Twirling hula hoops or including other physical activities can improve learning events by focusing the childs attention, preventing boredom and limiting stress.

Do any of these commands sound familiar? “Judith! Turn around!”, “Jonathan, quit fidgeting!”, or “Robert, if you sharpen that pencil any shorter it’ll become inoperative.”

The behaviour of naughty children, you’d say. This is a common misconception and on account of this, children are either punished or grades suffer in the process. Today I write about a strategy I use in my practice: Moving to learn.

I love the challenge of getting a child to beat the odds in an alternative way. Nowadays, the world is too diverse to be only conventional. We have all been created differently, so how can we be expected to learn in the same manner? Diversity denotes adaptation.

According to the Oxford dictionary, “Kinesthetic learning or tactile learning is a learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations. Making use of your experiences and the things that are real even when they are shown in pictures and on screens.”

This method is used for children who lose focus when learning. Students who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and sensory integration disorder are perfect candidates for this manner of learning.

Movement learning can be implemented in various ways. It can be used for reading, spelling, numeracy, writing and focus.


Have your child touch their thumb with each finger when working with syllables or letters or sounds when spelling.


Assign a body part from top to bottom when breaking up the words again into sounds, letters or syllables. Your child will associate the body part with the allocated letters when recalling the spelling and replicate the sequence from their desk at school.

Your child can play hopscotch and hop out the sounds of the word. You can consolidate the activity by having your child play hopscotch again, but with the full word intact and they then jump-read it to reinforce the synthesised word.


Have your child physically write out the words over and over again in the following way: copy the word, sound out and say the word, cover and write the word, check the word. Their hand may remind the brain how to spell it when it is time to do the test.

Go outside

Yes, you heard right. A child’s attention span is far shorter and energy levels are far greater, so engaging in a change of scenery is the best solution for them to absorb new information.

Shoot some hoops. Try to make a different shot for each sound of the word. Have them kick a ball into the net for each sound or bowl down a skittle for each sound.

Get physical

* Find a spelling app. The movement will help your child focus while trying to study.

* Have your child build a tower out of Lego or wooden blocks, again with each block representing a different sound.

* Dance it. Create a movement while reciting the word.

* Morse code – beat the word. The rhythm will stick in your head.

* Font it. Attach different fonts to different words and write them with squiggles and zigzags while learning them.


Motivating through fun engagement

How many of you “doodle draw/scribble” when you are on a call? Although you are speaking and listening, your body still requires the movement stimulation to stay focused, as in the case of the next method – “Please remain motivated”.

Please = Pen

Have your child underline or highlight the words when they read. The motion of highlighting may be enough to fight off the fidgets.

Remain = Rubber band

Let your child twirl it, stretch it and wrap it around their pen or play with it while thinking.

Motivated = Movement

* Ball. Let your child read a question written on the ball while sitting down, then have them stand up and bounce the ball against the floor while they think of an answer.

* Jump. Have them read a question sitting down, then let them stand and do as many jumping jacks as there are letters in the word. Alternate by having them do burpees, sit-ups, bounces, push ups, lunges, squats and leg raises.

Other movement activities include:

* Using sandpaper letters as a tactile approach will also help a child remember.

* Clapping syllables within a given word.

* Spelling words in shaving foam.

* Constructing words from clay and then painting them once they are fired to reinforce the spelling.

* When having to work out mathematical problems, children can perform them, such as 8+3. Children who use their fingers to add always battle when they “run out of fingers” and in this way you can do jumps, skips, hops and star jumps.

* Regarding sight word vocabulary, acting is the best form of learning. I use Reader’s Theatre where pupils act out parts of their favourite book and make specific reference to Dr Seuss as it has rhyming tools, or Aaron Sheep online if you cannot get to the library.

* A treasure hunt is another tool. Conducting a hunt in which children have to energetically uncover items to count will assist in numeracy.

* Baking is another great movement tool. This incorporates actively measuring, reading and counting.

Getting actively involved is key. The competitive child you can immerse into something I call “rat races”. In this activity, whether it is reading, spelling, writing or mathematics, the child is timed and does threading or beading while learning.

The reticent child will shut down if timed and in the spotlight, and should pair up with a buddy for moral support.

If he or she doesn’t know the answer, they can rely on their peer for support and learning and move to different stations to acquaint themselves with a concept in different ways.

Movement can be a pivotal feature in learning. Becoming the work is far nicer than merely learning it.

Imagine how much more engaged a child would be if you said the following:

* “Take out your sandbox to trace words” rather than take out your books.

* Build your words out of play-dough, rather than copy the word off the board.

The one thing which all children have in common is they all love having fun. Make learning fun.

* Lee Koetser is a remedial therapist. Facebook or tweet her a topic on education and parenting - Facebook: Mamas and Papas,or Twitter: @MamasandPapas3