Lane Learning: Brain training games for kids on the school run
Once the novelty or shock of back to school wears off and your kids are easing back into a routine, try gently introducing some brain gym exercises to release stress, expend their excess energy, improve focus and help the school run go more smoothly. Brain gym exercises are good for stressed out parents too and a fun way to focus together in the morning, or to wind down after school.
Scientific research shows that exercising our brain can change it’s structure and build new pathways. Whether you have an anxious child, a child with a learning difficulty or a happy go lucky school lover, a little bit of brain gym can really help everyone get ahead and detangle any stress in your school run.
Try these six easy exercises for starters, introduce them slowly and make them a game or challenge rather than a chore:
1. Figure of eight
Ask your child to draw a large, loose figure of eight on a piece of paper, or in the air if you are in the car or on the go. Repeat the exercise with both hands to challenge both sides of the brain. Or for reluctant kids try challenges like: Bet you can’t draw 8 figures of eight in 20 seconds? How many eights can your draw in a minute? Which hand can draw the easiest left or right?
This is also a great way to practice letter shape formation.
2. Cross Crawl
This can be done sitting or standing, simply touch your right knee with your left elbow and vice versa. If you are standing tuck the arm you aren't using behind you each time. This helps to link right and left brain. Two minutes of cross crawls, alternating sides, encourages both sides of the brain to work together.
3. Brain Buttons
This is seriously calming and rejuvenating, which makes brain buttons perfect for a stressful morning or hometime. Kids can learn to do this discreetly in class, to soothe themselves in times of stress too - it is easy to do it without anyone noticing. Activate your ‘brain button’ by placing your hand on your head between your eyebrows and taking 5 or so slow, deep breaths. Parents can count while the kids breathe, encouraging a five-second breath inward, holding the breath for five seconds, then releasing for five seconds.
Perfect for stressed out grown ups too. You can also try placing the right hand on the lips and the left over the belly button and gently circling the hands too, or my kids love the old fashioned pat your head and rub your belly!
4. Hook ups
These are great to calm anxiety, or nerves before a test or exam. Ask your child to sit in a comfortable position and then cross left ankle over right. Stretch the arms and cross them and interlace the fingers. Then ask the child to bring their hand to their chest and keep still and breathe deeply for a minute.
5. Tongue Twisters
These are an easy and fun challenge fun for car journeys, soon get quite competitive between siblings, and are constructive way to burn off the need to make lots of noise! Tongue twisters teach the brain to connect tongue movements to sounds which is why they are used by actors, politicians and presenters to warm up the mouth for clearer pronunciation, speech patterns, and to help the brain navigate difficult syllables.
6. Elephant Ears
I don’t know what this is really called, but I was taught it on a teaching conference many years ago and my two love it, so we called it elephant ears. Put right hand to left ear, and left hand to nose, slowly swap so you have left hand on right ear and right hand on nose.
Do your children enjoy brain gym exercises? Have you got any to share? What else do you do to help them focus and relax on the school run? Do let us know in the comments!