Why kids need us to read the same book over and over again…

Find out why your kids ask you to read that book over and over again! It's a good thing.

As our families gathered this last Mother’s Day, we were swapping favorite books for little kids. That’s what the women in my family love to do – talk books!  Husbands, on the other hand, like to photo bomb nice pictures.  I was telling my sister about one of our family favorites, Barn Yard Dance,  and how we’ve read it so much we can recite it from memory while still actually loving the book.  As if on cue, that photo-bombing hubby of mine walked past, heard the title and started reciting the book, word-for-word.  Greta came running in to see if she was missing out on something exciting. 🙂

Have any of you noticed how your kids ask for the same book over and over again?  My boys even now will do it.  When I finish a book and there is a chorus of “again, mommy” that rings out.  I used to let myself get a little annoyed or feel the need to switch out books more often until I read about WHY these repeat readings matter.

Repeat Picture Book Readings Boost Vocabulary

The size of a child’s vocabulary is so very important and one of the best ways to give this a boost is through read-aloud time!  Studies have shown that vocabulary is the single greatest predictor of success when a child starts formal learning. So much of what is taught is verbal.  The child that understands more will naturally be able to learn more.  And then once a child can read, personal vocabulary either feeds or frustrates reading comprehension.

What I find so amazing is that we don’t necessarily have to read a gazillion books to see this increase in vocabulary acquisition.   Sometimes less is more  Study after study has shown the huge benefits in giving in to our children’s pleas for “Again, Again!” and reading that same old book over and over again.

Dr Jessica Horst of Sussex University recently published a study that she conducted on 3 year olds comparing those that read a variety of books vs. those that read the same book or two over and over again for the same amount of time. While both groups saw development of new vocabulary, the latter group far exceeded the variety group in the rate of vocabulary acquisition.  Familiarity is the key to learning new words.

This makes sense when we remind ourselves that they are learning a new language. Immersion through repetition is vitally important.

>>But what about for older kids?<<

While we know this works for toddlers and preschoolers, researchers have also found that repeat picture book readings to elementary aged students increases vocabulary acquisition by 15-40 percent and that these advances are relatively permanent. This is a powerful reminder to KEEP reading to our children, even after they are reading on their own.

Repeat Picture Book Readings Boost Comprehension

In addition to the benefits in boosting vocabulary, repeat picture book readings also boost comprehension.  Different nuances and aspects of a story will come to life as you read that book multiple times.  This helps our children to understand the story at a much deeper level than if we just glossed over it one time.

Repeat Picture Book Readings Boost Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is simply a growing awareness of how individual sounds (phonemes) come together to make words.  Reading aloud strengthens this and repeat readings amplifies the effect. This is an important precursor to learning how to read.

Related to phonemic awareness is the ability to articulate.  Ever heard the saying, “well-read, but poorly pronounced?”  As we read aloud to our children they are not only exposed to new vocabulary, but they hear how those new words are pronounced.  This is helpful for people of all ages.

For our little one’s it is critical. I’ve always KNOWN this to be true, but getting to see it in action is especially powerful.  I mentioned a few months ago that my little girl had some pretty substantial speech delays.  While researching what to do, I was struck by the importance of pretend play with your child and the powerful affects of reading aloud.  As I became more intentional to carve out that one-on-one time to read to my littlest it was amazing to see the results.  Not only was her vocabulary and comprehension growing, but also her phonemic awareness and ability to enunciate.  For her it has given us an opportunity to work on her speech as she practices trying to say newly acquired words.

Little Green - a beautiful book that packs a powerful punch: helps develop fine-motor skills, new vocabulary, promotes artistic expression and is simply a delight to read.

As the research out there has been compiled a few themes emerge that characterize making the most of repeat book readings, including:

• focusing on one or two books at a time

• reading each book four or more times

• reading for 20 minutes or more if the child is still interested 

• reading the book daily or every other day

Now of course these were characteristics found during formal studies looking at the effect of repeat reading on vocabulary and comprehension. In an everyday home environment this typically happens more organically. As you bring good books into your home (if your kids are anything like mine), they’ll gravitate to one or two for a time and then cycle to something else. Mine have all gone through seasons of asking for the same book over and over again in one sitting.

So today’s lesson?

>> Read, read and read again. <<

>> Reading a few repeatedly is more effective than reading many only once. <<

>> Take cues from your child.  If they beg, “please read it again,” then do it! <<

 

A delightful collection of board books for your toddler {and an explanation of why they want/need that book read over and over again!}

Books My Two Year Old Loves

As I look back over the last few months, I thought I’d compile some of the books that Greta has cycled through.  Ironically enough, they grouped themselves into pairs and yes, she asked for them OVER and OVER AGAIN!

Her Current Fav’s

Most recent set:

LittleGreen

1. Little Green ~ I discovered this gem when we were learning about birds several years ago.  It is perfect for the younger crowd.  My kids have loved to trace the down-up-down’s and loops that this little hummingbird makes which is a fun, playful way to start working on writing stroke practice.  It inspires my kids to observe birds and then want to go paint them.  I love the open-ended approach to art in this book.  The words just roll off your tongue like butter.  And finally and probably of utmost importance in the eyes of each of my children has been finding the “caterpillar” hidden on each page.  Greta is obsessed and this little girl that has struggled so much with articulation and saying more than one syllable words loves to play around with saying caterpillar.  It’s one of her clearest words because her incentive is so high to let me know when she’s found it.  We’ve read this 2-3 times every day for the last 2 weeks…

hush2. Hush! A Thai Lullaby ~ This book came to us via a library reading program one year.  It was one of the free books you could pick when the program ended.  I’m so glad I picked it up.  This beautiful book follows a mom as she walks in and around her hut hushing the different animals.  My kids enjoy the antics of the “sleeping baby” and the sounds each of the animals make.  I just noticed this week (after reading it for the 110th time) that each animal is a different color, so it is naturally incorporating color awareness as well.

