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The Universality of Play

May 25th, 2016

One of our partners in our research on play and its power is the Humphrey Fellowship Program at Vanderbilt. It includes a group of educators who come to Vanderbilt for a one-year program from around the world. Every year we are part of an exchange with this group – teaching and learning new games from each other.

One of the games we learned from them made it into our latest product, Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®. Known as the Rooster Game, it is definitely a game that works on balance and endurance thus fitting into our “movement” brain booster category. For us in America, it may very well feed into or since of “novelty” as well.

Enjoy this game that we learned from our friend in Russia.

Rooster mime. Hold one foot to make the rooster’s tail. Fan the other hand above the head as the rooster’s comb. Pairs compete, gently tapping elbows. Who can hold this pose the longest without letting their foot down?*

 roosterjar2Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

* Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

Humor + Novelty = 2 Brain Boosters in 1 Activity

May 18th, 2016

Boosters for Groups in a Jar® has 101 activities that educators, youth workers and youth pastors alike can use to add low prop, low prep, easy, quick energy to any group setting. Pull out an activity and GO. Youth can lead or the adult leader can. It’s all up to you.

Field-testing games has to be my favorite part of active research. What better way to see if a game works in different settings than to try it out yourself?

The game included here takes a little humor, adds in novelty and imagination and voila! you have a breath of goodness going straight to the brains and right into your group dynamics. Ah! Brain Boosters for Groups! Build the group.  Build the brain.

The Game: Divide into pairs. In 20 seconds, draw a hybrid of two animals. Team up with another pair: take 20 more seconds to guess which 2 animals were combined for each picture.*

Can you guess the hybrid below?

cheerus2

Answer: a Cheetrus – a cheetah + a walrus

jar infoClick to order:   http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

 

*Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

Helping a Mind Want to Learn: A Tip Can Be Found In What You Praise

May 11th, 2016

In this video, we learn about a “fixed” mindset (you have a certain amount of talents or whatnot and that’s all you have) versus a “growth” mindset (you can grow, develop and put in the effort to become and learn more).

One of the triggers for which mindset is developed can be found in how we praise our youth.  When we praise success (“you’re so smart”), we can feed into a fixed mindset – “I’m smart so I don’t need to try. I’ve got it.”  When we praise process (“I like the strategy you used.”), we can feed into a growth mindset – “I keep trying and am put in the effort and I learn so much!”

Effort can actually activate their abilities and desire to learn.  Check out this video with Educationalist Carol Dweck to learn more about how this works and how to bring out the best in youth.

 

Get it On: The Dance Challenge

May 8th, 2016

In our dance series of moves we’ve learned from teens, we’ve highlighted several dance moves. Did you take the time to demonstrate the moves you know and that your youth know?

Not only is dancing (movement) good as a brain booster, it’s also good as an inter-generational activity and a cultural activity where we exchange things we know and love about music AND share stories.

One last clip . . . just because – watch and see who knows what, who does what and what other epic moves it brings to mind.  Let the fun begin!  Enjoy!

 

Boost Your Brain: The Final 3 Dance Moves

May 2nd, 2016

On our journey to learn new dance steps from youth, we leave you with these three.  Are they still the latest?

Ask your teens to teach you the newest moves.  Ask the to share dance stories – the flopped moves, the great moves, maybe even the embarrassing moves.  It’s fun what you’ll learn as you move, laugh and dance together . . . which brings us back to the point of this series: boost the brain, boost the relationships.

 

for this next one, it takes about 30 seconds in to get to it.  :-)

Boost Your Brain: The Dancing Goes On

April 25th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

For this week’s dance moves, these three steps are easy (supposedly) beginner moves that anyone can do – even those of us with two left feet!  Poll your teens – do these moves still make the cool list? Or do they help them get away with “looking” cool?

