Is getting your child to settle and focus on homework a challenge in your home? Or, is focusing on school work a challenge at school?
Parents and teachers ask me all the time, “What can I do for self-regulation to help a child focus on school work for high movement kids?” Here are some ideas to help you if you are asking the same question.
Often, with children who seem to exhibit high movement needs, such as seem to be constantly moving, wiggling and/or fidgeting all the time, and are described as “on the go,” we give movement strategies to meet their movement needs.
However, before we get into effective movement strategies for our high movers and groovers, I want to you to also keep in mind that regulating ourselves to get into that just right state for learning can come in many forms. Some kids and adults who are high movers do best with movement strategies but there could also be other strategies that are effective as well. Therefore, it is always best to try a few strategies and get the child's input.
Some examples of regulating strategies that do not involve movement include:
- drawing, colouring, mandala designs, etc.
- working on a craft project for a few minutes
- doing deep breathing with an object like blowing a pinwheel, blowing up a balloon, blowing pretend candles, etc.
- sensory play such as playing with water, plasticine, magic sand, bubble wrap, slime, or a tactile bin or baggie (with fabrics, rice, water balls, beans, etc.)
- construction play with Lego, Plus Plus, Kinetics
- listening to music
While it can be difficult to determine the best regulation strategy without knowing the child personally, you do know the child so go with what you know your child's likes and what s/he is interested in.
However, if you believe your child would benefit from movement strategies, a great place to start is with offering an INTENSE movement activity for a few minutes prior to starting homework / school work, or any seated activity for that matter. For example, doing an intense movement activity before a meal can be an effective way to help your child sit through the meal. The same can work prior to car rides too.
Why intense movement works
Intense movement activities work to regulate our bodies, whether that be to get our wiggles and jiggles out, to wake up our brain, or to feel more calm and focused because intense movement or hard exercise impacts the release of the neurotransmitters - serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The concentration of these neurotransmitters directly impacts our ability to focus, be motivated, manage aggression, alertness, and concentration. All much needed skills to focus on homework and school work.
Exercise makes us smarter!
Exercise increases our attention and focus, our ability to push through a problem, manage frustration, and the ability to manage impulsivity.
Quick bouts of intense exercise is very effective. The important part is to get your heart rate up to 75% of your maximum heart rate.
When our muscles and joints are stimulated, the release of these neurotransmitters generate calming messages to the brain. As such, heavy muscle work tends to lower our energy state when we are heightened and helps to reduce sensory overload. Because this system sends calming messages to our nervous system, activities that provide intense exercise do not result in a child becoming overstimulated.
Alternatively, heavy muscle work activities can also work to kick us into gear when we are feeling low energy, thus waking up our brain, and again, without over-stimulating us.
Intense movement recommendations:
Follow a TABATA video. Tabata routines are becoming more popular and kids tend to enjoy them. The tabata routines are short and provide intense whole body exercise. Do a routine for 4 minutes and it should regulate a child to be better able to complete homework and school work.
Here are some good links of examples for children:
Make your own Tabata video
Once you have identified activities your child enjoys, you can make a video of their own to use. Children will love being the star of the show and having input into the exercises will motivate the child to do them even more!
Kids 7 Minute Hitt Workout for Self-Regulation
This is another great option for an intense workout for all ages and is super easy for a younger children to follow. You may want to cut down the time for each activity so it's closer to 4 minutes. To do this, either cut down on the number of activities or do each activity for a shorter time (eg: 20 seconds of the activity and 10 seconds rest):