5 brain gym exercises

Have you heard of “brain gym” exercises? They’re simple, short body movements children can do to engage both the right and left hemispheres of the brain to work together, helping to boost their brain function.

Lazy 8

How to do it:

  • Draw a figure 8 in the air with one hand, then switch to the other hand. Draw the 8 in a clockwise pattern, then switch to anticlockwise. Draw it standing up (8) and laying on its side like an infinity symbol. Draw large figure 8s, then small. You can also give your child a piece of paper and writing tool to practise. Have your child follow the movement of the drawing with their eyes.

Neck rolls

How to do it:

  • Either sitting or standing, relax your shoulders and drop your head forward with your chin to your chest. Close your eyes, then roll your head from side to side on your neck in a circle. Do five circles to your right, then five to your left. Breathe in while rolling from front to back, then breathe out when rolling from back to front.

Thinking cap

How to do it:

  • Hold the earlobes between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, as though you’re pulling a beanie on over your head. Using your forefinger and thumb, roll your earlobes and the outer edges of your ears, going from bottom to top and top to bottom. Tug gently – not hard! – and massage lightly.

Belly breathing

How to do it:

  • Sit up straight and tall. Place both hands on your belly, and breathe quick five quick little puffs out through the mouth, pretending you are trying to keep a feather floating in the air in front of you. Now, take a big breath in, filling your belly like a balloon. Breathe deeply and slowly out, emptying your tummy.

Cross crawl

How to do it:

  • Sitting or standing, touch your right elbow to your left knee, diagonally across your body. Then touch your left elbow to your right knee. You might feel like you’re marching – make sure you touch your elbow to your opposite knee completely, moving the free arm behind your body. Do this for two minutes.

Why should children do brain gym exercises?

Brain gym exercises have a number of benefits for children (and adults too – give them a try yourself!):

  • Promotes right and left hemisphere of the brain working together
  • Exercises the body, particularly hand-eye coordination
  • Boosts problem-solving abilities and alertness
  • Helps increase confidence and self-esteem
  • Assists in responding to problems more quickly
  • Improves reading speed, peripheral vision, and eye muscle function
  • Increases creativity and out-of-the-box thinking
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