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The Pyramid of Learning

Pyramid of Learning – Williams & Shellenberger (1996)

What is the Pyramid of Learning?

Williams and Shellenberger developed the pyramid of learning along with the Alert Program, a self regulation program. The pyramid highlights how sensory processing relates to the learning process. It illustrates children’s foundational skills and the hierarchy of skills needed to support academic learning and behavior. The pyramid is important, as it helps breakdown skills into different foundational levels and prioritize what skills to address first in therapy. The process of moving up the pyramid is called a bottom’s up approach. This means that babies and children’s development begins with physical and sensory skills that they must master, step-by-step to move up to higher level skills such as learning, attending, and self-regulating.

The Pyramid of Learning is a way of looking at the whole child. The foundation of the pyramid is a child’s central nervous system, which is closely linked to their sensory systems. Adequate development is built on being able to register and process sensory information from the seven senses (touch, movement, deep pressure, smell, taste, sight, and hearing). If the lower levels of the pyramid for learning are not solid, then your child may have difficulty focusing, completing homework, and learning new information.

Let’s look closer at the levels of the pyramid and the skills that need to be mastered…

Level Two – Sensory

  • Tactile (touch)
  • Vestibular (balance, movement)
  • Proprioception (deep pressure, where body is in space)
  • Olfactory (smell)
  • Visual (vision)
  • Auditory (hearing)
  • Gustatory (taste)

Level Three – Sensory Motor

  • Body scheme (body awareness through movement)
  • Reflex maturity (reflexes, for safety purposes)
  • Ability to screen input (paying attention to sensory experiences that are important)
  • Postural security (confidence in maintaining certain postures to prevent falling)
  • Awareness of two sides of the body (bilateral integration)
  • Motor planning (ability to plan movement)

Level Four – Perceptual Motor

  • Auditory language skills (hearing & speaking)
  • Visual-spatial perception (recognize an object’s physical location as well as the physical relationships between objects.)
  • Attention center functions (maintaining attention)
  • Eye-hand coordination (using what you see to guide the movement of your hands)
  • Ocular motor control (locating & fixating on something in the field of vision)
  • Postural adjustment (adjusting posture to maintain balance)

Level Five – Cognition

  • Academic learning
  • Daily living activities (such as eating, toileting, personal hygiene)
  • Behavior

Mindful Child’s Approach

kids aerial yoga

Sensory processing skills are foundational for learning and regulating behavior. At Mindful Child, our therapists use the aerial hammock as a therapeutic prop to help children develop the skills they need to successfully climb to the top of the pyramid.

Aerial Butterfly Pose

Butterfly Pose

Aerial Butterfly Pose is a great pose to relax, meditate, and stretch out your hips. Did you know that flapping your arm wings takes coordination, core strength and communication between the brain and body?

Aerial Butterfly requires focus and strength to stay upright in the hammock, it is not suitable for children under age six. Parents are advised to spot children when doing this pose and to make sure they are practicing on a padded floor.

What are the Benefits of Aerial Butterfly Pose?

  • Opens hips
  • Improves posture
  • Increases body awareness and motor planning
  • Enhances executive function
  • Promotes focus and concentration

If children are not familiar with Butterfly Pose on the ground, I would first teach it on the ground so they understand how to form the butterfly legs in the hammock by gluing the soles of their feet together and taking their legs out wide.  Additionally, when teaching for the first it helps to place the hammock low to the ground so that if children do fall forward it does not cause injury.  

This pose is contraindicated for children with hip and knee injuries.

What to Say

  • We are going to be butterflies
  • Start with the fabric in front of you.
  • Make the hammock skinny like a jump rope.
  • Step onto the hammock.
  • Bring yourself to a standing position.
  • While standing in the hammock take your legs behind the fabric.
  • Glue the bottoms of your feet together.
  • Start to slide hands down the hammock.
  • Slide into butterfly legs.
  • Knees should be behind the hammock.
  • Reach one arm through and then the other.
  • You are a butterfly!

Want to learn more amazing aerial yoga poses? Join us for a class! We have both online and in person!

Energizing Breathing Exercise for Focus

Dragon Breathing Exercise

Dragon Breath is an energizing breathing exercise similar to Standing Deep Breathing Pose in hot yoga. Deep Breathing Pose is a breathing technique done at the beginning of a hot yoga class to help improve focus while practicing balancing poses.

Dragon Breath is free and takes little time, which makes it a perfect brain break during virtual school. It will enhance your child’s focus and wake up the mind before tackling that next assignment.

