Brain exercise activities serve as a way to increase communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. When brain signals are passed from one side to the other quickly, the brain is able to function more efficiently. Anytime the left and right side of our bodies work simultaneously or one side of our body crosses the midline over to the other side, the brain is compelled to send a signal from one side to the other. The more times we do this, the stronger these connections become.
Communication between the two sides is crucial for language development and literacy. Language in infants is formed in the right side of the brain. As they grow, it shifts to the more analytical left side where is can be processed for conceptual thought. In P.E. we do many specific activities that are purposely designed for both side of the body to be moving at the same time or to cross the midline. Listed below are some brain gym activities you can try. They range from easy to challenging. Enjoy!
1. Walk the Line
Students will need to find a line on the floor and walk one foot in front of the other like a tightrope walker. Once they can do that, have them stand to the side of their line and take their outside foot and cross it over the line to begin a criss-cross walking pattern.
Variations: *Criss-cross walk backwards.
*Change directions from front to back.
From a standing position, move sideways by moving your outside foot to cross in front of your inside foot. Your inside foot will now uncross and your feet will be side by side. Your outside foot will then cross behind your front foot. Uncross your front foot and align them side-by-side again. Repeat the pattern as you move sideways. Change directions from time to time to change the lead foot.
3. Partner t-jumps
Partner with a friend and stand facing each other. Partner 1 will jump out and their feet will end apart from each other (jump out like doing jumping jack). Partner 2 will do a split step (scissor kick) with one foot forward and the other backward. Partner 2’s foot should be between Partner 1’s feet. Both students now jump back together to starting position with their feet together. Next, Partner 1 repeats what Partner 2 did (scissor) and visa versa. Repeat until continuity has been achieved and continue repeating jumping pattern.
Variations: *Add challenge of alternating arms as well. Arms out to side with “jacks” step, and one arm forward, one arm back with scissor step.
*On “scissor” step, alternate between same arm/same foot forward and opposite arm/foot (as in proper running form).
4. Lazy 8’s
Use index finger to trace an imaginary number eight that is lying on its side, (also know as the infinity sign), in the air in front of them. The number should be traced large enough so that to complete the number the pointer finger crosses over to the students left and right side.
Variations: *Have students use different fingers to trace the 8’s (start with one, add a finger with each 8 completed)
*Use both hands going in the same direction.
*Have fingers going in opposite direction, having fingers crossing when they get to the middle (conductors).
5. Students will hold both hands up in front of them with palms facing away. First open and close both hands continuously. Next spread the fingers of both hands out back and forth. Last combine the two as one hand opens and closes while the other hand spreads fingers back and forth.
Variation: *Switch jobs with the hands.
6. Students will make a fist with both hands and hold them parallel to the floor in front of them. First, circle both hands clockwise. Then, circle both hands counterclockwise. Lastly, circle one hand clockwise while circling other hand counterclockwise.
Variation: *Switch jobs with the hands
7. Shake head yes, and then turn head no. Shrug shoulders up and down
Shrug shoulders up and down while alternating between nodding yes and turning head no.
8. Roll shoulders forward, then roll them backward. Roll one shoulder forward and roll one shoulder backward at the same time
Variation: *Combine the shoulder rolls with nodding head yes and turning head no
9. Make large forward arm circles. Then make large backward circles. Make one arm do a forward circle while the other arm goes backward. Switch directions.
10. Tap one foot on the ground (keep heel on floor).
Turn the opposite foot in and out (keep heel on floor).
Do both tasks at the same time.
Variations: *Alternate tapping with turning (so both feet are not hitting the ground at same time).
*Switch jobs as teacher instructs
11. From sitting position, lift right leg and put it back down on the floor. Do the same with the left leg. Add in the hands with the legs. Lift left leg and right hand and right leg with left hand
Variation: *Try to transition from same sides to opposites without pausing.
12. Silly Flower
Cross both arms at the forearm area with palms facing each other. Interlock fingers and roll hands under arms and hold in front of chest. Partner will point to a finger WITHOUT TOUCHING and interlocked student must move that finger with out moving any others.
Variation: *Student must move finger of opposite hand instead of the one at which the partner points.
13. Patty Cake-Style Games
Students will have their hands up in front of them like they are about to play Patty Cake. Player 1 begins by touching their partner’s opposite hand, then bringing their hand back to starting position and then clap. Player 2 during this time keeps their hands up in front, giving their partner a target to touch. After Player 1 claps, he/she then touches Player 2’s other hand and finishes by clapping, After Player 1 is done, he/she puts their hands up in patty cake fashion and Player 2 begins their turn.
Variations: Try following tasks as student is touching partner’s hands, then visa versa (student claps then taps partner with right hand and says letter/number, claps then repeat with left, then other partner goes):
*Alphabet (two letters at a time)
*Sentence stories (two words at a time)
*Spelling (two letters at a time)
*Skip counting (two numbers at a time)
14. Tap and Switch- (with partner)
Put one hand up with palm out facing your partner and put one hand out with you hand made into a fist. Your partner will do the same, except he/she will match up their fist hand with their partners open hand and their open hand will match up with their partners fist.
When they start they will tap their hand or fist to their partners hand that is directly in front of them. Once they tap, they switch their hand shapes. The hand that was open now becomes closed into a fist and the fist now becomes open. Try repeating the pattern.
(As a lead up have the students practice by themselves with switching back and forth from open palm to fist before they engage in the activity with a partner.)
Variations: *See variations from #13 above
15. Hold pinky on one hand up. On the other hand make the letter “L” with thumb and index finger on the other hand. At the same time switch the pinky to the “L” and “L” to the pinky.
Variations: *Use any combination of fingers on either hand when students master.
16. Raise your right arm out to the side and raise your left arm out in front. Alternate.
Variations: *Add foot stomps
17. Finger Pointing
Have both index fingers pointing towards each other. The right index finger turns clockwise and the left finger turns counter clockwise.
18. Circle hand and foot on same side in the same direction. Circle one hand in one direction and circle same foot in opposite direction.
Variations: *Trace a square in the air with same foot and hand, then move them in different directions.
*Have foot moving in a circle while the hand on the same side traces their name in the air.
19. Rub belly, pat head (a classic!)
Put one hand on your belly and one hand on your head. The hand on your belly rubs in a clockwise motion while the hand on your head taps gently on your head.
Variations: *Switch jobs with your hands.
*Rub your belly in a counterclockwise motion.
20. Jumping Frenzy
Students put both feet together in preparation to jump. The teacher will call out the direction in which to jump (front, back, right, left). Students repeat that direction as they complete the task. After a few practices, challenge students with variations below:
Variations: *Students jump in direction that is called but call out the opposite direction they jump.
*Students jump in opposite direction that is called but repeat the teacher’s actual direction.
21. Gotcha (aka Flytrap)
An entire class game in which students from a circle, close enough where all students can touch both neighbors' hands. All students put their index finger out on their right hand (fly) while keeping their left hand open and flat (trap). On the READY signal from the teacher, each student places their right index finger in the hand of the neighbor to their right. When everyone is ready, teacher yells out GOTCHA! Students then attempt to remove their finger from the trap to their right while simultaneously trying to catch the finger/fly of the neighbor to their left.
Variations: *Switch hands midway through the game-Left hand is fly, right hand is trap. The more times you switch, the more they have to think.
*To incorporate more movement, instruct students to do an exercise, like quick feet, until the teacher says "ready," then students stop and prepare for the GOTCHA.
*Have students walk (very slowly) in a circle as they are playing the game.