Set 2

jonah1. The Story of Jonah ~ We received this giant board book (shaped like a fish) when Xander was born.  The rhyming text and interesting illustrations have captured the attention of all our children…

2. Come Aboard Noah’s Ark ~ Another giant board book that includes great rhyming text.  We love just reading the text, hunting for different animals, finding “pairs” and such.  For kids that want to take it a step further, both this one and the Jonah story have some excellent conversation starter questions on the last page.

Set 3

The Seed and the Giant Saguaro - amazing book based on the "This is the House that Jack Built" theme.1. The Seed & the Giant SaguaroI love all of Jennifer Ward’s books.  The author lives here in Arizona, so several of her books are on desert themes.  Her love is the great outdoors and drawing children outside through her sing-songy books.  This one is a variation of the “This is the house that Jack built” and follows a saguaro, it’s fruit that is found by a packrat, who is followed by a rattlesnake, roadrunner, coyote, etc…  Greta was obsessed with pointing out each of the animals and loved the foreshadowing of what would appear on the next page.

2. Time for Bed ~ While we were reading The Seed and the Giant Saguaro, she was also obsessed with this beautiful book.  She loved identifying the baby animals and their mothers.  Again, beautiful rhyming text, great exposure to relate-able vocabulary and a book that even I didn’t mind reading over and over and over again.  This phase lasted 2-3 weeks as well!

 

Set 4

Little Blue Truck - perfect book for the 4 and under crowd.  1. Little Blue Truck ~ My sister told me about this one.  Lo and behold, little girls love trucks almost as much as little blue boys.  We read this one back in January.  We both loved reading it again and again and again.  I wish I had had this in our collection when the boys were younger.

2. Big Red Barn ~ I love all things Margaret Wise Brown.  When I was looking up The Little Blue Truck, I saw that this was a recommended book.  Don’t you like how effectively Amazon “convinces” you that you need another book.  Thankfully, I resisted the Amazon urge and checked it out from the library first.   Another winner that I didn’t mind reading again and again.  Greta loved finding the tiny butterfly flitting across each page.

After this phase was over, she had a pretty good command of her barnyard animals! 🙂

 

Set 5

 1. Goodnight Moon ~ Where do I even start?  I love this book.  My mom had to purchase this book twice because we loved it this much.  Even though we had the board book version, it finally bit the dust and we are on round 2 over here as well.  Greta and I have taken to telling things in her room goodnight.  She loves to identify different things in each picture, hush like the mommy bunny and of course find that tiny mouse on each page. {It must be a halmark of great little kid books to have something hidden on each page to find as that seems to be a common thread in books we end up loving…}

runaway2. The Runaway Bunny ~ I told you that I’m obsessed with Margaret Wise Brown books, right?  I love this one so much that my nursery theme (for all four kids) has been centered around this book.  So naturally, I was excited when Greta fixated on this book for a season.

 

What books have your little one’s love to read over and over again?

Related posts:

Seven Benefits of Reading Aloud
How to Cultivate Read-Aloud Time

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A must-have for every mother of young children: 30 amazing finger plays and preschool songs right at your fingertips!

Satan, burping and how it relates to reading readiness?

My little guy looked up at my with big doe eyes and asked if he could come to the service with us instead of go to his Sunday School class.  I love having my children with me and quickly nodded my assent.  As the sermon progressed, Trey nestled into the crook of my arm, *taking notes* and decorating the church bulletin.   Suddenly, I felt his body stiffen and he tugged at my arm as he pointed to his drawing.

“Mommy, does this spell “Sa tan?”

In shock, I glance down and sure enough, he’s drawn a picture of a snake (the pastor had just mentioned the fall in the Garden of Eden) and he had boldly written S-A-T-I-N.  I stopped my giggle before it escaped as I nodded my head.  At 5.5, this boy of mine has been so eager to start reading and while we progressed beautifully with our Cursive First program and doing gross-motor handwriting and phonics work, he just hadn’t made the leap into blending sounds.  I’ve read all the research {and collected helpful links on reading readiness} and I know better than to push.  It’s far better to put it aside and pick it up later.   It is far more valuable to feed his imagination with great books, give him meaningful work to do and protect his time for free play so he can cement into his mind all of the interesting things that he’s learning about.

But here he is, just a few weeks later, blending and independently sounding out words.  Oh how quickly they change.  Last week, I participated on a Google Hangout with the iHomeschool Network.  The topic was one of my favorites: the preschool years!  Ironically, I had actually shared about Trey’s desire to learn, but the evidence that his brain just wasn’t wired to progress just yet.  And in the blink of an eye it seems, something happened and it is clicking.  With relish, he is running around sounding out words.

