the vertical midline of the page (if you need to more clearly distinguish the midline, you can make a vertical fold in your paper).  Now place both hands near the vertical midline of the paper. Notice how your hands are now automatically centered with your body and also with the page. Now let your hands move slightly up and out, as if to make two large circles, then down, in, down some more, and around, circling in the opposite direction to finally come to rest in the inward spiral. Let go of any need for yours to look like this one. Most often, Double Doodles are unique to the individual. Let your drawing surprise you!

Notice how the brief and expansive upward and outward shape of the movement gently balances the downward and inward spiral. Using large motor movement in gravity like this, the shoulders and elbows easily relax as we let our hands flow alongside one another in their natural movement: down the page on the flip chart, or toward us on a flat surface—the entire motion taking only seconds to complete. Notice also how doing the Double Doodle engages your large muscles in a smooth motion (there is almost no motion at the wrist), without the strain or tension on fingers and wrists so often associate with drawing or writing. Many people feel their eyes relax, as well. Even though the spirals at the bottom of the heart go in opposite directions, they seem to help one another flow, and here on the right is the counterclockwise motion that starts the letter “o” that children often struggle to make.

After drawing the shape, people often want to begin again at the top, or sometimes to draw it from the bottom up, in which case you’ll most likely complete the final stroke with your hands opposite your sternum. From here, for a moment, there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do. It’s a good place to pause—a place of completion and new beginning. For fun, I added small tapping marks around the shape.

This simple heart shape that you’ve just drawn, with its spiraling base, is common to much American folk art. To make it more elaborate, you can add flourishes, additional spirals of various sizes, or a slightly larger shape to mirror and encompass the first. And now that you know how to make this basic heart template, you can also adjust it in size or shape to create many other heart-shaped structures.

A Little Background on the Double Doodle

Paul first learned to do bilateral drawing in the early 1970s when he read developmental optometrist G.N. Getman’s book How to Develop Your Child’s Intelligence, an insightful classic that is still available and full of great suggestions for parents. Paul began using “bilateral drawing,” as Getman called it, with the students at his Valley Remedial Group learning centers. He found that the activity helped learners develop essential skills of tactility (you can experience that by tracing your completed drawing with your fingers), hand-eye coordination, and directionality, as well as visual discrimination for reading.

Directionality means knowing one’s orientation in space—knowing where up, right, left, and down are in terms of the center of one’s own body. As you can see and experience, the body’s midline isn’t something imaginary, any more than the midline of a page is an approximation. And the exactitude of the body’s midline, immediately identified through movement, supports the accuracy of the bilateral motions of the eyes needed for reading and writing, supporting as well all the turning motions of the head.

When Paul later met Dr. Getman, they discussed what was then 30 years of optometric research on learning that had yet to be implemented in the classroom (it’s now been 70 years, and this research is still largely overlooked today). They also talked about how children’s perception depends on their movements that define their orientation, location, and differential manipulation, and how learning disabilities in basic school subjects are wholly preventable through the effective teaching of movement of the body, eyes, and hands. And when you did the Double Doodle, were you aware of moving in new ways by letting one hand mirror the movement of the other? Today, research is further investigating how novel, voluntary movement supports cognition and neuroplasticity.

When Paul and I began selecting the Brain Gym® activities to use in our 1986 book: Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, we had already been teaching our own free-form variety of two-handed drawing, as described above, that we called the Double Doodle (Getman’s original bilateral activity was more structured). Classroom learning tends to emphasize one-sided movement of eyes and hands, yet we see every day how doing the Double Doodle for even a few minutes helps learners experience two-sided (bilateral) integration with hands and eyes working together in synergistic collaboration.

*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. The Double Doodle and other Brain Gym activities are taught in Brain Gym 101: Balance for Daily Life. 

** See Research Nugget: Visual Skills and Reading.

© 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 a Brain Gym or Double Doodle instructor near you.

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Double Doodle Play Brings Emotional Harmony Following a Stroke

Why I Love Teaching Double Doodle Play

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Double Doodle Holiday Play  (a tutorial)

Children’s Double Doodle Halloween Drawings (1 min video)

Halloween Magic with Two-Handed Play!

Make Double Doodle Pumpkin Faces for Halloween Fun (a tutorial)




Playing “the School Game”

Paul_HonfleurI met Jack, 16 and a high school junior, in October of last year. when he was feeling ready to give up on school and quit. On the phone, his father told me that Jack hated school, was falling down in his attendance, and was struggling just to get passing grades.

Later that week, Jack walked into my office with his dad, shoulders slumped and looking discouraged. After the introductions, I talked with Jack about what he liked and didn’t like about school. He said that he didn’t do well because he was afraid of his teachers and didn’t think they liked him. I asked Jack what he would do if he didn’t have to go to school every day. His eyes lit up as he promptly said he would work for his uncle, building houses, and he smiled when I suggested that school is just a game we play so we can graduate, get a diploma, and eventually, as adults, do the work that we enjoy doing.

