Our brains are constantly changing in response to our interactions with others and interactions with our environments. Practice and repetition are the keys to changing old habits or leaning a new skill.
** In order to receive the most benefit from the neuromat® follow the” neuromat® method” which is 5-10 rotations one way, then turn around and do the same number of rotations the other way. If you feel dizzy, stop, sit down, and rest. Once you feel better, come back and try it again. Make sure to walk on the neuromat® a few times during the day. The more you walk and the more things you can at the same time as you’re walking (suggestions below) the more progress you’ll see and the better you’ll feel. I personally start everyday on my mat. It helps to prime my brain and prepare myself for the day.
Remember, we all learn at different paces. Some may take longer, some shorter. Be patient and be consistent!! Feel free to be creative and use the neuromat® in many different ways.
Here are a few activity suggestions for the neuromat®.
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 by singing a song or talking to your baby. *If your baby is too big to in front of you, you can still get the same effect by holding the baby in a cradle hold. Make sure that your baby’s body is aligned over the circles on the mat. This means that you don’t walk directly on the colors because if you were walking on the colors, you baby’s body would not be aligned correctly.
* Slowly begin walking on the neuromat® 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 you.
*If the head tilts in the opposite direction of the way you are turning, STOP. Wait until the head realigns with the body. Encourage the baby to look at your face by singing or talking, then begin walking again. The goal is to be able to walk at least 5-10 times in one direction and then switch directions and do the same number the other way while the baby’s head remains in the mid-line of their body. 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. *see carrying options below*
Crawlers *Encourage crawlers to crawl on hands and knees(!) along the neuromat® pathway. Lay toys out on the colored circles (every other color works nicely). Encouraging crawling to a specific toy. Have them pick it up and put it in a bucket. Or just crawl for fun! Play Follow-The-Leader and them follow you. Have the crawler push a toy, ball, car or train along the pathway. This is a great eye exercise as well. 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.
Carrying options: Mix it up! Even crawlers and toddlers still receive the benefit of the neuromat® movement even if they are being carried!!!
*If you are using a cradle hold, make sure to switch carrying the baby/toddler on opposite sides of your body.
*If your baby/toddler is able to support their head when being held upright (hugging position or over the shoulder or on your hip), this is a good position to carry them while walking on the neuromat®. Switch sides and carry them on one side of your body for 5x, then switch sides and carrying your baby on your opposite side. The goal is that the head remains in midline and looking forward or looking down at the circles during the curves of the neuromat® pattern.
*Face down using a football hold is an excellent way to encourage eyes to converge and look at the colors as you walk. Support the entire body on your forearm. Make sure to switch sides! For toddlers: encourage a super-man position. Keeping their arms and legs held out straight helps to strengthen glutes, back, legs, arms and even the neck if they look up when they are “flying” around the mat. Make sure to make it fun by singing the ABC’s or their favorite song.
*Sitting position. Hold your baby/toddler in a sitting position with one arm under their legs, creating a “sitting position” on your arm with the other arm supporting their torso/chest (if needed) as they lean back against your chest. Follow the above “neuromat method”. In this sitting position you can add another “layered” activity by giving them something to hold so that they use both hands at midline. A toy ring, teething ring or rattle works well.
* Name each color as you crawl, step or touch. This encourages one-to-one correspondence as well as learning the names of each color. Being able to look down helps eyes to converge. Practice looking down and then back up again. 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 neuromat® pathway. 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).
Adapt any and all 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.
*Use a hula hoop as you would a jump rope. Hold the hoop with both hands, step over the hoop, bring it over your head and step over the hoop again as you walk the neuromat® pattern.
*Use a weighted ball to push while crawling on hands and knees. Use the ball with one hand and then switch hands and push the ball with the opposite hand.
*Dripple a soccer ball while you walk on the neuromat®. Instruct the walker to stop the ball with one foot, “Stop the ball with your left foot”. Switch stopping the ball with alternating feet.
*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.
*Spin in a 360° turn at each turn (end) of the neuromat® pathway. Make it even more difficult by spinning in the middle or “midline” of the mat.
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!
Neuromat care: simply wipe the mat with a dry or slightly damp cloth. Do not fully wet the mat, wash or spray the mat with water. Normal wear includes the polyester layer to stretch with normal use.