And today, he begged to do spelling first!   So I set the bigger boys off on their math and settled down to have him put his first words in our little hand-made spelling notebook that I’ve done now with each of my boys.  With an earnest look in his eyes, he seriously asked me if I could teach him how to spell BURP.  In stunned silence, I just sat staring at him… He pleaded with me to add this word to his spelling lesson.  Can someone say, “ALL BOY”?

My goal by the time he grows up is that he will learn the proper time and place to BURP since I’ve come to realize that I’m fighting a losing battle to make this topic and behavior seem unappealing.   With the added bonus of learning /ur/ the er of Church today, this eager, but still young son of mine lasted for a grand total of 3 words before he was off to fight imaginary revolutionary war battles…

p.s. This has me thinking again on the topic of reading readiness and making me wonder if I should revisit the idea of a whole blog series on the topic…  Would anyone be interested?

How To Turn Passive Learning Into Active Learning

We need a varied approach! 5 great ideas to help convert passive learning to more active, engaged learning!

Whew! We made it to day 10 of this series on Boosting Brain Power. Are you still with me??? We careened through some of the basic necessities for brain boosting: water/nutrition, sleep and exercise. Then we explored the magic of movement and why multi-sensory learning is so vital. I shared how important music and active, rough and tumble play is and how harmful too much screen-time can be. You stuck with me though that one and then went crazy over the Brain Breaks that I shared.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we don’t have to stick to the traditional school model of learning. We have the flexibility to break free from the school mold and embrace a home where we learn. We can embrace this kind of multi-sensory, experience rich environment.  A few years ago I wrote about experiential learning and the famous research by Edgar Dale showing the rates of retention with various types of learning. Here’s how it breaks down.

How to turn passive learning into active learning and boost retention!

The more involved a child becomes with the process, the more they learn.  We want to embrace an active approach. So for this last day in my 10 day series, I’m going to share with you 5 ways to convert passive learning into active learning…

  1. Standing Instead of Sitting ~ Remember how I wrote about the importance of movement. Look for opportunities to learn ‘standing up’. You could take your kids for a walk and review what you learned that day. I know for me as a girl growing up, I needed to march around the kitchen table reciting my multiplication tables. 2×2 is 4, 2×3 is 6, and so on… Getting my body moving enabled my muscle memory to kick in and remember those previously allusive facts. I’ve taken to this same technique with Xander recently and it works!
  2. Talking vs. Merely Watching ~ We want to encourage our children to ‘be the teacher’ and explain what they’ve learned to you, their little sister, dad when he gets home, a grandparent via Skype or in a co-op situation. Encourage a home where dialogue is valued. It keeps the brain engaged and fosters critical thinking. If your child starts to get squirrelly, have them stand up and give a ‘speech.’
  3. Writing in Addition to Reading ~ Taking notes and encouraging our children to extract meaning from what they are reading about helps make meaningful and lasting connections in the brain. The information will stick so much more than if they had merely listened to or read material. Teach your children to take notes!
  4. Project-Based Approach ~ Give them a problem to solve and encourage collaboration either with you, a sibling or a homeschool friend. This activates critical thinking and movement helps solidify and bring to fruition the ‘information’ that your child has acquired. The possibilities are numerous. One of my favorite projects was when my sister and I pulled together an Egyptian feast for our girlfriends. We planned the menu, the décor (trying to make it feel as authentic as possible), a skit and other aspects. It was a great culmination of our semester long study of ancient Egypt. Another example is beautifully depicted in the movie, Dolphin Tale. Did you see it last year when it came out? I love how the boy goes from being uninterested in just about everything to becoming fascinated with helping to rehabilitate the dolphin. This pursuit had so many educational benefits and most importantly woke up his God-given desire to know, understand and learn about the world around him! I’m intrigued to read this book on Project Based Homeschooling
  5. Imaginative Play ~ This is the apex of learning and an area where homeschooling gives an edge! Instead of wasting time standing in line, going from class to class or waiting for the next assignment to be handed out, we can give our children time to PLAY. Play incorporates movement, emotion and information as they use their imaginations to act upon what they’ve learned!  It’s so important, I’ve written about how it affects creativity, how to maximize open-ended play, how it lays a foundation for deep understanding.  It’s important, so make time for it!

I hope you have found this helpful.  It is inspiring to see how simple it can be to embrace a natural life-style of learning and promote brain boosting opportunities at the same time!

Help for the distracted child. Move to improve focus and learning, an essential ebook!

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Engaging the Senses Boosts Brain Power

An important reminder to engage the senses!  Harnessing the power of multi-sensory learning helps information stick!

Oh I had so much fun sharing about our ‘Brain Breaks’ a few days ago and it’s been wonderful to hear how helpful these ideas have been to you all!  While there are certainly times in our day where we need to get some seat work done, I love incorporating a multi-sensory, hands-on component to most of our learning so that the brain boosting benefits are built into the learning process.

Why Multi-Sensory Learning Works!

If we want to optimize learning, we need to involve the senses – hearing, sight, touch, even smell and taste. The more we diversify sensory input, the greater the impact on learning because we are diversifying connections in the brain.

Engaging the senses boosts brainpower!  Embrace the power of experience in the learning process!

For instance, if we are learning about George Washington, it helps to not just have me tell them about him, but to read engaging ‘living books’ about him and to inspect pictorial representations. If we want to strengthen the learning impact, dressing up and getting our bodies involved by dramatizing the crossing of the Delaware or making his favorite breakfast will not only increase the connection points in their mind, but solidify it into long-term memory.

