Brain Building Exercises for Spring Break

Get Your Kid's Brains into Tip-top Shape Over the Break!
Hoping to keep your child's brain stimulated over spring break? Here are some techniques and exercises which will help your kid's mind stay active, ensuring your kid heads back to school ready to learn.

These activities aren't just great for spring break (though it's the perfect time to introduce them), they can be used every day before sending your kids to school, or before you start your homeschooling lessons or homework. These are all great exercises to boost brain activity, encourage new brain pathways to form, and increase hand-eye coordination.

If your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aspergers, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, or any related disorder, you will find that these activities will greatly reduce their stress level and improve their concentration when it comes time to do academic seat work. I have also used some of these to improve children's hand-eye coordination prior to sports activities. These activities are helpful for academic, musical and athletic performance.

Over spring break, try focusing on exercises in each category. Or, if you want a challenge, start with day one, and add each activity to your routine, finishing on day five with all 5 categories!

Day one: Juggling and throwing & catching activities.
Juggling has been scientifically proven to increase gray matter in the brain. Your local library probably has a dvd or book about learning to juggle. If you do not own any appropriate balls, you can learn to juggle using silk scarves, or rolled up socks. Juggling every day is a great way to focus your child's mind, plus it's fun!

If your kids are not at an age where they can learn to juggle, you can get many of the same benefits from other throwing and catching games, such as target toss (use some metal or plastic bowls as targets, with soft bean bags to throw) or a game of old fashioned catch.

Day two: Non-dominant hand activities
Using the non-dominant hand to perform tasks will stimulate neural connections with the two hemispheres of the brain, increasing the number of nerve fibers which connect them, literally building your child's brain. Try making a game with your child of using their non-dominant hand (left, if they are right handed) to perform daily activities. For example have your child: brush his teeth, eat a meal (you'll need a sense of humor for this one, it could get messy) pour water or sand, draw a picture, and writing her name. Using the left hand to move heavy objects can help build muscle control on this side of the body.

Day 3: Body Talk techniques
Body talk is an alternative holistic therapy. Some of the basic techniques used, like tapping out cortices to balance the right and left brain can be very useful to perform before doing homework, or other acedemic work. You can help your child to tap out her cortices, and then she can use the technique on her own when she feels stressed. Here is a great video showing you everything you need to know to try this technique.

Day 4: Meditation & yogic jathis
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help improve brain composition. And believe it or not, children can meditate successfully! You don't have to take my word for it, check out this video from Inner Kids. There are lots of great sites which offer guided meditations for children, or you could make up your own. Remember to use imagery your child can relate to for your meditation practice. For example, you could use the image of floating like a butterfly, or flowing like a waterfall.

Jathis are gentle, conscious, rhythmic movements from the yogic system. I have had great success using jathis as warm ups to help children focus on the task at hand. Here is a wonderful video showing some of these movements.

Day 5: Brain Gym techniques
Brain Gym this is a system which is used by athletes and professional race car drivers. It combines many of the concepts we have talked about to help focus and prime the brain for any learning activity. It uses "brain buttons" and mid-line crosses to help the hemispheres connect. Many videos (like this one) are available on youtube. Try reviewing them with your child.

Remember: you should always check with your pediatrician before attempting any new exercise routine with your child.

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