Welcome to Moving Smart!

Helping parents and teachers understand the LEARNING benefits of all those wiggles & giggles!

KIDS THAT GO BUMP


We’re guessing every parent knows this kid. The one who goes bump into everything... the furniture... the potted plant... the ever-patient pet... and especially you. They’ll practically knock you over if you’re not looking! 


We call those “bump ‘n hugs” and in our view, they’re the best part of the day. 


But did you ever wonder why they do it?


WHY KIDS GO BUMP

The technical term for it is proprioception - our internal GPS system. You see, children aren’t born with an understanding of their own bodies. They don’t even know their own size or shape at first. They learn it over time through interactions with the people, places, spaces, and things in their path.


But it’s not as simple as introducing your child to the ottoman and they’re good to go. Their body is always growing which means their spatial relationships are constantly changing. And that’s why they go bump. As we describe it in A Moving Child is a Learning Child...


“It’s not a question adults have to think about. But it’s a big idea for little ones. Will I fit? And that likely explains why kids love to climb in, on, around, under, over, and through things. It’s their way of exploring their place in our world.


HOW YOU CAN HELP

Sit back and watch and you’ll see your child is working on this all the time. Notice how they might take an indirect route to get where they’re going, preferring to go under the coffee table for example, or over the arm of a chair.


Consider what you have right in your own living room they could navigate. For instance, throw pillows on the floor that challenge them to move over or around them. Put different sized cardboard boxes around so they can see how they fit into them. Use the dining room set as a natural tunneling system. Position the ottoman to block their path so they have to retrace their steps. (But don't be surprised if they decide it's a mountain to climb!) Or choose a row of tiles on the floor or a crack in the sidewalk to walk along. 


Encourage them to move in space-related ways. For instance, bring your head down when crawling under things. Move sideways in tight spaces. Bend your knees to jump over things. 


And most important of all, the next time you get a bump ‘n hug, be sure to hug back extra tight so they know you are where they always fit.





STANDING WITH UKRAINE'S CHILDREN


In 2010, Christchurch, New Zealand was hit with a devastating earthquake and more than 14,000 aftershocks over the next two years. At the time, I wrote about the impact of stress on young children, wondering whether there would be lasting effects. There were.


According to Dr. Kathleen Liberty, Professor of Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury, “The impact of the quakes became apparent as children began entering school." Initial findings from Liberty’s post-earthquake study found that, compared to the baseline study, children who entered school after the earthquakes (including those who were in utero at the time) were four to five times more likely to present with learning or behavioural issues. (Read full article here.)



Today, there is war in Ukraine. A vicious, senseless, man-made earthquake. Our hearts turn again to the children, for what they endure today, and for the future that is now so uncertain.


In their honor, here is our original post... 


UNDERSTANDING CHILDREN & STRESS

 

Stress can come in many forms, not just earthquakes. And it leaves a lasting, negative imprint on children’s early development. Research shows how important it is to provide a calm and loving environment in order to help insure children’s emotional and social well-being, and surprisingly, children’s CAPACITY TO LEARN...


Scientists studying stress have shown that when a human being feels threatened – physically or emotionally – a chain reaction of chemicals is released in the brain and sent coursing through the body. In doing this, the brain is fulfilling it’s first, primary function – survival. Stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol are the body’s physiological alarm bell signaling danger. And it doesn’t matter whether that danger is defined as an earthquake, public speaking, a bad report card or a boo-boo. The body responds physiologically pretty much the same way every time.

So here’s what happens.  When these hormones are triggered, the brain goes into a primitive state known as “fight or flight,” pouring nearly all of its energy down into the brain stem – the area that controls automated functions such as breathing and heart rate. At the same time, the senses are heightened and blood rushes into the muscles (which feels like shivering) in readiness to “fight” or “flee” the danger.  Now, because of this rush down into the brain stem, the brain has difficulty accessing the cortex – the higher region of the brain that governs thinking and executive function. If you’ve ever felt highly stressed or scared you may remember feeling an inability to think clearly. And in fact, that’s exactly what’s happened, because your brain, without your permission, went on “automatic survival pilot.”



STRESS INTERRUPTS LEARNING

Of course, I’m thumbnailing years of essential research here, but the long and the short of it is this: when we are under stress the thinking part of our brain is more or less de-activated. And when we can’t think, we can’t learn. 

 

Further, when cortisol is present in the system for prolonged periods, science has shown it may have long-term damaging effects including depressed immune responses which can effect health, and memory impediments which can impact learning.

