By now you know that our brains change constantly in response to interactions with others and our environments. You also know that practice and repetition is the key to changing brain patterns. So, in order to receive the most benefit from the neuromat ®, the goal should be to do at least 5-10 rotations one way, then turn around and do the same number of rotations the other way. Do this a few times during the day. 10 minutes 2x/day for 30 days should be sufficient enough to ensure new neural connections. Remember, we all learn at different paces. Some may take longer, just be patient and be consistent. Also, feel free to be creative and use the neuromat ® in many different ways. Here are just a few suggestions:
Infants –Hold your baby securely in your arms. For small infants, position the body on your forearms and cradle the head with your palms. Safety first! Once your baby is secure, engage in face to face interaction. Slowly begin walking on the mat and follow the colors from red, to orange, then yellow and green. Encourage the head to stay in the mid-line of his/her body while maintaining eye contact with the adult. When the head tilts in the direction of the movement, STOP. Wait until the head realigns with the body. Encourage the baby to look at your face, then begin walking again. Keep doing this until the baby is able to maintain his/her head in the mid-line without tilting in the direction of the movement. Walk 5-10 times in one direction and then switch directions. This may take days or even weeks until the brain is able to tolerate the movement. Be patient. Remember you are exercising the brain and encouraging bilateral brain activity. If the baby is too big to cradle on your forearms, hold the baby in a nursing/feeding position. Engage socially as described above. As you follow the colored pattern make sure the baby's body is straight and aligned with the pattern, not yours. The adult may have to walk in a sideways pattern to ensure the baby is in the correct position.
For our little crawlers, encourage them to crawl along the figure 8 pattern. Lay toys out on the colored circles (every other color works nicely). Encouraging crawling to a specific toy. Pick it up and put it in a bucket. Or just crawl for fun! Incorporate music and have fun! Remember, play is a child's work. Crawling stimulates the brain stem which promotes self-regulation. It works on shoulder stability critical for fine motor activities. Hands, fingers, and wrists become stronger, also critical for fine motor skills. Visual skills are reinforced by looking up and then back down again, thus encouraging the eyes to diverge and converge. This visual skill is important because as children begin to attend to books and learn to read, they must follow along word by word and line by line and not lose their place along the way. What many don’t realize is that this skill is actually developed very early in life. Crawling also encourages right-left brain activity, balance, weight shifting, weight bearing on the joints, core strength, bilateral integration, body awareness and motor planning.Toddlers/Preschool- Name each color as you crawl, step or touch. This encourages one-to-one correspondence as well as learning the names of each color. Color recognition and counting using one-to-one correspondence are one of children’s earliest introductions to reading and math.
*Push a car, truck, or train along the ∞ . Add vocalizations as “vrrrmm, choo-choo, beep-beep”. Now you are “layering cognitive domains”. This encourages the great benefits of crawling, motor-planning, balance, strength, coordination, and multi-tasking.
*Color matching/stringing activity – lay a colored block on a matching colored circle. Follow the neuromat® pathway, pick up a block, string it on the string, or stack the blocks in the middle of the mat. This encourages matching, sorting, one-to-one correspondence, hip/quad strength, fine motor development, eye-hand coordination, visual attention as well as problem-solving skills.
*Sing songs such as the ABC’s or 123's as you move through the neuromat ® pattern. Feel free to use a visual such as a book, sing-along-song on your phone, iPad or TV. This encourages expressive language (which is stimulated by motor movement) as well as visual attention, multi-tasking, attention to task.
*March, jump or hop from one color to the next. Use rhyme and rhythm to move forward, backward or sideways. This encourages motor planning, body in space awareness, visual attention, coordination and balance, mid-line and bilateral skills.
*Clap as you go. This encourages right-left brain activity, multi-tasking, bilateral and mid-line skills. I call it “layering of developmental domains”.
*Play games such as “Stop, Go”. Sing “go,go,go,go” in any tune that appeals to you. Then say “Stop”. Ask the child, “What color did you land on?” This encourages auditory processing agility, expressive/receptive language skills, color identification, and following directions.
*Play “ Follow The Leader” with song and dance. This encourages receptive language skills, following directions, motor planning, and imitation (the basis of all learning).
* School-age/adolescence/adults- Adapt any of the above suggestions. You may increase memory skills by practicing math facts, spelling words, chemistry symbols and any rote learning that is required.
*Read a book as you walk. This increases fluency and increases comprehension.
* Answer comprehension questions from reading material, history and science lessons.
*Play an instrument as you motor around the neuromat ®. This is fabulous for adults! Hand-held drums, cymbals, flutes, bells, etc. Anything will work!! Use a metronome and keep pace with the beat.
*Exercise as you walk! Cross the mid-line of the body while walking. Use the left hand to touch the right shoulder and at the same time use the right hand to touch the left shoulder. Be creative. March and tap opposite knees, cross your arms and squeeze opposite earlobes, etc.
*Throw a ball up in the air and catch it while walking at a smooth pace without stopping. Try juggling two balls and then move up to three balls.
Important facts to remember:
- Go slow and keep a steady pace
- When the activity becomes challenging, keep going a few more times. This is when real change is taking place.
The more you can do at one time, the better!