Benefits of Energizing Breathing Exercises

Dragon Breath improves focus and attention. Deep breathing transfers oxygen to muscles and organs such as the brain, and nervous system priming the brain for learning. Deep breathing promotes mindfulness and overall well-being. Being a dragon enhances visualization and imagination.

What to Say

  • Interlace all 10 fingers, glue knuckles under the chin.
  • Bring elbows together.
  • Take a deep breath in.
  • Keep knuckles glued to the chin.
  • Begin floating elbows up like dragon wings by ears.
  • Tilt head back and breathe fire out through your mouth.

Add A Yoga Pose

To enhance the benefits of this energizing breathing exercise, couple Dragon Breath with a Dragon Pose or have children create their own Dragon Pose. Want to learn more ways to teach children to breathe and be mindful? Check out our Mindful Child Online Teacher Training

The Impact of Spinning on your Child’s Body and Mind

When given free time in the aerial yoga hammock there are two movements children will seek out – spinning and swinging.  Both movements have therapeutic value and children should be allowed to explore the movements their bodies are craving to an extent.

Spinning Playground Equipment

Traditional playgrounds use to house at least one merry-go-round, but modern playgrounds limit spinning equipment due to safety concerns.  Which is sad, as there is a reason merry-go-rounds were one of the most loved pieces of equipment on the playground. Kids. Love. To. Spin!

The pros and cons…

Spinning is a swift whirling motion or rotating rapidly.  Like most intense movements, it has pros and cons. Most children will be able to find the right amount of movement, but some may not be that in tune with their bodies and will go beyond what their brain can handle. Think about the carnival rides that involve spinning, if you spin too long and too fast, the brain will react with dizziness and nausea.  This reaction is the brain protecting itself from too much input. Spinning delivers potent sensory input to the vestibular system that the brain takes in and processes. Thus, children need to be to spin in both directions and to practice other poses in the hammock when you see them spinning too much.

While too much spinning is not good for the brain, some spinning is beneficial.  Spinning positively enhances the vestibular system. It allows children to learn to shift their weight, which is an important component of aerial yoga. Additionally, children learn the cause and effects of motion. 

Here are a few of the benefits of spinning in the aerial yoga hammock:

  • Sensory stimulation: It provides sensory integration in the areas of balance, touch, and feel.
  • Focus and concentration: Focus is improved as both sides of the brain are being used. Vestibular input can also prepare the brain for learning. 
  • Muscle strength: Spinning improves postural control and grip strength. Children have to hang on tight and sit or stand tall or they will fall off the hammock.
  • Kinesthetic awareness: Knowing where they are in space is improved as children must judge how far they are from peers and the ground.
  • Decision-making skills: Children must think while they are in motion and decide how much is the right amount of spinning and figure out how to stop the hammock.

While too much can be detrimental, some spinning is important for development.  The tricky part is every child is different, so there is not a set amount to allow.  Some children can hang upside down and spin in circles rapidly with their eyes closed and not feel any adverse effects, while others can do one rotation and feel nauseous.  Paying careful attention will help you decide how much spinning to allow. When in doubt, limit how much children spin and make sure they spin in both directions.

Mindful Child offers the therapeutic movement your child craves.

If you’d like your child to experience the benefits of therapeutic movements, sign-up for one of our classes. If you live out of town and live classes are not an option, buy a Mindful Child aerial hammock for your home and register for our Online Mindful Child classes. We have lots of aerial yoga options to choose from!

Let Them Climb, Spin and Swing!

Swinging

Believe it or not, movements such as climbing, are essential to cognitive functioning. Movement integrates new information and experiences into children’s brains. Children not only build their brains when they are moving, but they build the muscles they need to sit in a chair and write. Allowing children time to engage in unstructured play is essential to their development. When a child is playing, they are producing endorphins (brain chemicals that make us happy). Thus, unstructured play develops your child’s muscles, sensory systems, and their brains, making it the foundation that complex learning is built on.

Here are a few activities that are full of therapeutic benefits and easy to fit into your child’s day:

  • Swinging.  Swinging is not only relaxing, but it builds core strength and motor coordination.  When your child spins in a swing they are engaging different parts of the brain at the same time. These areas in the brain are associated with learning skills such as spatial awareness, rhythm, timing, balance, and muscle control.
  • Climbing. When children are climbing, they are stretching their arms upwards, which enhances cardiovascular flow and flexibility.  Additionally, climbing builds upper body strength and coordination
  • Running.  Running builds strength in the legs, endurance, and provides sensory input. 