Or if you are studying geography, it is helpful to not only look at a map, but to draw your own, to get your whole body involved in exploring continents. The memory my boys have of playing with ice cubes and penguin figurines is etched into their memory. Anytime they get really cold {you have to understand, we are desert folk}, they start reminiscing about everything they know and all that they learned about Antarctica.  This happens every time we enter the cold veggie area at Costco. They’ve taken to referring to this room as the Antarctica of Costco and usually bring hands inside their shirts and waddle like penguins for affect. The ‘cold sensations’ that they feel triggers these memories.

Engage the senses.  It helps learning stick!

Instead of merely studying a picture of an ear and then turning around and filling in the blanks on a worksheet printable, it is making a crawl through of the ear or getting a hands-on wet look at why we have an auricle instead of just an ear canal…

It can be using math manipulative’s.  It could mean taking your spelling practice outside and using ice cubes.

Remember:

A fully engaged body ->

                  means the brain is better utilized ->

                                                               and learning sticks.

So What’s the Deal With Hands-On Learning:

A huge part of the brain is devoted to the hand and as such what we touch and handle with our two hands shapes our cognitive, emotional, linguistic and psychological development – hence the term ‘hands-on’ learning! Actually having REAL experiences matters and wires the brain far more effectively than merely ‘watching’ or ‘listening.’ Active engagement is needed!

And does this kind of learning stick? YES, even with the youngest in our families. We had a multi-sensory approach during my homeschool childhood years. I still remember clearly the day we spent at the park learning about the make-up of an atom. We dramatized atomic theory by taking turns being {negative} electrons whipping ‘angrily’ around a {positive} proton and a {neutral} neutron. We laughed as we got our whole bodies and even our emotions involved in the process. I was in 4th or 5th grade at the time. My baby sister was only 5.  About seven years later my mom was revisiting this topic with my sister. Evie calmly said she already had learned this and proceeded to explain about positive protons, negative electrons, and neutral neutrons with appropriate positive, negative and neutral facial expressions. While she still needed to learn about atomic theory in detail, she had retained a huge amount of information. We may sit down while we read or acquire information initially, but an action must be taken to anchor it into long-term working memory.

We have the ability to give our children an experience rich life where we read a lot and then optimize that information input by seeking experiences to solidify it.

So don’t just settle for passive information intake.

Seek out opportunity to engage the senses!

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up this series with some practical suggestions on transforming passive learning into active learning!

 Be sure to check out other posts in my 10 day series!

10 Days of Boosting Brain Power series! {Day 9: Engaging the Senses} Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring

 

The Role Music Plays in Boosting Brain Power

How does music play a role in boosing brain power?  Plus ideas on incorporating more music into your homeschooling!

Many of us may have this mental image of the large homeschool family lined up with their violins or the Chinese student that is a musical prodigy… Well, it turns out that there are some powerful ‘brain’ benefits to learning how to play a musical instrument.  Music goes a long way in helping to wire the brain to learn and you don’t have to be a Tiger Mom to see your children reap the benefits…

Music stimulates parts of the brain that are related to reading, math and emotional development! Pairing music and movement enhances the vestibular system and activates large areas of the motor cortex, frontal eye field area and produces that magical neurotransmitter – Dopamine.  A study of slow readers found that just 5 months of playing an instrument such as the violin, recorder or similar instrument where rhythms were felt against the body and teeth increased their reading scores 4.5 grade levels.

A recent study came out in the Journal of Neuroscience that highlighted the benefits on brain development for children who had started music instruction before age 7.  It appears that between the ages of 6-8 there is a ‘sensitive period’ when musical training interacts with normal brain development to produce long-lasting changes in both motor ability and brain structure. It highlighted and confirmed benefits to learning to play a musical instrument.

Some brain boosting benefits to learning to play a musical instrument.

Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument:

  • Requires and strengthens coordination between the hands and visual or auditory stimuli.
  • Boosts the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain.
  • Creates a framework upon which ongoing training can build.
  • Learning to play the piano strengthens bilateral integration as the two hands learn to coordinate together.

Why Listening to Music Matters?

CAT scans have shown that different aspects of music activate different parts of the brain.  In fact, half of the brain processes the words of the song while the other half processes the music.  Listening to music and playing music games, therefore, helps children to use the various parts of their brains simultaneously.  Music also stimulates a child’s frontal lobes, which are important to both language and motor development.

Learning Through Music

Learning information through song is helpful because it takes several discrete pieces of information and combines them into one larger piece of information – a song.  Processing that one piece of information is much easier than processing a long list of segregated facts.  There are so many options out there to learn through song.  For the younger ones, we’ve loved the Wee Sing series – especially their Bible Songs, Nursery Rhymes, Finger Play Songs, Wee Sing and Play and the Patriotic song set.   For older kids it is fun to sing geography songs, history or even grammar songs (we need to get these pronto!).

Music Therapy

A good friend of mine, who also happens to be our Kindermusik instructor, discovered the profound benefits of music therapy helped her son who had developmental delays due to a serious childhood sickness.  You would never guess there were any delays now…  He was recently featured on a local news program.  Check out his story.  It is inspiring to see how active, involved parents and the power of musical instruction can make such an impact.