Jack said that it was his dream to design houses like the ones his uncle built. We came up with a goal for him to trust himself to succeed in his own way.  So, for his pre-activity, I suggested that he draw a house as he imagined it. His three-dimensional perspective was amazing. “Wow, I see you really could be an architect!” I said, adding, “I’m sure you realize that school tests measure information retrieval, not drawing ability or imagination. When you get to graduate school, your gifts in this area will be recognized. Right now, I want to help you discover how to stop trying so hard, let go of your anxiousness, and just do your best to hang in there and play the school game.”

I explained that, when we’re afraid and feeling down, we are more likely to move in compensatory ways—even taking on postures that don’t help us to feel good or support our best learning abilities. Moving in new ways, I said, can shift how we feel and learn. Together we did some Brain Gym® activities: PACE, Lazy 8s, the Double Doodle, and the Lengthening Activities. After the balance, Jack’s growing self-esteem was evident in his improved physical alignment and focused vision as he now laughed and made eye contact.

A few months later, Jack came for a follow-up session. He had been doing his PACE activities every day, as well as the Footflex, to help him stay on track with his goal. He was now doing better in his classes, felt more comfortable with his teachers, and said that it helped him to remember the reward that “the school game” would offer him after he graduated.

As an educator who stays current on the research in neuroscience, I know that students are able to learn better when they can self-calm and be at peace within their environment the way Jack learned to do. Being in such harmony means feeling safe—feeling that we belong, that we have a place in life and are valued.

Unfortunately, the focus on standardized requirements has pulled many public schools away from whole-child teaching and learning. Fear of the negative results of measurement and evaluation has too often changed the school environment from a place of engaging mentors and stimulating learning activities to one of burdensome homework and anxiety about test performance. Less time is spent on interactive art, music, and outdoor activities that honor a diversity of learner skills and interests.

The Brain Gym® program, when offered for even a few minutes a day, has been found to help students let go of stress and fear, move purposefully toward their goals, and attend to the joy of learning that is the natural focus of every child.


To discover more about Paul’s approach to teaching, see Brain Gym® and Me: Reclaiming the Pleasure of Learning, by Paul E. Dennison, © 2006.

Note: Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., the director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development and the author of 15 books including Neurodiversity in the Classroom:  Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life, argues that there is no ‘normal’ brain or ‘normal’ mental capability, and that it’s a disservice to learners to assume that their differences involve only deficits. Armstrong instead describes learners in terms of their diverse gifts and intelligence, which he refers to as neurodiversity. 

© 2013 by Paul Dennison. All rights reserved.

Brain Gym® is a trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation/Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.

Re-educating Our Movement Toward a Goal

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-walking-family-image16811355This past weekend I enjoyed teaching a lively and exciting three-day Movement Re-education workshop here in Ventura, with warm weather the backdrop to our rediscovery of flexibility and ease. For 20 years, the Movement Re-Education work has proven its value as an effective tool for releasing postural compensations and reestablishing whole-brain (two-sided, whole-body) movement patterns.

Edu-K is a structure-function model, recognizing that learners sometimes compensate their bilaterally symmetrical human structure when doing one-sided tasks. We use integrated side-to-side, back-to-front, and up-down movement patterns to re-educate for such diverse activities as communication, organization, and focal attention.  In this course, I explore with students ways to notice and balance the muscles and skeletal alignment in terms of daily-life goals and functions. Learners are often surprised to experience how discomfort in one area can lessen when they balance for a goal, without directly working on the tension. As they discover how to use their muscles as a whole system to move in better alignment, their thinking, feeling, and actions can also work together more efficiently and effectively.

In the workshop, students chose such goals to balance for as more fluid dancing, creating a business network, more intimacy with friends, and walking with greater ease (after a surgery). During the course, the participants discovered how to use movement to relax and stimulate tight muscles, rediscover mobility and stability, and awaken their senses. As they worked with partners, I enjoyed hearing such comments as “I didn’t realize it could be that easy to regain agility,” “My feet feel more flexible,” “My hips feel really stable and integrated,” and “Wow! Now I have a butt!”

As students did a slow-motion version of the Cross Crawl, I could see a big difference in overall balance and in stability of the standing leg. And as muscle length was restored in the hips and posterior chain, some were able to automatically stand and walk with the outsides of their feet parallel, instead of pointing outward.