 

So, the next question is, what is stress for little ones?

 

DEFINING STRESS

Children are small, vulnerable, dependent, needs-driven creatures.  Without years of experience in understanding the world around them, they stress easily (hence, all the crying) over a variety of factors, including hunger, discomfort/pain, separation, and both instinctual and acquired fears. As a parent or caregiver, managing their stress is an essential part of helping your child flourish.



AT FIRST…

For newborns and infants, I believe there’s only one approach: meet your child’s every need. Making sure they are well fed, warm, dry, comfortable, and connected to you (especially when they are in need) is essential for controlling newborn stress levels. There are theories that babies should be left to cry in order to learn to self-calm. But the physics simply don’t work in my opinion. The more stress hormones that build up in their tiny bodies, the harder (and longer) it will take to calm down.

 


SELF-CALMING
As children grow and are better able to communicate, they may now be entering a time when they can explore the power to calm themselves – an essential step on the road to developing independence and self-confidence. Experts call this self-calming.

 

Your role is just as important during this stage, but frankly, a little less clear. Here you need to give them the time and space they need for self-assessment while still being right there in case things go off the rails. By example…

 

I’ve seen parents react when a little one trips and falls, encouraging them by saying, “You’re OK,” as the child gets back to their feet. I applaud the encouragement, of course, but in this scenario, the child isn’t given the opportunity to assess their own “Okness.” Instead, I recommend a slightly different approach. Rather than say, “You’re OK,” ask them, “Are you OK?” This does three things: 

 

1. It respects your child’s ability to assess their own feelings

2. Shows them you have confidence in them and builds self-esteem

3. Reassures them you’re right there if they decides they needs you.



YOUR STRESS

Even the youngest babies can read your stress levels, so managing your stress is equally important.  If you are calm and confident, your child is more likely to be relaxed, because just as in all relationships, emotions fuel emotions, positively or negatively. And while I realize staying level and calm around your child is not always easy, it never pays to add fuel to their “stress fire.”

 

Stress is a fact of life, and helping your child learn to cope with her feelings is a balancing act you will play out time and again. And no, the two of you aren’t going to get it right every time. But instilling confidence in them while making sure they know you’re always there when needed, is the best start you can give them on the road to independence, and the ability to manage stress in multiple situations, with or without you. 



Helping children calm down from a stressful moment in the day takes love and attention. And sometimes you can even help the process along with a little humor.

 

Next time your little one’s Grin goes missing, try this game. As you recite the poem, search all over your child (and add a little tickle here and there) and before you know it, that grin will come running back!  Note: please, feel free to make up your own words to match whatever fits your particular situation. And no, it doesn’t have to rhyme.

 

And after you’ve found your child's Grin, reverse roles and have them find your Grin!

 

FINDING GRIN

 

Oh, where did Grin go?

I do miss it so.

 

Did it flap like a crow?

Is that it on your toe?

 

Did it buzz like bee?

Is that it on your knee?

 

Did it hop like a bunny?

Is that it on your tummy?

 

Oh, wait! 

Now I see.

Here it comes!

Right towards me!

 

Welcome back,

Great big Grin.

There it is!

Above your chin!




SPAGHETTI FOR BREAKFAST



We're all coming to terms with "the new normal." And as hard as new routines are for adults they're even harder for kids. And more essential. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF ROUTINE
All parents know the importance of giving kids structure which includes a daily routine they come to count on. Routine gives children a sense of security and empowerment which helps them understand and navigate their world. 

But when routines are disrupted as they've been these past weeks, it's like trying to recite the days of the week in alphabetical order. Seriously. Have you ever tried that? If you haven't stop right now, don't read ahead, and recite the days of the week in alphabetical order. And don't use a pencil and paper. Come back when you're done.


Notice how you had to stop and rotate through all seven days several times to get them in the right order. You probably started with Monday, which of course, you later realized was wrong. You probably put Tuesday in front of Thursday too. Something so simple can be so halting when you change the order of things. 

And that's exactly how your child feels whenever his routine is disrupted.


THE IMPORTANCE OF ADAPTABILITY
Now that we've made the case for routine, there's an equally important argument to be made for flexibility and adaptability. Adapting to unexpected changes helps little ones learn to think on their feet -- an essential life skill as we all have to deal with unexpected situations, like right now. In other words, children need a balance of both - routine and spontanaeity.

And this is especially important right now because when things finally do go back to the "old normal," guess what? That's going to be their "new normal."

