Anna’s heart sank as she watched Jake, her 10-year-old son with autism, sit motionless, his eyes glazed over during reading time. His love for stories was undeniable, but he struggled to grasp school lessons.
During a school meeting, a therapist shared a tip: “What if Jake learned through movement? His physical energy could be an asset, not a barrier.”
Curious, Anna tried a simple experiment. In the next reading session, she incorporated some simple movements.
For every new word, they would jump. For each exciting part of the story, they’d spin around.
Jake was hooked! His retention improved, and he eagerly awaited reading time.
Movement isn’t just about burning energy; it’s about activating the brain uniquely. For children with special needs, including those like Jake, intertwining learning with motion can be a game-changer.
There are many ways to add movement to lessons. Here’s how you, too, can fuse movement with learning to help your child thrive.
Creative Ways to Add Movement to Math
Remember, the key is ensuring the activities are fun and engaging so kids are excited about participating and learning. With math, turning exercises into games can make the subject more approachable and enjoyable.
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#1 Math Relay Races
Set up a few math problems at one end of your yard or room. Have your children race to pick up a problem, solve it, and then run back to show you the answer. This can work for any math operation.
#2 Math Dance
Play music and pause it at intervals. When the music stops, shout out a math problem. Your child must dance the answer. For instance, if the problem is “3+2”, they would do five dance moves.
#3 Hopscotch Math
Draw a hopscotch grid, but instead of numbers, fill the squares with math problems. As they hop, they should shout the answer to the problem they land on.
#4 Body Angles
Teach angles using their arms. Straight arms can represent a straight angle. An “L” shape with their arms can represent a right angle, and so on.
#5 Jumping Jack Math
For every correct answer they give, they do a set number of jumping jacks. Let them pick their favorite movement like cartwheels or pushups.
This is a great way to combine movement with math drills.
#6 Bean Bag Toss
Lay out cards with math problems on the ground. Children must toss a bean bag onto a card, pick it up, and solve the problem before going on to the next one.
Creative Ways to Add Movement to History
By adding movement to history lessons, not only are children likely to retain information better, but they can also develop a genuine appreciation for the past and the people who lived through it.
#7 Timeline Races
Create a physical timeline on the ground using chalk or tape, and provide students with cards of historical events. Challenge them to race and place the events in the correct chronological order.
#8 Historical Charades
Write down significant events, figures, or objects from the period you’re studying. Have your child pick a card and act it out without speaking while others guess.
#9 Historical Dance Off
Study the popular dances of different eras and host a dance-off! Whether it’s the jigs from colonial times or the roaring 20s’ Charleston, this is a fun way to immerse kids in the culture of the time.
#10 Walk Through History
Set up stations around a room or yard representing different periods or events.
As children move from station to station, they can:
- Read a brief description
- View relevant images
- Engage in a quick activity related to that era
#11 Statue Museum
Have children choose a historical figure and learn about them. Then, have them become “statues” representing that person.
As others walk through the “museum,” the statues come alive briefly to explain who they are and their significance.
#12 Historical Obstacle Course
Design an obstacle course inspired by a historical event, like a pioneer’s journey west.
Students could crawl under “barbed wire” like World War I soldiers, row boats, or navigate other challenges related to the event.
#13 Role-Play Scenarios
This could be debating between historical figures, recreations of famous meetings, or dramatic renditions of significant events.
By acting them out, children can better understand motivations and outcomes.
#14 Map Adventures
Lay out a large map on the ground. Give students challenges where they must stand or find locations tied to historical events or figures. This is great for connecting geography with history.
Fun Activities to Add Movement to Science
Incorporating movement into science lessons can help children understand abstract concepts through physical experience, making the learning process fun and effective.
#15 Animal Walks
If you’re learning about different animals, have children imitate the movements of those animals. For instance, hop like a frog or crawl like a spider.
Discuss the animal’s habitat, diet, and characteristics as they imitate.
#16 Shadow Play
Learn about the sun and light by creating shadows outdoors. Have children observe how their shadow changes throughout the day.
They can also experiment by forming different shapes and seeing their shadow counterparts.
#17 Water Cycle Dance
Teach the water cycle through dance. It starts by wiggling like water in a lake (evaporation), then becoming puffy clouds floating (condensation), and then twirling around and falling like raindrops (precipitation).
#18 Plant Growth Movement
Begin as a tiny seed curled up tight. Slowly grow roots (stretch out legs), then “a shoot” (reach arms up), spread leaves (stretch arms out wide), and finally bloom into a flower.
#19 Gravity Jump
Explore the concept of gravity. Have children jump on a trampoline and feel the pull when they come down. Compare this to how things might feel on the moon or another planet with different gravity.
