Brain Calming Activities – the 6 R’s

Children’s learning & their social and emotional development is built on a foundation of bodily awareness and coordination. This comes from good care early in life, & a rich variety of movement and sensory experiences. Children with relational trauma & a history of neglect & abuse, have often missed out on these important, early sensory experiences.

Relational trauma & big gaps in body control, lead to a child’s brain staying on high alert, & their body primed for fight, flight, or freeze. This makes it hard for them to process their thoughts & feelings or to manage their behaviour.

It’s possible to go back and fill in the gaps, by encouraging certain activities & movement. Repeated patterns of movement are good for building new connections within the child’s brain & helping their body to learn that it is safe.

There are lots of activities that can be helpful, if woven into the daily routine & facilitated by a kind & caring adult. These include walking, dancing, drumming, tapping, singing, breathing, yoga & music.

Dr Bruce Perry has developed the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics & outlines an approach to take, when providing brain calming activities, to facilitate healing. This is summarised by the 6 R’s:

  • Relational – offered by a safe adult who has established a trusting relationship.
  • Relevant – developmentally-matched to the child & their emotional age, rather than matched to their chronological age.
  • Repetitive – patterned.
  • Rewarding – pleasurable.
  • Rhythmic – resonant with neural patterns.
  • Respectful – of the child, their family & culture.

Most importantly, doing any activity should be fun. If it stops being fun, take a break. Introducing new activities & skills can take time and patience – aim for small, enjoyable steps forward.

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