In the last several years, researchers have been delving into the importance of movement for our children’s well-being, with particular attention being paid to the ever-disappearing recess. I know that at the elementary school I spent the last few years at, recess was limited to about 20 minutes each day, with an additional 45 minute PE twice a week. My sister, an elementary student at a private school, has a similar recess situation. When I think of my childhood – 30 plus minutes of recess daily, plus a daily PE, part of me is definitely appalled!
Some of the most interesting support for recess that I’ve read has come from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists – professionals who, like me, are deeply invested in children’s development and the underlying skills that precede so many of our expectations for them. I once read an article by an OT pleading for students to get more free play – swinging, spinning, jumping – because of the amazing benefits these movements have on their coordination, focus, sensory integration, and more.
Despite the research and the suggestions from professionals, many students are still inhibited by a lack of free play. And even those who are blessed with it, may need more than that half an hour block can provide! The other day, as I was doing my semi-daily yoga routine, I was encouraged to engage in a little routine called Knocking on Heaven’s Door. (2:30)
I’ve done this move many times. Always, we’re reminded that it’s okay to let go. It’s okay to have fun. It’s okay to feel a bit silly. Always, also, I feel better afterwards. As I was swinging my hands around, slapping my legs, this go round, I thought about kids and I thought about movement breaks and I thought, “This, THIS, would be a great little intermission for those days when they just need a little bit.”
As I considered the research behind activities such as swinging and spinning, I realized that Knocking on Heaven’s Door must provide some of the same benefits – improved circulation and blood flow, sensory integration, strengthening the vestibular system. And all you need is a few square feet per child, maybe some fun music, and a lighthearted mood that encourages kids to shake out those sillies – in a slightly more controlled way.
So, if you’re in a bad way, I encourage you to take a break and try a little KOHD this week. If your class seems like they need a little movement and going outside isn’t an option, I think this would be a great alternative! Turn on some music, turn off your inhibitions, and life the corner of those mouths for a bit – it can’t hurt!