Boost Motivation with Joyful Movement Breaks


Being stuck at home all day doesn’t have to mean being stuck on the couch! No matter the size of your living space (or the number of small humans you share it with), it is possible to move your body in ways that feel good and do good.

Whether you’re working remotely, homeschooling, looking after little ones, or all of the above, taking a break to joyfully move your body can help boost your focus and motivation[1]. Including your children in active play [2]can also enhance their capacity to self-regulate[3]. This movement games sequence is designed for busy parents and caregivers to do alone or with the young people they care about.

Try these movement games one after another, with breaks as needed. The goal is to feel energized, not depleted! You should feel comfortable and not out of breath throughout.  The movements are described in child-friendly language, so that it is easy to include the young people around you.

Pillow Toss:

  1. Start with a pillow on the ground between your feet.
  2. Pick the pillow up off the ground as if it were a super heavy sack of potatoes, engaging your legs and core.
  3. Bend your knees deep as you pick it up, then swing your arms to throw it as high as you can above your head (be sure to check for sprinklers, fire alarms, and light fixtures first!).
  4. Catch it and bring it back to the ground, then repeat.
  5. Check out these kid-friendly & fun variations.[4]


Bear crawl:

  1. Get onto your hands and knees on the floor as if you were going to crawl[5].
  2. Press your hands and toes into the ground and hover your knees a couple of inches off the floor, while keeping your back flat and staying in the crawling position (this should really fire up your core).
  3. If this feels challenging enough, alternate holding your knees off the floor for 3 deep breaths, and resting your knees back on the ground.
  4. If you are up for more of a challenge, try to crawl a few steps forward, backwards, or side-to-side while keeping your knees off the ground.
  5. Check out these kid-friendly & fun variations[6]


Mirror image:

  1. Stand facing your child arms distance apart.
  2. Pretend that you are looking into a mirror – the person standing opposite you has now become your mirror image.[7]
  3. Decide who will lead and who will follow. The leader can move in any way they choose without touching their partner, and the follower has to try to copy it! The sillier and trickier the better.
  4. After a few minutes, switch roles.
  5. Check out these kid-friendly and fun variations[8]


Images from

Research shows that as little as 10 minutes of mild exercise can enhance functioning of the frontopolar cortex, a brain region linked to motivation and ability to manage multiple goals. See this Heart-Mind Online resource to learn more.

<a href="">House photo created by -</a>

<a href="">Music photo created by nensuria -</a>



  • Toss the pillow as quickly as you can back and forth with your children in a game of “hot potato”
  • Invite a player to stand in the middle and try to intercept the pillow to play “piggy in the middle”
  • Use a favorite stuffed animal instead of a pillow to entertain young children.
  • Use a hackey sack or ping-pong ball to challenge older children’s coordination.
  • For the competitive at heart, see how many times you can throw the pillow back and forth without dropping it, or how many catches you can complete in 1 minute.
  • Click this link for more pillow-inspired movement games from the pediatric occupational and physical therapists at the Inspired Treehouse
  • Move like the 3 bears: With knees on or off the floor, crawl with your child like a Papa bear (the biggest steps you can take), Mama bear (medium steps) and Baby bear (the smallest steps you can take).
  • Hold a crawling Olympics:  Race your child across the room crawling forward, sideways, or even backwards. Introduce obstacles such as piled up pillows to challenge core strength and coordination.
  • Turn on some music and make it a mirror-image dance party.
  • Increase challenge by playing the game standing on one leg.


Click on the following link for a visual step-by-step guide to the bear crawl. 

Check out this video for a brief example of the mirror game. 

A joint study conducted by researchers in Australia and the United States found that active play was associated with stronger self-regulation, which was in turn linked to enhanced academic achivement (scores on math and reading assessments) in a pre-kindergarten sample. 

See the Heart-Mind Online Resource "10 Games to Boost Attention" for more active play ideas that can be adapted for the home. 

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.