 

Adults Need Play in Their Lives, Too

April 22nd, 2016

We write about the value of games and play frequently for the development of youth and of groups.  And there is research to back that up.  But, adults, too, need play in their lives and this article shares way to build in play and reminds you of the research.  Enjoy!

 

http://www.chopra.com/ccl/adult-playtime-6-ways-to-bring-more-fun-into-your-day

Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #4

April 11th, 2016

For this week’s dance move that we learned from youth we know, we bring you the Running Man.

Ask your teens? Is this still hot? Or has it gone cold?  What IS the latest, greatest move?

 

Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #3

April 4th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

As Ann and I led a series for workshops, we tested various dance games.  We quickly learned that not all dance moves are universal . . . or equal.   As always, we love learning from youth . . .

Here’s this week’s moves that we learned. (One I can do!)

Ask your teens: are these moves in? Or are they now “so last year”?

 

Boost Your Brain: Dance #2

March 28th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

As Ann and I led a series for workshops, we tested various dance games.  We quickly learned that not all dance moves are universal . . . or equal.   As always, we love learning from youth . . .

Here’s this week’s moves that we learned.  Ask your teens: are these moves in? Or are they now “so last year”?

 

 

Offer Empathy, Not Sympathy

March 25th, 2016

Brene Brown shares the basic idea of how as human beings, we need empathy, not sympathy. She says “empathy fuels connection.” Its tenets are:

  • To get in their shoes, look from their perspective
  • Offer a sacred space, no judgment
  • Recognize the emotion in other people
  • And communicate that

The goal is to feel with people. That means courageously tapping into our own uncomfortable experiences where we can remind ourselves that we know what it’s like. But then, from that place, we can authentically share with them that they’re not alone. We’ve been there. We know.

And we don’t have to use words to communicate that knowing. We can simply offer presence. We can make the better choice to truly connect and admit our lack of answers: “I don’t know what to say. I’m just glad you told me.” We can choose to hold the sacred space for them in their struggle, honoring them and how they feel and not insult them by throwing out pat answers, false silver linings or just as bad – band-aid advice.

We can bare witness to the fact that they are going through a very human struggle with tumultuous feelings and what they face is real . . . and so are they. So is the situation.

In our work with youth, we recognize that some of what they face is part of being that age. If not careful, in a quick moment of non-attentiveness we could dismiss some of those moments that are earth-shattering to them as “this will pass, get over it” and do more damage than good.

We could easily fall victim to offering sympathy (which requires little emotional commitment, no true connection and a pat response based on the surface instead of actively listening). Brene Brown’s illustration nails our tendency: “ooo! It’s bad down here. Want a sandwich?” And then we go straight for the silver lining: “it may be bad, but at least” fill in the blank: you have X, you didn’t do Y, you know Z . . .

That’s like applying a band-aid to an open wound that needs serious attention. It doesn’t do much and it certainly doesn’t heal.

This, Not That

I can recall things I’ve heard said to youth that fit the band-aid approach:

  • “I didn’t make the team” . . . “at least you tried out!”
  • “I didn’t get a good grade on the test and I studied hard” . . . “at least you’re doing well in your other classes”
  • “Jack broke up with me” . . . “at least you had a boyfriend”
  • “My best friend hates me” . . . “at least you have other friends”
  • During high school, you get to meet a lot of people. You might lose several friends and seem to have a “one or none” experience . . . “At least you got to meet a lot of different people in the world.”

As you listen to youth, be mindful in offering silence, presence and the realness of your own depth. When you work to make an authentic connection, it pays off. They know it; they feel it; and you honor who and where they are when you really listen. Without the band-aids.  Without the sandwich.

 

 

Boost Your Brain With Dance

March 21st, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  It brings in oxygen, gets the blood and heart pumping, reduces stress and quite simply, it can be . . . just good ole’ wholesome fun.