One participant said, “I can walk up and down stairs now without holding on to the banister. Wow!” After balancing with a goal to think clearly, another student commented, “I can remember what I’m doing when I walk into a room. It’s a miracle!” These are just a few of the results shared by the participants. At the end of the workshop, two of the students offered these testimonials:

Paul explained the muscles and how they relate to our body challenges. It was so easy to understand. When I started the course, I was ready for a nervous breakdown, yet I felt completely different afterward. When I left I felt light as a feather—happy. I stopped a couple of times today and did some Brain Gym® activities. I also took a very long walk at the beach, about an hour. It seemed like I was moving so fast, and my body felt very light. Walking felt fantastic!!! It was enjoyable, comfortable, and very inviting. I felt a huge desire to do it. I also jumped on the rebounder a couple of times. I noticed all day how easy it was to do my work. Then I started to notice other things, like when I went to bend down, it was so easy to do. Then, before I knew it, I was organizing my desk till I had everything in order. This course is so fantastic. Everyone in the world needs it. I feel like a new woman. —L. P., California

Paul’s careful demonstrations and explanations for each muscle were very clear and informative. And, of course, the balances and openings of the various muscles have been expansive and wonderful. I am taller, and I walk, sit, stand, and get up and down with much more comfort and ease. I’m going to tell others that chronic pain in neck, back, shoulders, and knees can be relieved by simple structural re-education. —R. L, Oregon

(C) 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.

Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym® International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.

Word from Down Under

G’day, mates! I’m enjoying being here in Melbourne, Australia, with many friends old and new. It’s summer here, and very hot, and I’m teaching a two-day postgraduate Movement Re-education workshop to a lovely group of eighteen people. Julie Gunstone, my sponsor, makes sure I have whatever I need for this series of courses, including good company, good food, time for R&R, and lots of laughter.

My first trip to Australia was with Gail in 1986. We brought along a rough draft of our book Brain Gym®: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning, conceived as a homeplay reminder, which was enthusiastically received and has since become a best seller, translated into more than forty languages. I love working with the Aussies, and always learn from them. They are lighthearted over here and don’t take things too seriously. They never seem to have problems, addressing concerns with a cheery “No worries, mate.”

I teach Movement Re-ed by doing many balances (Edu-K’s process of “five steps to easy learning”), each balance highlighting a different way to notice and release compensatory movement patterns. Now more than ever, I’m emphasizing alignment, and getting great feedback from students on this small yet important enhancement of the course. I appreciate the way these Brain Gym graduates bring their awareness into every new balance. As they set goals together, they jump into any opportunity to advocate for one another. They balance  to expand their movement and sensory modalities for each goal, and, in a friendly, collaborative way, hold one another accountable for following through on intentions.

There was one highlight that I especially enjoyed. A young woman I’ll call Jill said that, as she initially thought about her goal, she noticed that her breathing became tense and short. After the balance, she said her goal now felt more accessible, and that she was excited to be able to breathe more fully and even feel the ribs in her back move with each inhalation! It gives me great happiness to be able to support people in embodying their dreams and desires and the longings of their heart in this way.

© 2013 by Paul E. Dennison. All rights reserved.

Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.


Verticality in Gravity: The Alexanders Are Coming Up!

Amazingly, four of my Alexander seedlings are sprouting. According to Wild Garden Seed’s 2012 catalog, the Alexander is “a biennial relative of celery and angelica, once widely cultivated in the Mediterranean for its fleshy petioles before celery became a well-domesticated vegetable.” The flavor is said to be similar to celery, but milder. And this veggie was supposedly a daily part of Alexander the Great’s diet. They grow through the spring and are eaten in early summer.


I had given up on them in late October (the end of the eight-week “wet chilling” incubation period), and didn’t even notice till today that their delicate double leaves and tiny vertical stems had broken through the soil in the egg carton planter I set out on the porch. I immediately transplanted the seedlings along the edge of the patio, where they’ll stay in the shade that they like.

Such strong verticality in nature reminds me to attend to my own alignment. All too often, I find myself sitting or standing in ways that don’t support my natural well-being. Then I can do some Energy Exercises from the Brain Gym® 26, or some favorite Vision Gym® activities, to restore a relaxed alignment, with my head centered over my torso and hips.

The name of these tiny plants also reminds me of the great movement educator F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), an Australian actor who developed the Alexander Technique of Postural Development. Alexander’s simple way of paying attention to movement habits and letting go of excessive tension has been an essential building block of Paul’s and my own work in Educational Kinesiology, and is also the inspiration for the Energy Fountain* activity from Vision Gym®.

© 2012 by Gail E. Dennison. All Rights Reserved.

*The Energy Fountain, an activity that connects learners with this verticality in gravity, is from Vision Gym®: Playful Movements for Natural Seeing, by Gail E. Dennison and Paul E. Dennison. 

Brain Gym® is a trademark of Brain Gym®  International. Click here for the name of an instructor in you area.

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