PLAYING WITH ROUTINE
There's a game I used to play that is so much fun, we thought you might like to try it with your own family during these uncertain times. It's designed to give kids a sense of humor about life's unexpected situations by playing with their known sense of routine. It's creative, full of possibilities, and everyone in the family can play.


I call it Back to Front Day, where you take a day and do everything BACKWARDS! And I mean EVERYTHING. Here's how I do it. Feel free to improvise!


BACK TO FRONT DAY
By living a day in reverse, kids learn to think in a different way because all day they'll be anticipating not what comes next, but what comes before! And if you involve them in the planning of the day, they will enjoy the unpredictable wackiness that comes with living backwards! 

PLAN AHEAD
Sit together with your kids and explain the idea so they can help you plan. Start by talking about your daily routine and what you do each day. Perhaps make a list or a chart and if your child isn't old enough to read, have him draw out the activities so he can see how the day unfolds. Then talk about how you can do it all backwards on Back to Front Day.

IDEAS FOR BACK TO FRONT DAY
Here are some ideas to get you started. Be sure to brainstorm these and any other ideas with your child so he feels in control of the day. Here goes...

Start by giving your day a wacky name. For instance if you plan it for a Saturday, you could call it Yadrutas.

And while you're at it, give yourselves backwards names for the day. For instance, Pam becomes Map; Emily becomes Ylime, Mommy becomes Ymmom, Daddy becomes yddad, etc.

Then be sure to do everything backwards. For instance...

The night before get dressed in your clothes to go to bed. Sleep in your clothes. And be sure you are wearing them backwards.

When kids wake up, greet them with "Good Night!"

Snuggle in bed and read them a bedtime story. Be sure to read it backwards from the back cover to the front.


Walk backwards to the bathroom. (Actually, try to walk backwards all day.)

Brush your teeth – rinse first.

Have a bath. Dry from bottom to top, not top to bottom. Get out of the bath backwards and get into your pyjamas.

Spend the day in your pyjamas.

Have dinner for breakfast – dessert first. (Note, this will take some planning on your part, but I highly recommend spaghetti!) 

Everybody uses their non-dominant hand to eat. (If you're a rightie, use your left hand!)


At the dinner table talk about what's going to happen today. Review your backwards plan so everyone is reminded of what's going to happen. Project forward by planning backwards!

Do activities in the morning you would do normally do in the afternoon

At lunch, eat dessert first, and with the wrong hand.

Do activities in the afternoon you would do normally do in the morning

Have breakfast for dinner. (I highly recommend pancakes!)


Remember you will be in your PJ’s all day. So you will need to get dressed in your day clothes to go to bed. And don't forget to wish them a "Good Day" as they settle in for the night.


Whatever you choose to do, have fun with this. The sillier the better. And the longer you can keep it going throughout the day, the more fun you'll have. You might just find by the end of the day, living backwards feels pretty normal, proving that these days, "normal" is what we say it is!

Enjoy. (And please, send us pictures. We'd love to hear about your "yad!")


A JOB WELL DONE



Have you ever noticed you have a little shadow... someone who always wants to be with you... and be you. Your little shadow finds you endlessly fascinating and is eager to do what you do, even if it's just tidying up around the house. Washing the windows or folding the laundry is the farthest thing from drudgery. To them it's challenging, intriguing, and just plain fun. And they get to be with you! What could be better than that?


This is the very basis of what teachers call play-based learning. The ancient Greek philospher Sophocles said, "One learns by doing a thing. Although you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try." For little ones it hardly matters what the doing is. As long as the child chooses it and is physically involved in it, fun and learning are bound to follow. 


Taking a walk in your shoes is an important part of your child's development particularly in the toddler years. This is the beginnings of role play, and the role they want to play is you.



So, whenever there's a chore to be done, watch to see if your little shadow wants to "help" out. If they show interest, invite them in. And whenever you can, make it real. Hand them a sponge or a brush or a squeegie, not a toy. Give them a bottle or bucket of water (not any cleaning fluids at this point), and watch how they try to do what you do. Several things are happening when you do this...

1. Little ones don't know how to behave so they use you as their model. They learn from you by doing what you do. Go at their pace.
 
2. When little ones mirror your movements, they are moving their bodies in new and unique ways. They're learning what they can do and developing new and important pathways in the brain.

3. And you're together in the process, in the moment, sharing the task at hand. When you are "shoulder to shoulder" it makes them feel important.



And sure, it takes a little longer with your little shadow's help, but it's time well spent when you both feel the satisfaction of a job well done.