Brain workouts for children

By Y. S. LIM

DOES your child appear unhappy, tense and lacking in confidence? Does he have difficulty concentrating on academic work? 

If the answer is yes, Brain Jim’s Club could help him shake off the negativity, replacing it with a more positive attitude towards learning.  

Launched last year by Integrated Human Dynamics Sdn Bhd (IHD), the programme is based on Brain Gym, a component of Educational Kinesiology developed by educator and reading specialist Dr Paul Dennison.  

Brain Gym has been described as a comprehensive personal development programme, combining kinesiology (the study of bodily movements) and learning theories. 

FOR MIND AND BODY: The children learning some nifty moves from Smith and Gibson. Brain Gym helps children improve their spatial awareness and self-expression and become motivated, confident, relaxed and happy.

“It is useful for anyone, regardless of age, and it has proven beneficial to Alzheimer's sufferers and people who are experiencing blockages of one sort or another, for instance, in relation to self-confidence,” says IHD co-founder Helen Smith. 

“It is also helpful in alleviating stress for those who are making a presentation, and for improving memory, reading, writing and listening skills.” 

Following the success of its first programme last year, the club is launching its second this year to help children improve their spatial awareness and self-expression, and become more motivated, confident, relaxed and happy. 

How does Brain Gym work? 

Borrowing ideas from learning theories, brain researches, ophthalmology, yoga, chiropractic, body awareness and acupuncture, Brain Gym is a holistic approach as it involves a person’s mind and body. 

“Learning can be enhanced and the individual becomes more energised and focused if the brain is activated through a system of easy, quick and energising movements of the whole body. However, schoolchildren are often told to sit still and be quiet for learning to take place,” says Smith, who also laments the fact that life has become increasingly sedentary for many children who prefer to sit in front of the TV or playstation. 

“Insufficient movement can have an adverse effect on a child’s development, but at the club, the emphasis is on learning in a fun and pleasurable way,” she says. 

IHD co-founder Mark Gibson explains that there are 26 basic Brain Gym movements which help individuals integrate the functions of the left and right sides of the brain so that the whole brain is used for learning. The left side is said to be the seat of logic and rationale while the right side involves imagination. 

“Brain functions require efficient connections across the neural pathways in the brain but stress inhibits these connections,” says Gibson, adding that Brain Gym complements teaching styles and learning methods rather than replaces them.  

A typical Brain Gym session 

Each club session lasts for about an hour and the 26 movements are incorporated depending on which area is being addressed.  

“For example, if the Club session is working with 'seeing', we start the programme by discussing the importance of looking after our eyes and how important it is to exercise our eyes,” says Smith. 

SMART MOVE: A young participant talking to Smith at Brain Gym session.

“We begin each programme with PACE (positive, active, clear and energetic), doing simple exercises like looking up, down, side to side, near and far and some eye-tracking – asking the children to follow a moving object keeping their heads still.  

“Next we incorporate a game where the children have to match objects as this encourages eye movement. The game is then followed by what we call the Learning Process, that is, songs and/or stories containing the Brain Gym movements. 

“After the learning menu we repeat the game and simple eye movements and discuss with the children how much easier they now find it to use their eyes. We end the session with PACE.” 

Each session is run for a maximum of 14 children to “give the children individual attention” and ensure the movements are done correctly for maximum benefit, Smith explains. 

She says that the first and second programmes were developed for preschool and primary schoolchildren while a third programme is being devised for those in the 12-15 age group (focusing on discussion as well as movement).  

“We are looking at starting a programme for those under four years which will involve parent participation as well,” she says. 

Asked if teachers in formal schools should practise Brain Gym with their students before commencing with lessons, Smith was all for it. 

“Brain Gym helps activate the brain. It is practised in many schools before and during lessons in the USA, UK, Australia and Germany and teachers have found it relaxes children while preparing them for learning,” she says.  

For more information on Brain Jim’s Club, call 03-6203 5943 or email . 

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