With screen time and school taking time away from unstructured play, children do not have as much time to engage in healthy movement activities. This is detrimental to their development and learning.  It is important to try to spend at least an hour a day letting children engage in movement-based activities.  If possible, give them time to engage in unstructured play, this allows them to seek out the movement their bodies need, which is a form of self-regulation.

kids aerial yoga

At Mindful Child, we allow unstructured play in our aerial hammocks for at least 15 minutes of every aerial yoga class.  Children are able to climb, spin, and swing in our hammocks, providing them the movement their bodies and brains need for healthy development.

Growth Mindset Game

Teaching kids to have a growth mindset can be tricky.  After all just telling kids to have a growth mindset usually doesn’t work. Instead, teach them that the brain is a muscle that can get stronger and change with challenging tasks.   Emphasize the importance of hard work and problem-solving.

Games are a great way to teach tricky concepts to kids.  Growth Mindset, Fixed Mindset adds yoga and a mindset twist on a classic game, Red Light, Green Light.  Before you begin the game, provide an explanation of a fixed and growth mindset.  A fixed mindset avoids challenges and assumes that abilities are fixed, frozen or unchanging.  A growth mindset enjoys a challenge and sees failures as a way to learn and grow. 

How to Play the Growth Mindset Game

Growth Mindset, Fixed Mindset is best played with four or more players, ages six and older. The leader stands at the front of the room.  When she says, “Growth Mindset” players slowly move and grow toward the leader. When she says, “Fixed Mindset” players freeze in place in a yoga pose. The yoga pose can be predetermined by the leader or freestyle where players choose their own. The player who makes it to the leader first is the winner.

What are the Benefits?

Growth Mindset, Fixed Mindset builds executive function through play. Executive function plays a fundamental role in emotion regulation and impulse control. It helps kids reflect before they react. The growth mindset game also provides yoga pose review and enhances focus.

In summary, games are a great way to build self-regulation skills. For more movement ideas to support your child’s social and emotional development sign up for an aerial yoga class or our Mindful Child Teacher Training.

Happy Mindfulness Game

Happy Mindfulness Game

Materials

  • Bingo stamper
  • Printed page of emojis

What is Happy Stamp?

Happy stamp is a simple visual scanning game. Google emojis on your computer.  Lots of images will come up.  Pick an image with multiple emojis and print it.  Emoji stickers are also available on Amazon. Put the stickers on a blank piece of paper or card stock and make copies of it. Then give your child a bingo stamper and ask them to find happy emojis.

What are the Benefits?

Happy stamp improves visual discrimination.  Children must be mindful or they may stamp the wrong emotion.  It also improves fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

What to Say

We are going to find all the happy emojis on this page.  When you see a happy emoji we are going to stamp it. Remember we are only stamping the happy ones!

Mindfulness Challenge:

A variation of this game for older children is to color all the O’s on a newspaper page or poke holes with a toothpick through the O’s.

Want to learn more amazing mindfulness games? Join us for class or buy my book, Mindfulness for Children: 150+ Activities for Happier, Healthier, Stress-Free Children.

Instagram Accounts We Love

Instagram

You might think Instagram serves as simply a playground to waste time scrolling through pretty pictures, but did you know that there are some excellent educational accounts you can follow to get your daily dose of fun, plus learn some great factual knowledge?

Here are some of our favorite picks for wholesome, educational content related to children:

  • RockChalkSpeechTalk. RockChalkSpeechTalk founder, Kari Radovich, is a speech therapist at Lee Ann Britain Infant Development Center (Britain IDC). This instagram account provides literacy based therapy, easy prep material ideas, and science-based circle time. Kari’s ideas are fun and creative for use at home or in the classroom.
  • MeddyTeddy. Meddy Teddy is a mindful teddy bear who does yoga. This account posts uplifting quotes, yoga poses and mindfulness related content. It is super cute and kids love Meddy.
  • TheMovementMama. The MovementMama instagram account is run by Kailee, a pediatric physical therapist at Lee Ann Britain Development Center (they hire really good therapists). Kailee’s account empowers parents through play-based movement. This account focuses on infants and toddlers and provides great educational content to parents.
  • SesameStreet. Its mission is to help kids grow smarter, stronger, kinder – in more than 150 countries around the world! What more could a parent ask for?
  • EmilyPriceWellness. Emily is a yoga teacher and wellness professional. She posts a variety of wonderful content related to self-care and wellness. She emphasizes a healthy lifestyle through movement, food and all things health related.
  • Mindful Child Mindful Child Aerial Yoga also has an instagram account, we focus on movement, breath, and mindfulness for children. Our mission is to provide brain-based interventions that are fun for the whole family.

