If we are going to expect our children to focus on command, continually do their best, settle when asked, and manage their anger, frustration or upset in appropriate ways, we need to teach them HOW. We need to teach them a set of tools for self-care and regulation and then support them in using them. And we need to start this in early childhood, in order to nurture social-emotional development and lay a foundation for social and academic success.
At Move with Me, we help kids learn to self-regulate by embedding Adventure Skills into our Scooter & Me movement stories. Adventure Skills give children concrete actions for supporting themselves and redirecting their impulses in productive and emotionally intelligent ways. Practicing these specific mind-body techniques enable them to learn how to de-stress, re-group, and calm and center themselves when feeling fear, anger, frustration or excitement. When they embody these skills, they authentically build self-control, self-confidence and social competence.
You can help kids learn to self-regulate by reinforcing the use of the 13 Adventure Skills they learn in the movement stories in their lives. Throughout the day with your whole group, and individually as needed, pause from activity and ask kids to notice and name how they are being or feeling. Help them, of course, with appropriate mirroring and words if needed. And then lead them in an adventure skill or ask them which adventure skill they’d like to use. Afterward, ask them to name any differences they notice. And share any differences you notice. Maybe they are more focused or settled or creative or friendly. Maybe a task was easier or a new skill mastered.
It is profoundly empowering for a child to be able to help themselves feel and perform better, focus and stay on task longer, calm and soothe themselves, or redirect their anger and frustration in a positive way. That’s what the Adventure Skills are all about – empowering kids.
The first 4 Adventure Skills are basic health rules. If you want to feel good and stay healthy, these are musts every day:
1.Breathe I know it sounds simple but connecting children to an awareness of how they breathe and teaching them conscious, deep breathing techniques will lay a foundation for self-care and self-regulation that will serve them for a lifetime.
2.Drink Water A simple action – that has a powerful effect – yet is easy to forget to do. But, it’s so important to model and remind your kids to be sipping water every 20-30 minutes. We are electrical beings and we need to stay hydrated to feel, think and do well.
3. Eat Fruits and Veggies Like water, our bodies need the vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients from plants foods to grown strong and stay healthy. Make sure you and your children eat fresh, unprocessed, colorful fruits or veggies at every meal.
4. Play, Move & Exercise Every Day According to the new Head Start Health Standards, young children need 90-120 minutes of moderately vigorous supervised active play a day. Research shows that the more kids move, the stronger, smarter, more aware, in control and able to learn they become. At Move with Me, our goal, in addition to helping you teach kids how to self-regulate, is to help you provide kids with the daily supervised active play they need to thrive and maintain a healthy weight, regardless of bad weather or any other deterrents.
5. Elephant Wisdom is a yummy way to wake up your senses so you can literally hear and think more clearly. Use it when you feel groggy or confused, or you’re having trouble listening or paying attention. Here’s what you do: with your thumb and first 2 fingers, massage your ears. Start at the top and gently work your way down to your earlobes in a way that feels good. Do it 2-3 times. Along with this chant:
To think and hear clearly
I gently rub my ears dearly,
First on the top, “Oooooooh”
Then down I must drop, “Ahhhhhhhh”
Cobwebs are clearing
Now I am hearing
And ready to learn!
6. Monkey Wisdom is a fun warm-up to prepare for fine motor skills, such as reading and writing. The cross lateral movement recharges the body and activates both the left and right sides of the brain simultaneously, which enhances thinking, comprehension, and learning. When you want to do your best, do a little Monkey Wisdom first!
Stand with feet apart. Lift your left knee and reach across your body with your right hand to touch it. Then, put the left foot down, and lift the right knee and reach across and touch it with your left hand. Continue smoothly and rhythmically while chanting:
Swing like a monkey (left hand – right knee)
Flying through the trees (right hand – left knee)
Buzz like a bumble bee
Floating on a breeze
Criss-cross your arms
Touch opposite knee
7. OH NO – AH YES helps you turn a frown upside down; a disappointment into a bright idea! Use it when you hear bad or sad news or you feel disappointed or discouraged. All you do is bring your hands to your forehead and massage right along your hairline with all 4 fingers of each hand. Enjoy how good it feels and take some deep breaths. Now that you’ve calmed your mind and relaxed your body, the prefrontal cortex of your brain is ready to do what it is good at – make smart plans, make healthy decisions and be a good friend.
OH NO – AH YES Chant:
When I feel – Oh No!!!
I hold my forehead,
I massage my brow,
I breathe in deeply
I know how …
I breathe out slowly
Let my fears sink
I feel my heart clear: bump-bump, bump-bump, bump-bump
Then, I think – Ah Yes!!
I know what to say…
It’s going to be a wonderful day
8. Humming Breath (aka: Full Scanning Mode / Ocean Wisdom) is like giving your self a BIG HUG! It’s a powerful way to calm down, feel soothed and remember that everything will be okay. Place one hand on your belly button, place the other hand in the middle of your chest, let your thumb and forefinger press lightly into the soft tissue points beneath the collar bones, on either side of the sternum. Let your head remain facing forward and move just your eyes from right to left as you take a deep breath in and then HUM on a long exhale. So it looks like this….
One hand on my belly, I let it rest
I bring the other hand up to my chest,
I find a pair of buttons beneath that shelf
To calm myself
I move eyes slowly
To the left, then to the right
Heart calm, mind clear,
Body strong, eyes bright!
Remember – if you really want to help your kids learn to self-regulate, throughout the day, invite them to pause from activity to self-care using these exercises. You will be amazed at how much more focused, grounded and able to learn they will be.