If you have an especially busy child that cannot sit still and pay attention, they may be a kinesthetic learner. These students learn best through movement. It’s important to incorporate activities for kinesthetic learners into academic lessons.
(This post contains some affiliate links. See my disclosure.)
Identifying how a child learns can be helpful when creating a lesson plan, but a primary learning style may not be immediately apparent in young children. During early academic years, it’s important to engage students in ways that cover each learning style. Eventually, one or two styles should stand out.
The four learning styles commonly recognized are:
- Visual – A preference for seeing material in order to learn it.
- Auditory – The student better absorbs information by hearing it.
- Reading & Writing – The student prefers written text to read and expresses ideas through writing.
- Kinesthetic – Learns by actively being involved in the process of a lesson.
Kinesthetic students struggle the most in a traditional school environment. The common direction to “sit down, be still, and pay attention” is a complete oxymoron to them. They need to move and be involved with a lesson to thrive. Both their mind and body need to be engaged.
There are many strengths of a kinesthetic learner. They are often good at sports, have excellent motor memory, perform well in art and drama, and have great eye-hand coordination. These are high-energy students that excel when physically engaged in learning.
When I realized I had a strong kinesthetic learner, I knew I had to get creative with lessons. I add movement to our homeschool whenever possible. All of my kids have enjoyed participating in some of the extra activities.
Activities for kinesthetic learners:
At this age, I only knew I had busy kids. Play and enjoy a lot of hands-on activities. Make crafts, paint, and practice fine motor skills. There are many resources for creating fun activities to learn letters, numbers, colors, and more. Do not push traditional academics too early. Play should be a child’s primary job during preschool years. If you absolutely feel you need a curriculum, consider workbooks from Rod and Staff or printable activities from Confessions of a Homeschooler.
I did not immediately realize my son’s learning style, but I knew he was a very busy boy that needed activity. Instead of directing an energetic child to be still, encourage movement that does not create a distraction for other students. Ask questions to verify they are paying attention and processing the lesson.
Exercise between subjects – Have the student do a short series of burpees, jumping jacks, or run a lap around the yard. Just a few minutes of movement is an amazing help in transitioning to a new subject.
Lots of books – Give them a love of literature through reading aloud. Kinesthetic learners often do not read or write well. They struggle to sit long enough for the lessons. Read them adventure stories and living books. Listen to audiobooks on long drives or when they are busy making crafts.
Quiet activity during read-aloud time – Find coloring sheets that go with the book you are reading. Allow lego building with a reminder to sort blocks quietly. Occasionally stop and ask a question about the story.
Sensory writing – Put sand on a tray and let them practice writing letters and words with their finger. Write outside in the dirt with a stick. Have them write on a chalkboard or whiteboard. Let them type in a word program on a computer.
Sidewalk chalk game – Write sight words on the driveway. Call out a word and have them jump on it. Repeat by calling out different words for them to jump around. This is also great for math practice by writing numbers on the driveway. Call out a math problem, “4+2”. They respond back with the math sentence, “4+2=6” as they jump on the number 6.
Verbal narration – After the student reads a book or text, have them verbally narrate what they have learned. Help them create the first draft of a report by typing out what they narrate. Let them make corrections on a printed copy.
Ball roll math – Sit on the floor with legs out. Roll the ball to the student while calling out a math problem. They catch the ball and call out the answer as they roll it back.
Lapbooks – Replace traditional worksheets with hands-on projects that fit into a project book or file folder. There are many unit study options that cover a specific topic as well as literature-based lapbooking. Schoolhouseteachers.com has some wonderful lapbooking courses and resources.
Field trips and nature walks – Look for opportunities to get out and experience new things. Give them a clipboard to take notes of observations or to make sketches. Make a nature walk scavenger hunt list of things to look for.
Roll play – Act out a story or event in history.
Crafts and activities – If a student is studying medieval times have them make a castle from cardboard, design a coat of arms, make a paper mache sword and shield, or build a catapult from legos or popsicle sticks. Stage a dig site and have students become paleontologists when studying dinosaurs. When learning about other countries, make a meal that is traditional to the country and culture.
Baseball multiplication and division – Practice math drills while playing catch. Call out the math problem as you throw the ball to the student. They repeat the drill as they catch it, and call out the answer as they throw it back.
Middle and High School
As kinesthetic kids grow they learn how to manage their need for movement. As most students have a combination of learning styles, they will begin to use less dominate styles to help process some lessons. Movement will remain important, and some of the activities from the elementary years can continue to be utilized.
Get an exercise ball – If your kids’ classroom chair is not already loose or broken from wiggling, it will be soon. Swap out their chair for an exercise ball. Balance ball chairs are a more stationary option that still allows movement. By this age, a student should be able to recognize how much they move on the ball without creating a distraction to others. A ball chair can be used at younger ages, but from my experience, the urge to use them for bouncing around the room is too great.
Do the science experiments – The kinesthetic student will understand a concept more quickly when they are involved in what they are learning. Experiments will give them a stronger understanding of science lessons. Don’t let them skip recording their steps and observations no matter how much they dislike writing them out.
Verbal narration – This practice is as important in upper grades as it was in elementary levels. Let the student tell you their understanding of what they are learning. Ask questions that force them to think critically and problem solve.
Project learning – Ask your student what they want to learn about. Consider projects they can learn about and create that will support their interests. Learning is not limited to the school year. Summer is a great time to encourage creative projects.
Take breaks – Academic studies traditionally take more time during middle and high school years. Kinesthetic learners can feel frustrated by lengthy lessons. A short break to stretch and move can help them remain focused.
It is really important to incorporate activities for kinesthetic learners into homeschooling lessons. By looking beyond traditional classroom practices, and allowing movement, kinesthetic students will have the opportunity to learn in a way they will thrive.
Do you have a kinesthetic learner? If so, please share your activity ideas in the comments.