Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

login to enter member only site

Not a Member? Join Now

Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

From Fight, Flight, Freeze to Breathe, Smile, Move

No Comments

The child screaming in the shopping cart. The child who just pummeled his brother. The child who won’t eat. The child sitting frozen in a corner . . . what is the magic we can offer to help them out of fight, flight, freeze! and into breathe, smile, move!?

Children’s behavior can easily trigger our own survival systems into our personal versions of fight, flight, freeze! And children, like animals, are not easily fooled. If our “quiet” voices are coming from behind gritted teeth, they know it. When we default into our reflexive stress responses, our first job is to integrate ourselves. Here are some quick, yet powerful, techniques for getting out of stress – fast. Try them out as you read – each activity only takes a few seconds.

Take a deep breath. I suggest a deep sniff through the nose. Visualize it going two directions – up to the forehead and down to the belly. Up sends oxygen to the pre-frontal cortex, fueling our creative problem-solving capacity. Down sends oxygen to the diaphragm, increasing overall capacity. Even one integrated breath informs the survival system that the predator has gone away, and our fight, flight, freeze! response is no longer relevant.

Let your tongue rest up behind your front teeth, gently touching the roof of your mouth, while you take that first deep breath. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to access a real deep breath when your tongue is “closing the circuit” between your lower and upper jaw. A relaxed jaw is definitely not part of a fight, flight, freeze! response! It tells our survival system that we don’t have to be ready to bite someone.

Blink rapidly a few times, briefly moving your eyes to look around the room. Part of fight, flight, freeze! involves the eyes, which either stare straight ahead or move out to the sides, looking for danger. When you blink and move your eyes around, you are letting the survival system know that the danger has passed. You are also activating some different parts of your brain, which may be useful to you as you move into a creative problem solving capacity.

Wiggle your toes, stretch out your heel, bounce on the balls of your feet – anything that releases muscle tension in your legs and feet lets your survival system know that you are not poised to run away, or to kick an enemy, or hide immovably in the brush. Releasing the leg muscles is one of the best ways to create an inner sense of calm.

Humming vibrates your skull and integrates your brain as a whole. It also can have a hypnotic effect on the child. You can just hum a single tone, or random notes, or a simple tune. My personal favorite hum is the first two notes of “Na, na na boo boo–“ that interval of the minor third is usually the first one children sing, and some form of it is in the scales of every culture. It’s the first interval of Brahms’ Lullaby, too. Come to think of it, it’s the two-note tune most doorbells play! Who’s there? Anyone home?

Smiling sends the signal to your brain that there is something to smile about. And we are programmed to “read” smiles as safe – just make sure your mouth isn’t too open, or your expression can be read as aggression. Humming and smiling go well together.

Tapping or rubbing your chest activates the thymus gland, which stimulates the immune system – which is another way to signal your survival system to turn off the reflexes. Immune protection is jettisoned during a fight, flight, freeze! response. Survive first, heal later. Bringing attention to the chest area reverses the process.Tap right on your sternum, making a nice drumming sound. Rub on either side of your sternum, in the soft spaces between the first two ribs.

Now, how do you feel?

You can do these things any time – even when there isn’t a child screaming in the shopping cart in front of you. As you sit at your computer, or drive in the car, or as you lie in bed at night. It’s always good to feel a little better. And the more you do these little things, the better they work – your body/brain system starts to expect the result, so that even thinking about them sends the neurons scurrying in the right directions.

I could use a little integration myself! Okay, breathe . . . tongue . . . smile . . .

Aaaah . . .

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked with an *

Your email is never shared.

Remember my Name, Email, Location and URL

Notify me of follow-up comments?

ECMMA is grateful for the ongoing sponsorship of our Supporting Businesses and Organizations. Please be sure to thank them for their efforts in supporting Early Childhood Music and Movement. Learn more about ECMMA Supporting Businesses.