 

So How Can You Capitalize on This?

    • Learn to play a musical instrument. In our home growing up, we were all required to take 2 years of piano (all of us ended up doing it longer), my sister has started her daughter in Suzuki violin and we do Kindermusik for two years before starting piano lessons. {Currently, piano lessons aren’t in the budget, so yours truly is trying to tackle that on her own. Pray for me…}
    • Listen to Music in the Home.  We love to play all kinds of music, but especially classical music.  It is fun to try and pick out the different instruments played and have fun telling the story we think the music might be trying to portray.  In addition to listening to straight classical music, we also adore this Introduction to the Classics series featuring the story and music of famous composers!
    • Sing and Dance.  Put in your favorite songs to sing to and get moving.  There is something profound about learning how to feel the beat and like I mentioned earlier singing the words while listening to the music helps the two hemisphere’s of the brain work together.  I love to do this with worship songs for the soul benefit as well! 🙂
    • Learn through Song. It is so much more fun to sing your way through reciting the States, your multiplication tables or any other topic.  I’m constantly on the lookout at conventions for fun ways to incorporate this. {I’m all ears if you have resources that you love.  Please share!}

Want to explore more? 

Early Music Lessons Boost Brain Development

Listening to Music Lights Up the Brain

Mary at Home Grown Learners did a 10 day series on teaching music in the home.

Read Raising Musical Kids.

Check out my other posts in this series:

Explorng all of the wonderful ways to boost brainpower

For other 10 day series, check out:

Hopscotch-With-iHN-Spring

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Brain Breaks: An Important Tool for Every Parent!

Brain Breaks can be just what you need to help wake up the brain and body!  Information plus an book with tons of ideas to get blood pumping and improve focus!

Check out my new Brain Break Book (Print & eBook editions)!

Give your kids an important boost of oxygen and help wire their brains to learn with these important brain breaks.

A year and a half ago while working with my oldest on spelling dictation, he started to get restless and completely incapable of focusing on the work at hand.  In frustration, I found myself launching into a long-winded lecture. Blah, blah, blah… As my monologue progressed, I noticed that he was zoning out even more.  It was time for a change of tactics.  I paused and in my very best army sergeant voice ordered my son to stand up and give me 10 jumping jacks.  A look of surprise washed over his face.

He giggled.  I gave my best over-the-top army sergeant glare and barked the order again, fighting back giggles of my own.  He responded with a puny flailing armed set of jumping jacks.  I mustered composure, told this ‘private’ that his performance was unacceptable and ordered two laps around the kitchen island before returning to spelling duty.  He giggled again and complied.

Since then, I’ve introduced a number of fun little breaks that get pulled out at random times to wake up lethargic brains and bodies!  We call them ‘brain breaks’.    What I didn’t realize is that I had read about something similar years earlier in Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head.   This educational psychologist recommended short movement breaks as remedial exercises to help with bilateral integration in struggling students and eventually as break for the entire classroom.  As I reread the book last year, I had an aha momentWhat I was doing just to save our sanity was actually waking his brain up by activating the vestibular system, bilateral integration and giving the brain a fresh boost of oxygen!

Brain Breaks can be just what you need to help wake up the brain and body!  {Great ideas to get blood pumping and improve focus! Check out the book, The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks that details 60 fabulous activities - perfect for homework time, homeschooling and in the classroom!}

Brain Breaks can be just what you need to help wake up the brain and body!  {Great ideas to get blood pumping and improve focus!  This ebook is a must for every parent and teacher!}

Brain Breaks can be just what you need to help wake up the brain and body!  {Great ideas to get blood pumping and improve focus!  This ebook details 60 fabulous activities - perfect for homework time, homeschooling and in the classroom!}

Brain Breaks can be just what you need to help wake up the brain and body!  {Great ideas to get blood pumping and improve focus!  This book details 60 fabulous activities - perfect for homework time, homeschooling and in the classroom!}

So here is my little tip for the day!  When you are doing some of the necessary seat work and you see that the lights are on, but nobody’s home, declare a ‘brain break’.  A quick 2-5 minutes will work wonders to lighten the mood, get oxygen pumping and wake their brain up for diving back into the learning process!  The key here is to make it light-hearted and fun!

 

Breaks like these work to wire the brain to learn, focus and perform better!

Want to learn more?  Come check out my book:

The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks 

Use the coupon code “move” to get a $2.00 off! 

A must for every parent or classroom teacher.  Simple brain breaks to help our children improve focus, concentration and retention!

An extended version with 3x as many practical brain break ideas plus an extended guide on how to use them in your home, homeschool or even the classroom!  

Subscribe to my special Brain Breaks newsletter  if you want to receive updates related to exercise, movement and learning!

Brain Breaks are a fun way to "wake-up" the brain throughout the day to give bodies a needed oxygen boost and wire the brain for optimal learning! {This E-book is a must for every parent and teacher!}

A big thanks to MeinLilaPark for the beautiful graphic!

{Day 7: Brain Breaks}  The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks {a must for all parents and teachers} is due out in August!

