Jump rope

You've probably heard me talk about the Piano Parent Podcast before, and that's because it's a terrific resource for parents of piano students that covers a range of topics from getting creative with music and practice time, to common struggles, to some simple music theory lessons so parents know what's what in their students music. 

Today, I'm sharing a recent discussion with piano teacher Vicki Conway that had some really insightful information about the importance of movement in brain development, and even gives some really simple activities we can do with kids to help them build some of those essential pathways in the brain to build skills in different kinds of reasoning and understanding. 

I'm embedding both part 1 and part 2 of the conversation here so you can listen to them, and get the info straight from the source, and I'll also include some of my own thoughts below. 

Developmental Fitness, Part 1

Developmental Fitness, Part 2

Here were my four big take-aways. 

  1. Movement is soooo important. Walking, running, jumping and learning how to move our bodies in the space we are in is vital to a healthy, growing brain. Even something as seemingly simple as making sure that when we take a step the correct arm swings in coordination with the opposite foot can have an effect.
  2. Certain kinds of movement affect different cognitive functions. This was totally new to me! At one point Vicki says if a kid struggles in math, they should be jumping rope. Or that memory that could be linked balance or dynamic balance (keeping control of your body while jumping or moving). 
  3. Survival skills and discerning when a new noise is a threat or not is linked to center line movement (using both sides of your body in coordination together, ie: grabbing a ball rolled to you with both hands) - and often kids with ADHD/ADD have a harder time with center line and so they are often distracted because their brain is perceiving every unexpected sound to be a potential threat that must be assessed. Playing the piano requires a lot of center line work, because we use both hands, and in primer levels especially the melody is often shared between the two hands. I've always wondered why this can be a real hurdle for some kids. Listening to this discussion I learned that something as simple as passing a ball back and forth between your hands can reinforce center line movement, and help not only with playing the piano, but with some real cognitive development.
  4. My biggest take-away was that encouraging healthy brain development can be fun! Getting outside and playing is a fun thing to do, especially if we are doing it with our kids, and turning some of these different exercises or movements into little games. 
So today, your piano practice assignment is to get up and jump up and down on two feet, or try jump rope, roll/toss a ball back and forth, go for a walk/run, and just play together.