This week a mom was telling me that her 8 year old came home and cried for the third Tuesday in a row.
School’s too hard, he said. He doesn’t have any friends. The teachers are nasty to him. He had to stay in for extra time because he didn’t finish his work.
These are all pretty normal things for an 8 year old to say after a tough day. Even as adults, life can look pretty gloomy at the end of a long hard day, and even the most positive amongst us can be feeling lonely, overwhelmed and like the world is against us.
Our first reaction when faced with a situation like this is to assume that the child is doing too much. It’s something we’re concerned about every day – that our children are living highly pressured lives and being pushed to take on more and more in school and in sport in order to achieve often unrealistic goals.
But the other option, and actually the more likely one, is that he needs to do more – not less. More of the right kinds of things that is – ‘high value’ exercises, I like to call them.
After a few questions, I learned that Tuesday is a day without any movement activities built into it until almost 3pm. That’s a heck of a long time for a little person to have to concentrate, take in new info, keep still at a desk, filter out the distractions of class-mates, etc. etc. etc. Especially a child like this one who is using all of his energy just to sit at a desk and hold a pencil. This child definitely needs to move so that he can keep his body and mind connected.
There’s all kinds of research out there to show that children need to move to keep their brain ‘awake’. If they don’t move, they can’t concentrate. So by keeping a child sitting still and expecting him to pay attention, we’re setting him up for failure. Even a few minutes of the right kinds of movements can help children tremendously to get back into a state ready for learning and concentrating again.
Just consider this image as an example:
So I’m wondering (in the nicest possible way, because this is in no way meant to offend those teachers doing their level best for our children every day): how much considered, structured movement is included in classroom time on an average day? How many teachers have allocated time, even just 3 or 5 minutes twice a day, when children have to get up and do a movement routine to help them ‘re-organize’ their body to cope with the demands of school life?
This is not a new concept in education, so I’m sure there are teachers doing this already. But if you’re not, I’d like to know why, and if you’d be willing to try? Because it’s definitely something I’d like to see all schools doing.
By giving children the tools to recognize when their body is craving movement, and helping them to understand when, how and why they need to move, we can help them to cope with the mental, emotional and social pressures they’re faced with on a daily basis.
I certainly want that for my children, don’t you?
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