#20 Weather Dance
Play different music tracks representing various weather phenomena, like thunderstorms, tornadoes, or sunny days.
Let the kids dance and move according to what they feel the weather would be like.
#21 Molecule Madness
Use colored balls or balloons to represent different atoms. Have children move around and bond with one another to form molecules.
For example, one oxygen (blue ball) might find two hydrogens (white balls) to form water.
#22 Human Body Relay
Set up stations that represent different parts of the body or body systems. At each station, children could do an activity associated with that part.
- Lung station where they take deep breaths
- Muscle station where they do a few push-ups
#23 Ecosystem Tag
Base it on predator-prey relationships in various ecosystems. For instance, in a grassland ecosystem game, lions chase gazelles, and gazelles need to “eat” (tag) grass to remain in the game.
#24 Magnetic Scavenger Hunt
Equip kids with magnets and let them test different objects to determine what’s magnetic and what’s not. You turn this into a race to find a certain number of magnetic items.
How to Add Movement in Reading and Language Arts Lessons
Using movement in language arts lessons can help solidify abstract concepts and make the learning experience more dynamic. By acting out and moving through language rules and stories, students can more deeply engage with the material.
Language arts encompasses reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Here are some movement-based activities tailored to the study of language arts:
#25 Alphabet Yoga
For each letter of the alphabet, perform a pose or movement that starts with that letter, like “A” for “Airplane arms.”
#26 Story Charades
After reading a story, have children act out key scenes or characters without using words.
Others can guess the scene or character they’re portraying.
#27 Punctuation Movements
Assign a specific movement to different punctuation marks. Such as:
- Jump for exclamation points
- Tiptoe for question marks
- Pause for periods.
Read a sentence aloud, and children will enact the punctuation as they hear it.
#28 Vocabulary Parade
Choose vocabulary words, and let kids dress up or use props to represent those words. They can parade around showing off their words and explaining their choice of representation.
#29 Word Relay
Write vocabulary words on cards and spread them out. Have children race to collect a card, read the word, and then use it in a sentence.
#30 Synonym Search
Children start with a basic word and must move around the room to find peers with synonyms of that word. This can also work with antonyms.
#31 Interactive Storytelling
While reading aloud, children can act out the narrative. For example, if the story mentions a character running through the woods, children can mimic the running motion in place.
#32 Grammar Dance
Play music and call out the different parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.).
Kids dance to represent each one. For example:
- For a verb like “twirl,” they might spin
- For a noun like “tree,” they might stand tall and sway their arms like a tree branch.
#33 Spelling Hopscotch
Instead of numbers, use chalk to write letters in each square. Call out vocabulary words, and children will hop through the letters needed to spell that word.
#34 Sentence Building Relay
Provide kids with a set of words. They must race to arrange themselves to form a coherent sentence. You can divide them into teams for added competition.
How Does Adding Movement Benefit Learning?
Physical activity is super important for overall health and well-being. However, people don’t realize how much physical activity benefits learning.
There are several reasons why adding movement to lessons can help children retain information better.
– Keeps Students Engaged
It helps to keep them engaged and focused on the task at hand. When students are active, it allows them to focus and pay attention more and helps release endorphins, which have mood-boosting and stress-reducing effects.
– Improves Brain Function
Movement also helps to improve brain function and encourages the development of neural pathways.
This is likely because it sends more blood and oxygen to the brain when the body is active. The increased blood flow helps the brain function better and improves memory and learning.
– Assists With Faster Learning
Movement helps children learn new skills quickly and easily. Additionally, it helps students learn and remember information better.
Research has shown that when students are physically active while learning, they can improve their academic performance by up to 20 percent.
– Benefits for Children with Special Needs
For children with attention deficits, sensory processing challenges, or other special needs, movement can be even more crucial.
It serves as a channel to release excess energy which will help them to concentrate better. It can also be a sensory break, helping them reset and refocus.
By incorporating movement into their learning routine, you’re not only catering to their academic needs but also acknowledging and addressing their unique sensory and attention requirements.
It’s a holistic approach to their education.
Movement can be very beneficial for learning. Incorporating it into your child’s lessons is something that a traditional school cannot do well due to the high numbers inside the classroom. Which activity will you try first?
Additional Resources for Learning
- 29 Fun Activities to Help Kids Focus (With Proven Results)
- Fun Winter Break Activities for Kids Guaranteed to Bust Boredom
- 21 Simple & Fun Gratitude Activities for Kids
- The Ultimate Guide to Summer Learning Activities (Your Child Will Love)
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