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters

Day 5: Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Day 6: How to Waste Brain Boosting Opportunity

Day 7: Brain Breaks: An Important Tool in Your Homeschool

Day 8: The Role Music Plays in Boosting Brain Power

Day 9: Engaging the Senses Boosts Brain Power

Day 10: How to Turn Passive Learning into Active Learning

How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunities

How to waste brain-boosting opportunities?  Reasons why we should limit screentime.  {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power}

So we’ve been talking for the last week about boosting brain-power.  Water, nutrition, sleep and exercise are foundational.  When it comes to our educational environment, movement is the key to turning our children ON to learning.  Friday, I wrote about how active, rough and tumble play contributes to wiring the brain to learn.

As much as movement turns the brain ON to learning, today I’m tackling the unpopular topic of how we turn their brains OFF to learning and rob them of the time needed for all of these brain-boosting opportunities…

Screen Time

Yes, the biggest culprit that kills active play and learning is screen time – and by this I include TV, movies, netflix, computer and touchscreens (like the ipad and iphone).

I think deep down, we all know screens are time-suckers and should have strong limits.  But in today’s culture that is very hard to put into practice, isn’t it?  So, let’s start with a fresh reminder of why we should limit screen time…

Why is Screen-Time So Bad?

  • Robs Time ~ Watching TV (movies, etc) is a deprivational activity.  It deprives us of the time and opportunity to do something more productive.  For children – especially young children this critically inhibits the development of language and listening skills, imagination and various problem-solving processes that are essential in learning how to read.  It robs all of us of opportunity for real-life hands-on exploration, creativity building and time spent exploring, talking (to real people) and real rather than virtual experiences.  Time spent in front of a screen is time NOT spent doing something that builds the brain, builds relationships and builds a healthy, whole person.
  • Slows Brain Activity ~ Remember when we talked about the cerebellum last week?  Computer imaging of the brain has revealed that the cerebellum is almost entirely inactive during the passive activity of watching a screen.
  • Lacks a hands-on, multi-sensory component that is critical to learning.  When a person moves and interacts it fires up the cerebellum and speeds up the learning process.
  • Lacks verbal, personal interaction.  Children need to communicate WITH someone, not just having an impersonal ‘machine’ talking at them.
  • Highly Addictive ~  A recent study came out that reveals that screen time produces a chemical response with dopamine in the brain similar to the affect of other addictive substances (drugs, sugar, cigarettes, etc).   If you don’t think you or your children are addicted to your screen of choice, try taking it away for a day or even a week.  It’s hard to do.  Oftentimes, you’ll even notice withdrawal symptoms.
  • Rewires the Brain ~ As scary as this sounds, researchers are finding this to be very true.  Even actively engaging with screens when we are on computers and touch screens is having a rapid and profound affect on how our brain is wired. Researcher Gary Small said,  “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.”   The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains explains that the very act of how we read and process information is changing when more time is spent learning ‘online.’  For instance, we lose the ability to focus and and read long articles.  We develop what’s been coined “popcorn brain” where we are constantly hopping around from topic to topic without the ability to delve deep.  For children in this season of intense learning the affects can be devastating.

The New Nanny

In this digital age, it is vital for us as parents to constantly be assessing where our families are spending time plugged-in and whether or not this is beneficial.  TV or video game consoles were the default ‘babysitter’ of choice when we were kids, but now with the technology boon, we have the opportunity to keep our kids plugged in at the park, in the car, at the store, the waiting room.  It’s as easy as handing over our smart phones or a tablet.  But should we be handing over these devices every time we want to keep them quiet?  Are we abdicating our responsibility to parent and to teach self-control?

But Aren’t Touch Screens Different?

With the explosion of smart phones and tablets, many schools are rushing to embrace a tech-centric approach to education and marketers are quickly saturating the market with all kinds of ‘educational aps’.  Since they are ‘educational’ does this make them good?  Well, the truth of the matter is that there is NO real research on this.  The ap makers themselves assert the benefits, but this is not true research.  It reminds me of the whole ‘Baby Einstein’ craze and then subsequent recall when complaints were filed stating that parking kids in front of educational DVD’s didn’t actually make them smarter, but harmed them.

A rationale for why we should limit screentime for our children! {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power series}

So What to Do?  Some Thoughts…

Take Stock ~ Take time to record how much screen time your family is getting.  It is helpful to see how much and when you are using screens.

Assess ~ Decide what amount of screen time you want for your family. Each family is going to be different. For instance, we are a football family. We watch almost every NFL game that is aired on ‘regular’ TV (we don’t have cable). But the kids don’t watch any other TV, we don’t have Netflix and they only watch an occasional movie, maybe twice a month or so. In our family, we utilize a portable DVD player on the airplane. Being trapped in a metal tube 30,000 feet in the air with a hundred other people made plugging my kids into a movie sound like a great idea. When we drive however, I have the ability to pull over and address temper tantrums and help my children learn how to occupy themselves in the car without the need to plug in. Car time, provides us wonderful opportunity to talk and for them to observe the world flashing by them… So we keep our car screen free.

Cut BackJust do it!  We’re going screen-free next week.  Want to join us? {This mama needs it just as bad as the kids!}

Constantly Reassess ~ Last week, I had to take all four kids with me while I had my teeth cleaned.  I strapped Greta into the umbrella stroller and had snacks for her and then let the boys take turns playing Angry Birds.  In hindsight, I realized that they are old enough now that I could have had them bring a book to read.  We’ve trained them enough on how to sit still and behave that I didn’t NEED to use the screen.

