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No More Horsing Around

No More Horsing Around

Most parents know the difficulty of one or more children begging to be able to get a new pet. My daughter has literally asked to get everything from a tarantula to a parrot to a puppy. She is pretty responsible and I am a huge animal lover myself so we have ended up with two parakeets gifted to us, a bearded dragon from a neighbor, and a cat and a dog from the humane society. We have quite a zoo already so when the questions arose about a horse I was not too surprised. Although, my answer was an immediate NO.

We do not live in a house with any land for such a large animal, horse boarding is very expensive for a nice place close to home, and the cost of the horse alone not to mention feeding and caring for the animal is way out of my budget. There are so many aspects to consider before jumping into being a horse owner.

I have never seen my daughter so determined though. She even started saving her own money to put towards buying a horse of her own. Once I sat down with her and explained all of the other costs of responsibly caring for such a large animal she understood but I could tell she felt defeated.

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As a mother, seeing how badly she wanted to be around these beautiful animals that she adored and the lengths she was willing to go, I did a little research and found some great alternatives. I also found examples of horses that weren’t cared for properly that I could share with my daughter so that she better understood why it wouldn’t be fair to the horse if we went out and purchased one. Here are the most promising options.

Volunteer

As I was researching I immediately found several sites that needed volunteers on farms for malnourished and neglected horses. Explaining to my daughter the reality of what could happen if a person cannot take care of the animal is one thing. Her seeing for herself made much more of an impact and curbed the constant, “Pleeeease mom!”

Not only did it allow her to be closer to the big beauties but it made her feel useful, like she was making a difference, because she was. All the while she was learning great work ethic and compassion, free of charge.

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Camps

This is another great alternative to actually purchasing a horse. Every summer I still have to work and the last thing I want is for my daughter to sit at daycare until I get off or be bored at home so I do my best to find interesting camps that last all day. This is a great choice for any child that wants to get closer to horses and learn to ride.

Through volunteering for the horses in need you help to nurse the horses back to health and learn how much work it is to care for and feed the horses but opportunities to ride the horses are slim. This choice is not free. Camps can run a pretty penny. They can run anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Shop around your area and find one that suits your budget best. A lot of them also have scholarships for funding so look for that as well.

Leasing

I was pretty surprised when I’ve seen that this was an option. In fact I almost changed my stance on purchasing a horse but in the end it would still not be responsible of us considering how busy we are and it is still a pretty large financial investment. You can lease a horse and lease a horse with the option of ownership.

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When simply leasing a horse you generally pay a monthly fee and cover monthly expenses. When leasing, if the horse were to get injured you would not be obligated to cover those expenses or have to worry about selling the horse if that is what it came to. Leasing a horse is also a good option to take before deciding to take the plunge and purchasing a horse. It will give ample time and experience enough to decide whether it really is something that everyone involved is ready for.

Leasing to own is a good option if you have the time, space and energy to care for the animal but don’t have the full purchasing amount all at once. This gives you the option to pay payments to own your own horse.

Co-ownership

This is another great option for those who don’t have the immediate funds and do not have the space for the animal as well. Co-ownership allows you to split the purchase price and costs of feed and upkeep with someone else. If there is someone close to home that is trustworthy this is a smart option. Before going into co-ownership I suggest sitting down with the other buyer and going over details and creating a document of responsibilities so that there is no confusion or conflict in the future about who covers which costs.

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I am sure a lot of parents like myself assume that horse ownership is an all or nothing deal but fortunately that is not the case. These are the best options that allow for less of a weight on you financially and generally give a cushion of time and experience before choosing to make the decision to own your own horse. They allow for ample time to make sure that it is really something that our children want and will stay responsible for or if it is a fleeting phase, which there are a lot of with most kids.

My daughter may not have been able to purchase her own horse but in the end she and I are both happy with the way things have worked out. Her ability to stay involved with horses year round is something that has created a space of compassion and responsibility in her that I could not be more proud of. Best of luck into your journey into horse ownership

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Published on May 7, 2021

20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

  1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
  2. Introduce brain breaks.

Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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Active Brain Breaks

Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

1. Swapsies

Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

2. Dance Party

Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

3. Freeze Dance

Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

4. Keep It Up

Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

5. Simon Says

This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

6. Animal Movement

Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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7. Find It Fast

“Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

8. The Frog

Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

9. Pizza Delivery Time

Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

10. Limbo

We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

11. Human Knot

Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

12. Feather Balance

This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

13. Stack them high

The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

Relaxing Brain Breaks

We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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14. Meditation

Meditation

is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

15. Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

16. Reading/Listening to a Story

When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

17. Doodling

My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

18. Coloring Sheets

Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

19. Deep Breathing

Deep breathing

is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

20. Going Outside

Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

Final Thoughts

Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
[2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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