raise smart kids through movement activities

How To Raise Smart Kids through Movement (15 Age-Specific Activities)

If you want to raise smart, resilient, happy children, let them move!

Active physical movement and play helps kids learn, improves their memory, and increases their motivation.  

Unfortunately, over the years we have seen a decrease in free-play time and recess, and an increase in structured activities. Children are often stuck in closed classrooms and are asked to stay still for hours. Their time is mostly allocated to studying subjects covered in standardized tests.

The good news is the trend is slowly turning! As schools begin to realize recess actually increases academic success, they have increased their recess time and incorporated movement into learning experiences.

Why Physical Movement is Important for Learning?

When children learn through movement, or are afforded a frequent “brain break”, their behavior also improves, creating less disruption in class and more focus and engagement. Students also understand on a deeper level when they learn through movement and cherish information from those lessons.

Malke Rosenfeld, the creator of Math on the Move, demonstrates in her program the powerful effect movement can have on learning and encourages teachers and parents to see the body as a thinking tool.

Let’s take a look at some age-specific movement activities you can do to build confidence, increase focus and learning, and enhance motivation at home or in the classroom.

For more brain-building activity ideas, refer to our Growth Mindset Activity Kit.

growth mindset activities kit - big life journal

AGE 0-5

Shapes Yoga

This is a fun and engaging way to help your little one learn shapes and get moving at the same time! Start with a warm-up by making circles with your arms.

Next, make some fun shapes with your body. Pretend to be a rectangle while doing a plank, go into child's pose as you make a circle, or downward-facing dog pose to make a triangle. And don’t forget to breathe!

Color Slam

Cut strips of different colored paper - blue, green, red, orange, yellow, pink. Write the name of the color on a matching paper. Using Blu-tack or wall-friendly tape, stick the strips of paper to the wall, leaving plenty of room between the strips.

Give your child a soft medium-size ball and then call out a color. Ask them to throw the ball at the matching color and repeat the color name at the same time.

play is necessity - big life journal

Alphabet Garden

This activity not only gets your child learning and moving, but takes her outside! With some sidewalk chalk, draw couple big flowers and leaves on the pavement. Inside each flower and leaf, write a different letter of the alphabet.

Give your child a small watering can filled with water and call out a letter. When they find the letter, tell your child to water the letter as they say it.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

There are so many fun ways to do a nature scavenger hunt. You can hunt for specific colors, or shapes, or just collect flowers. You can also hunt for various pieces to create nature art. Grab the Nature Adventures Bingo in the Growth Mindset Activities Kit and head outside to learn with your children or students.

adventures-nature-bingo-big life journal

Get Up and Move Cubes

Your child will get a workout with these get up and move cubes. All you need are a few art supplies to make two cubes and you are on your way! Make a cube, writing on every side different time limits; for example, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 20 seconds, 7 seconds and so on.

On the second cube, write different movements; for example, kangaroo jump, crab walk or slither like a snake. Roll both cubes at the same time. Your child should then move like the animal on the movement cube for the amount of time shown on the time limit cube. Make sure to drink lots of water!

learn through movement ages 0-5 - big life journal

AGE 5-10

Gratitude Alphabet Game

This fun game is designed to help your child or student remember the many things they are grateful for. When your child practices gratitude, it makes them more confident, healthy and even helps them sleep better. So grab a ball and invite some family and friends to join in.

To play you stand in a circle or, if there are only two players, face to face. One player throws the ball to another person while saying something he/she is grateful for that starts with the letter “A”.

The person who catches the ball says something they are grateful for starting with the letter “B”. Continue until you go through the entire alphabet. See the Growth Mindset Activities Kit for the instruction sheet.

alphabet game activities kit - big life journal

History and Adventures

Does your child or student have a favorite adventure story or is she learning an important piece of history? Get creative with some fun pieces of clothing and props and have your child reenact that moment in time. This is an engaging way to learn a story, boost confidenceand improve communication skills.


Does your child wiggle and squirm while listening to you read? Invite them outside to jump on the trampoline, or a rebounder, and read to them while they bounce.  You can also use a jump rope or a pogo stick. A quick jump in between homework also makes for a fun brain-break!

Dance, Dance, Dance

Turn on some uplifting and positive dance tunes and get moving! This is another fantastic way to take a brain-break, improve your child’s mood, and increase motivation. Do this at home or in the classroom. Get ready for lots of laughs and big smiles! Check out the Big Life Journal Spotify Playlist for some upbeat jingles.

Build It Walks

Commit to a walk around the block at least once a week with your child, or ask your students to get into groups and go for a walk around the school while working on sentence-building.

Have one person say what they see, for example, “I see a house”. Then the second person takes their turn by adding something, for example, “I see a blue house”. The next person might say, “I see a blue house close to a tree”.

Continue until you run out of ideas and then choose another topic. This is a great way to move, practice sentence-building, and exercise creativity at the same time.

nature doesn't judge - big life journal

Math on the Move

Make learning math exciting and engaging for your child or students. Check out Math on the Move by Malke Rosenfeld for some fun activity ideas you can use at home or in your classroom. Malke uses her passion for dance and patterns in choreography and links them to learning patterns of mathematics.

learn through movement ages 5-10 - big life journal

AGE 11+

Muscle Breaks

Start the day with a mile run to boost those feel-good hormones, or create stations of movement in your classroom for muscle breaks. For example a pushup, plank or jumping jack station. Use these stations in between periods of desk work to encourage movement and increase focus and motivation.


learn through movement ages 11 - big life journal

Walk ‘N’ Talk 

Go for a walk with your child and share ideas. Let them talk about their dreams, visions, and inventions.

If you are a teacher, provide your students with a list of questions to ask each other. You can use the Growth Mindset Conversation Starters (available in the Growth Mindset Printables Kit). Gather students into groups of 2 or 3. Invite them for a walk around the school as they share their answers with each other.

growth mindset conversation starters kids students

Exercise Ball

Ditch the hard plastic chair and replace it with an exercise ball. This will not only engage your child or student’s core, improving the health and posture of their body, but they will be able to make small movements while they think and process information.

Library Scavenger Hunt

Create a list of things to find in a library such as a specific chapter from an author your child or class is studying, a piece of music, a poem, or a novel. Give the sheet to your child or student and have them tick off the item on the list when they find it. This activity will keep them active as they explore the endless shelves of knowledge.

Check out our Top 85 Growth Mindset Books for Children and Adults (available in the Growth Mindset Printables Kit) to use in your Library Hunt!

growth mindset resilience book list kids


Children learn best through movement. As they engage their whole body in the learning process, they are increasing their focus and attention, boosting their confidence and their motivation, which is a great way to nurture your child’s growth mindset.

So go ahead, encourage your child to get up and get moving and to have fun learning as they do!

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