Let us encourage one another in purposeful parenting – to minimize screen-time and maximize relationships and learning!

 10 Days of Boosting Brain Power series {Day 6: How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunity}

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters

Day 5: Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Day 6: How to Waste Brain Boosting Opportunity

Day 7: Brain Breaks: An Important Tool in Your Homeschool

Hopscotch with the iHomeschool Network

Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Rolling down hills actually wires the brain to learn.  Active play gives the brain a boost!

The sounds of giddy laughter ring out on this beautiful spring day!  We applied ourselves to getting the house straightened up and finishing ‘seat-work’ so that we could head out to the park.  Talk about sweet motivation!  And I get to return to a peaceful home to boot!

As I watch my children race around and play (and make sure Greta doesn’t hurl herself over the edge of the climbing structure), I’m struck afresh with the power of good ol’ fashion outdoor rough and tumble play.  You can see them unwind and just come alive.  And yet, schools across the country are cutting recess and oftentimes neighborhood parks sit empty as kids are busy indoors with homework or playing video games…

Active play promotes brain development!  It's not just fun, it is FUNdamental! {Day 5 of Boosting Brain Power}

Children need time for active play.  It is not only fun, it is FUNdamental for their physical, emotional and yes – their MENTAL wellbeing. 

As I wrote about yesterday, MOVEMENT is so key to turning the brain ON to learning.  It activates so many parts of their brains.

When my little guy is hanging upside down from a tree branch, he is activating his vestibular system.  The vestibular system {housed in the inner ear} not only helps our body maintain balance, but it is considered the entryway to the brain for all of the senses.  This is an important entry point and having it working in peak capacity is beneficial in so many ways as millions of messages are relayed through this system into our brains throughout the day.   So yes, next time you see your child turning summersaults, rolling down hills or hanging upside down from the monkey bars know that their little brains are getting a kick-start in wiring to learn!

When our children brachiate on the monkey bars, skip, hop, jump or do that funny walking along the curb thing {one foot up, one foot in the gutter}, their brains are busy growing.  Bilateral integration occurs as they learn to coordinate both sides of their body.  What looks like simple, ordinary outdoor play is preparing their brains to read, write, reason and so much more.

When I was preparing to speak last year on the topic of movement and brain development, I checked out the book, The Art of Rough Housing.  It gives a great defense for this disappearing past-time.  My husband was incredulous that I could possibly need a book on the topic. While I claimed it was purely research, I was secretly also looking for ideas and inspiration myself.   It gave me fresh appreciation for my husband because this whole ‘rough housing’ thing tends to be an area where dads excel!  When they rough house with the kids, you know those times when you frantically run around the house to secure ‘breakables’, it is not only a fun bonding time between dad and the kids, but it also is a fabulous way to stimulate the vestibular system.  So maybe we can encourage our hubby’s to move that wrestle time to the morning before he heads to work so that our kids will be all primed and ready for school work that day! 🙂

So as we head into the weekend, get OUTSIDE.  Embrace rough and tumble play, knowing that it helps promote a healthy childhood!

For those of you with kids under 5, the book, Active Baby, Healthy Brain provides some fun, easy ideas to promote more of this active play. These ideas are especially nice for those home-bound times. It also gives fresh appreciation for all of the physical developmental stages that our young children go through. There is a reason for them!

10 day series on boosting brain power at heatherhaupt.com

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters

*affiliate links may be used

 

10 Days of Boosting Brain Power: Why Movement Matters

WHY movement matters!  Part of a series on boosting brain power and the intersection between movement and learning.During my 1st grade year, I attended a nice private school. When my mom went to visit one day, she discovered that I had been placed in the back corner of the classroom. Every 10-15 minutes I would quietly get up and walk a lap around my desk before sitting back down. The teacher didn’t seem to mind too much, but put me in the back of the classroom so I wouldn’t disrupt the other students.

Now not all kids are this extreme, but when our bodies are held perfectly still, the brain shuts down. And yet this is precisely what our culture wants children to do and how we define the setting for “getting an education.” 

The cultural expectations say:

Sit still, pay attention, stop fidgeting.

 

But everything we know about the way the brain works screams, “NOT SO.” The beauty of homeschooling is that it provides the flexibility to embrace your child’s unique learning needs and have a holistic approach to education that maximizes learning potential.

So what is the missing key to TURN ON your child to learning and help that learning STICK?

Movement is the Key to Turning our Children ON to learning {Day 4 of Boosting Brain Power at heatherhaupt.com}

:WARNING: Science overload ahead. 

If you want to know the “WHY’S” read on.  If not, just trust me.  Movement matters. 🙂

WHY does movement turn the brain ON to learning?

 √ Develops Neural Pathways

NeuronNeurons are brain cells. They consist of dendrites that collect information from other nerve cells and relays information into the cell body and down the axon to the axon terminals where the information is passed on again. This process of nerve cells connecting and networking is the physical manifestation of learning, thought.

Stimulation via experience and movement = ↑ in dendrite branching and myelination (faster thought processing, reaction, etc.)

No Stimuli means branching drops. Use it or lose it applies here.

All of this serves to connect new information to existing information which leads me to the next area that movement effects.

  √ Forms Base Patterns

From birth we are taking in input through our senses and as we start to move within our environment and experience life. This forms our initial base patterns and determines the way we process and act upon learning.

