It is important to balance periods of movement with time spent sitting still during the day for you and your child. Engaging in light, physical meditation is just as beneficial as a calm, sit-down meditation. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that acute physical activities enhance executive function.1
Executive function is a set of mental skills — memory, flexible thinking, and self-control — that we use every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. We start developing executive function in early childhood and this development can last all the way till our mid-20s. Trouble with executive function can impede your child’s focus, as well as their ability to follow directions and handle emotions.2
Physical mindfulness exercises also work as a stress and anxiety relief. With mindfulness, you try to keep your attention on the movement and the part of your body you are trying to move. Because you’re concentrating on the experience, you can let go of other thoughts in your head.
These exercises will most definitely energise your child and give them a quick re-charge. If you need some tips on how to guide your child through the steps, you can read our previous post on mindfulness here.
Here are 10 exercises to get your child moving3:
1. Boat (3–10mins)
- Lie down on your back. (Imagine that you are a boat. You are lying in lovely warm water; it’s gently bobbing.)
- Bring your knees up to your chest and let your head lie on the ground.
- Hold onto your knees with both hands. Give your legs a hug and hold them tight. (Your back is the bottom of the boat. The boat is going to move through the gently bobbing water.)
- Move your knees gently back and forth with your hands; or you can make little circles with your knees. This gives your back a massage.
- Sometimes parts of your back are more sensitive than normal. Address those sensitive parts by moving over them gently. Make sure they don’t hurt.
2. Dancing without looking (3–10mins)
- Find a spot where you have some space around you. You can stand, sit, or lie down.
- Close your eyes (When the music starts, you’ll be in the land without eyes. You won’t need your eyes here. You’ll just keep them closed.)
- Listen to the music. What movements could you make to it?
- Keep your eyes closed and move as you like!
- You can limit the dancing areas by letting your child dance in one spot (e.g. on a mat)
3. Helicopter (1–3mins)
- You’re going to need some space for this exercise. Spread your arms out wide and make sure you’re not touching anyone or any objects.
- Stand hip-width apart. Your feet will stand firmly and stay in the same spot. Relax your arms and let them hang down loosely behind you. (You are the helicopter and your arms are the propellers.)
- Make sure you keep your feet still. Turn your body to the left — your upper body and head turn with you and your arms will follow automatically. Your movement starts from your hips.
- Do the same the other way around. (The helicopters are slowly speeding up!)
- Move faster from left to right. Go as fast as you feel comfortable doing. Don’t force your body!
- Keep moving for a few minutes. You can slow it down after a while. (The helicopters are going to land and the propellers are slowing down.)
- Stop moving. How are you feeling now? (You can choose to repeat the exercise again if you want.)
4. Earth and sky (3-10mins)
- Stand up straight. Keep a little bit of space between your feet and let your toes point forwards. Your arms are hanging loosely by your sides.
- Slowly stretch your arms and move them upwards along the sides with your palms facing downwards until your arms are level with your shoulders. Spread your fingers. Breathe in. (Imagine that your hands are pulling energy up out of earth.)
- Turn your palms upwards now. Breathe out. (Imagine that you are getting energy from above, from the sky.)
- Move your arms up until they are stretched up above your head. Breathe in.
- Let your arms drop after this. Breathe out. (Imagine that you give the energy you have gathered to your body.)
- Finish off with your arms relaxed along your body. Breathe gently in and out another few times. (Give the last bit of energy back to earth.)
- You can repeat as often as you like.
5. Mirror (2-5mins)
- This exercise requires 2 people. Stand facing each other. (One of you is a mirror, and the other one is standing in front of a mirror.)
- The person who is the mirror will lead the movements. The other one pretending to be in front of a mirror will make the same movements (mirror image) as the one who is leading.
o Keep looking at one another.
- All the movements are really slow so that the one following can keep up. (If you want to, you can change roles after a while.)
6. Super feet (3-20mins)
- Take your shoes off. You can remove your socks as well. Rub some pretend-oil onto your feet. Now you have super feet!
- Wiggle your toes and stand on your heels. What do you feel in your feet? Now stand on your toes. What do you feel in your feet now?
- Put your hands behind your back and keep looking at a point about 2 metres in front of you on the ground.
- Walk around very slowly and feel how your feet touch the ground. (Feel your toes, your heels, your soles.)
- Imagine you are walking on different surfaces. (Guide them through this step. They can be walking on freshly mowed grass, on a beach, through tall grass, or through snow.)
- Walk around very slowly for a while and feel how your soles touch the ground.
7. Toe gnome (2-5mins)
- Take off your shoes. You can remove your socks as well if you want to. (Imagine that you are a toe gnome. Toe gnomes walk very slowly and differently from us.)
- Put your hands behind your back.
- Walk around very slowly. Make sure that your toes reach the ground first, then roll your foot towards your heel.
- Keep looking 2 metres in front of you.
- Feel how your feet roll. Feel how the soles of your feet touch the ground.
- You can walk backwards as well.
- Walk on very slowly.
8. Jello (1-2mins)
- Stand up straight with your legs hip-width apart. Relax your arms and let them hang loosely along your sides. (Imagine that you are made of jello. You’re a wibbly, wobbly dessert.)
- Begin shaking by bending and stretching your knees very quickly. You might feel your body begin to warm up, your arms will shake too.
- Do this for about 30 seconds.
- Stop the movement, stand like you were at the beginning and note how your body feels.
- Repeat this several times.
9. Wobble (2-5mins)
- Take off your shoes and stand up straight. (Imagine you’re a wobbly toy. You’ve just come from the factory and you need to practice your wobbling a little so you’re starting slowly.)
- Look at a point right in front of you. It might help you keep your balance.
- Lean forwards a little bit. You’ll feel your weight on your toes and on the balls of our feet.
- Lean backwards so that you’ll feel your weight on the back of your heels.
- Move to one side now. Feel the weight on both feet. (You begin to practice wobbling now, by making circles, very slowly.)
- Now you can make as many circles as you like. You can change directions as well.
10. Butterfly (1-5mins)
- Sit down on the floor. Put the soles of your feet together, and hold your ankles with your hands. Make sure your back is straight. (Imagine that you’re a butterfly that has just crept out of its cocoon.)
- You can close your eyes if you want to.
- Move your knees up and down quickly. (You’re not really used to your wings yet, but your legs are still going to flap like butterfly wings anyway.)
- After a while you can stop. How do you feel? What are you feeling now?
- Repeat this exercise.
What’s the point of these exercises?
Working through these exercises will release endorphins and help your child feel good and happy. By consciously moving, they can then relax consciously again afterwards. These exercises are good afternoon pick-me-ups you can do with your child to help energise you both for the rest of the day ahead!
If you’re interested to learn more mindfulness exercises that will teach your child about self-love and being kind to others and themselves, then stay tuned to our blog!
- Bradley, C. (2017). Mindful Movements to Beat the Afternoon Slump. (Link)
- What is Executive Functiont? Understood. (Link)
- Smegen, I. (2018). Mindful at School.