When Ann and I lead workshops for camp, we often try out new games.  And our latest round of new games included dance moves.  In one game, instead of us telling them the moves to do for the game, we asked them for the dance moves.  And that’s where our education began . . . In the next few weeks, we’ll share the moves we learned and that made us “cool” with future teens and young adults.

It’s all in the moves. My personal favorite I learned while teaching Y-CAP summer camp staff (Vanderbilt football players primarily).  The guys taught me how to do the Whip.  Which came in quite handy a few months later when I was leading a training in New York and got the group’s attention by – yep, you guessed it – doing the Whip.

Cool dance move #1.  Enjoy!

Appreciation Challenge

March 17th, 2016

There have been a few times when I have created presents for other people that are simply lists or little booklets about the best of who they are.  Something along the lines of the “12 gifts of you.” The gift includes simple things that I note about the person that I appreciate about them and am thankful for. Sometimes they are things that I see that I’m not sure that they see about themselves.

It’s a simple gift but a thoughtful one.

This past week I got to be on the receiving end of such a gift. My sister decided to do five days of appreciation of me for my birthday.  Every day she sent me five things that she appreciated about me and she actually did this for five days. It was such an awesome gift of perspective and surprise.

I’ve always enjoyed being on the giving side of such a gift, but to be on the receiving end gave me a whole new perspective. Wow!

To jot down a few things you like about someone is such an easy way to express appreciation and to encourage them.  And, it ends up being a gift for both the giver and the receiver.

Here’s an example of what I’ve done.  I emailed my writing partner this morning.  The subject heading was “Appreciation Day.”  In the body, I said “I love that you . . . ” and then listed 4 or 5 (the number doesn’t matter) things that I love about her.

The things you appreciate don’t have to be huge. They can be quite simple.  For example, for Ann, one line was about how much she relishes chocolate and coffee with a big grin.  It makes her happy.  I also noted how she is so good at re-framing negatives into positives – a trait I admire.

Who could you take five minutes to send an appreciation note to?  Could you make it a weekly practice to send one note?  Or monthly?  Try it out. See what happens.  Making someone’s day doesn’t have to take money, a lot of time or energy.  It can be as easy as saying “I love you” or “I love the way you . . .”

Feeding the Brain: Snacks that are Brain Boosters

March 14th, 2016

More and more we learn about the brain and what it needs to be healthy – from movement to water to music to . . . good food.  Food – the right kinds of food – can nourish the brain and help it focus and concentrate. Consider these healthy snacks for the youth in your program, classroom or at home.

1.  Yogurt – this dairy gem has often had its horn tooted for helping digestive health.  Studies now indicate that it does more than help with digestion.  It also promotes brain health.

2. Nuts – not just any nuts, but walnuts to be exact! High in antioxidants, walnuts promote brain function.  Additionally, they contain valuable acids necessary for brain health and development. Just remember – all things in moderation!  An ounce a day is all that is needed for giving the brain this brain booster.

3. Dark Chocolate – it’s very difficult NOT to have something sweet from time to time.  Research has been giving us permission to indulge – but only if it’s dark chocolate.  We know (. . . er, from experience) that dark chocolate gives us an energy boost, but it’s “chocolatey” goodness doesn’t stop there.  It also promotes alertness and attentiveness (IF it’s 60 percent cacao content chocolate).

4. Blueberries – while perhaps not always first on our list to buy when out of season, perhaps they should be snuck into the program space.  Whether fresh, frozen or dried, blueberries are a brain booster that improve cognitive brain function.

5. Pumpkin seeds – perhaps a little easier on the wallet than blueberries, this snack completes this simple list of snacks that promote focus and concentration.

Add this one to your afternoon snacks:

Peppermint tea – throw out the cokes and hand them a glass of peppermint tea. While still a little early to claim full status as a brain booster, studies indicate that peppermint tea may improve cognitive performance and increase alertness as well as calmness. It’s worth adding to the mix.

To see more foods that feed the brain and learn more about the research behind these, click here to check out the article from which the above is based.