In summary, Instagram is more than just pretty pictures, hashtags, and videos. It has a variety of educational accounts for parents to follow to help with a home therapy program, brain breaks, or family time. Best of all it is free.

Vitamin D and COVID-19

Food Sources of Vitamin D

In a pandemic, with a stay at home mandate, there is little you are able to control. However, self-care and diet are one aspect that you do have control over. What you and your child eat can contribute to how your immune system responds to COVID-19. Of particular interest, is the link between vitamin D and respiratory illness. Studies are linking individuals with vitamin deficiencies with more severe cases of COVID-19 and higher mortality rates.  Vitamin D plays an important role in immune function, including fighting diseases.  It has been linked to severity of respiratory infections in the past such as influenza. 

Here are a few ways to naturally increase vitamin D intake:

Vitamin D from the Sun
  • Eat fish. It is found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Eating six ounces of salmon gives you approximately 4,000 IU of vitamin D.
  • Go swimming. Vitamin D can be absorbed by the sun. However, to make enough, you need 15 minutes of sun exposure with no sunscreen and with lots of skin exposed such as wearing a swimsuit. Location and skin type can also affect absorption of vitamin D by the sun. 
  • Eat eggs. Vitamin D is found in egg yolks and can be enhanced by eating eggs from chickens that have been pasture raised. Why is pasture raised important? The chickens absorb sunlight when they are in the pasture, which adds more vitamin D to their eggs.
  • Read about it. Dr. Michael Holick, is a leading authority and researcher on vitamin D, he recommends 2,000 IU a day for adults and 1,000 IU for children. His book, The Vitamin D Solution, offers inexpensive, easy ideas to reverse vitamin D deficiency.

Science tells us vitamin D can reduce the symptoms of infectious diseases such as influenza and COVID-19. It plays an important role in bone and mental health as well. Enhancing intake is easily done with diet and sun exposure. However, it doesn’t hurt to supplement it, especially during a pandemic. When buying supplements make sure you buy from a quality source such as your chiropractor or O’Briens Pharmacy.

References

Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL, Baggerly CA, French CB, Aliano JL, Bhattoa HP. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients. 2020; 12(4):988.

Holick, M.F. Vitamin D Deficiency. New Engl. J. Med. 2007. 357:266-81.

Kindness ROCKS

Ways to Cultivate Kind Kids

Kid’s Art

Kindness, like any skill, has to be learned and practiced. Fortunately, there are many fun ways to teach children how to be kind to the environment, themselves, and others.

Art is a way to introduce the concept of kindness. Children love to paint, color, and create. This simple art project combines positive affirmation (kindness to self) and creativity.

Materials

What is Kindness Rocks?

Kindness Rocks are great way to start off your child’s day.  Positive affirmations are statements to help children reach their goals.  Kindness rocks are a simple art activity for children eight-years-old and older to remind them to be kind to themselves.  These colorful stones are just what children need to be happy on a grumpy day. 

What are the Benefits?

Focusing on positive statements can shift your child’s mood.  Affirmations help children believe the statement that is printed on the stone. Making your own kindness rock, boosts creativity, focus, and executive functioning. 

What to Say.

  • Let’s make kindness rocks to remind us to be kind to ourselves and of our positive affirmations or goals we want to achieve. 
  • I’m going to pass out rocks and fun acrylic color markers. 
  • Next, pick out a few acrylic colors.  Paint the front of your stone a light, fun color.  Color the outside edge with a darker color.  Make a heart in the middle and color it red.  Paint a word in the heart.
  • Add designs such as dots and stripes to the outside of the heart.  While it’s drying, take a few deep breaths. 
  • Finally paint decoupage, which is like shiny glue, over your rock.
  • Once it is dry, put it in your pocket. Take it out when you are feeling sad. Think about your word and breathe deeply. Notice how you feel.

Being kind is easy to instill in everyday activities with your child. Immerse children in it through drawing, coloring, reading and talking about it. At Mindful Child, being kind is our number one yoga rule. We talk about being kind in every aerial yoga class as part of our social and emotional learning curriculum. Check out our online and live classes to learn more ways to inspire kindness.

Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children