Just as it looks, in effect we are forming an ‘experience net’ inside our brains where all subsequent information and experiences are sorted, categorized and integrated in.

This starts in the brainstem as babies explore and learn to move and branches out from there as a child’s senses are engaged.

Movement also releases Dopamine (a neurotransmitter) which induces elation, excitement and orchestrates further nerve net development and alignment all over the brain.

  √ Enhances the Vestibular System

This system is housed in the inner-ear. In addition to its commonly known role in helping the body maintain balance, it is considered the entryway into the brain. It is the unifying system that influences everything we do.

Movement triggers the vestibular system and relays sensory experiences to the brain to be processed. Every movement your child makes stimulates their vestibular system which stimulates the brain for new learning.

Integrated movements, done in coherent and purposeful way, activate the entire vestibular system.

  √ Promotes Bilateral Integration

Bilateral integration is the ability of the left and right hemisphere’s of the brain to communicate and work together. We’ve all heard the term ‘right brain’ and ‘left brain’. And we know that the right brain deals with intuitive, thoughtful, creative output while the left brain is strong in logical, analytical and objective reasoning. While we may have one hemisphere that is stronger than the other, it is vitally important for these two hemispheres to work together. The more we are able to access both hemispheres of the brain, the more intelligently we are able to function! This is essential for reading, writing, comprehension and creativity.

Movement helps the two hemispheres of the brain work together, MAKING LEARNING EASIER!

 √ Activates the Cerebellum

Activating the Cerebellum makes learning FASTER! Cerebellum has the fastest conducting pathways in the brain – 5-10% faster. In other words, this subsection of the brain — long known for its role in posture, coordination, balance, and movement – has a high degree of influence on the frontal cortex and cognition.

Computer imaging show the cerebellum is the most active part of the brain during learning. During non-learning processes, such as watching TV/movies, or ‘gasp’ sitting at a desk for large periods of time, the cerebellum is almost inactive.

  √ Utilizes Muscle Memory

Movement has a powerful effect on memory. Do you have a pen and paper handy? WRITE THIS DOWN:

“A person may sit quietly to think, but to remember a thought an action must be used to anchor it.”

For those of you that wrote this down, simply the physical act of writing increases the likelihood of remembering it and putting that information to use later on.

A fully engaged body →

                        means the brain is better utilized →

                                                                         and learning sticks!

And finally…

       √ Boosts Oxygen to the Brain

A refresher from yesterday’s post! IF you’ve made it this far, congrats! You need a break. Stand up and S-T-R-E-T-C-H! Without oxygen, our thinking brain goes to sleep. Movement activates it and wakes it up. Think of our brain like a computer. When you aren’t moving, it goes into ‘sleep mode’ and the screensaver pops up. The computer is still technically ‘on’, but it doesn’t help you at all if you don’t see the screen or do anything with it. Movement, wakes up the brain by giving it important life giving, sustaining and empowering oxygen!

So now, we have a greater understanding of WHY movement helps with learning. But how can we maximize this? Well, that is what I’m going to spend the rest of this 10 day series talking about! So hang on to your hats, we’re going to discover ways to incorporate this into your day no matter what educational approach you incorporate in your home!

Day 4: Why Movement Matters!  heatherhaupt.com

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Exercise Boosts Brain Power

 

The heart-brain-connection - how exercise boosts brain power! {Day 3 of a 10 day series on Boosting Brain Power!}As if we didn’t already know how good exercise is for us, today I’m giving you yet another reason to make aerobic exercise a regular part of daily life.

Doesn’t it feel so good when you finish exercising?  While I don’t always enjoy the process, I love feeling the flush in my cheeks and my heart racing afterwards.  I feel alert and ready to take on the world.  Exercise plays a powerful role in waking our brain up and turbo charging it for action.

In order to live, our bodies need food, water and oxygen.  While we can survive for several weeks without food and a few days without water, we can’t go even 5 minutes without fresh oxygen before our brain begins to suffer serious damage.   While the brain comprises only about 2% of our body mass, it uses up 20% of the oxygen supply.  Our brain is an energy junkie.  A vigorous blood supply delivers everything our brain needs to function at top capacity!

Regular exercise helps makes our heart stronger and increases normal blood flow to the brain.  This puts us at an advantage when it comes to mental processing.   And when we need a turbo boost, exercise is the ticket!

Exercise "wakes-u" the brain to learning...

So get moving.  Getting that heart pumping sends a surge of energy to the brain!  If you find that the lights are on, but no one is at home during learning time, take a break for a run around the block or a quick game of tag.  It just might give your children the brain boost they need to tackle the subject at hand!

As homeschool parents, it is equally important to not only direct our children this way when we see that they need it, but also train them to  identify when their own thinking is getting fuzzy or they’ve hit a wall with a problem they are trying to tackle.  Once they’ve identified it and know the benefits of exercise, they can take it upon themselves to get some aerobic activity to help them overcome academic roadblocks!   Sometimes taking a quick jog will be just what they need for a breakthrough.

How do you all incorporate physical exercise into your days for yourself and/or for your children?  In highschool and college, jogging was my go to means to wake my brain up.  Now, the boys and I most prefer a game of tag.  We find ourselves laughing, breathing hard and then ready to come in and face the next challenge of the day!

Exercise Gives Brain Power a HUGE Boost! {Day 3}

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters