I will never forget the time one of the students who waited in line to talk with me after an assembly said, “Thank you. I never knew I moved well because I’m smart. I just thought I was a dumb jock. Now I know I’m a smart one! I am body smart!”

Today, as I continue our series about how understanding children’s smarts can help us grow their confidence, we’ll look at how the body-smart intelligence influences kids. This strength results in movement and touch.

When body smart is a strength, children may get frustrated when they’re not allowed to move. These are the kids who move often and they react to things like positive joy and negative stress with small and large movements. So, when they’re not allowed to move, frustration sets in. They may not be able to think. They may have to shut down and stop listening and processing so movements don’t get them into further trouble. Then, of course, they’ll be frustrated and possibly get into trouble for not listening and learning.

Needing to stay at a desk or table for long periods of time, which could be as short as 5-10 minutes from the child’s perspective, will be fatiguing. Their attitudes can become negative quickly and their performances will suffer when they’re not understood and allowed to be themselves.

When body smart is not a strength, the opposite is the case. These kids will be stressed by needing to move. This may show up during physical education and recess for elementary school kids. This can negatively affect relationships because so many children do enjoy running, kicking balls, and the like.

Also, they may struggle if required to do role plays, drama, or charades. Art activities like sculpting that require good control of small-body movements may challenge them. So may using manipulatives in math class, building dioramas for a history class, and participating in some science experiments.

One of the best ways to help body-smart kids be successful is to allow them to move productively. For example, when young, they can clap their math facts (2 claps + 2 claps = 4 claps). When they’re older, they can be taught there’s no shame in using their fingers when working math problems. It may slow them down a bit, but if it’s necessary for them to get the answers right, it should be okay. Of course, all students will need to know it’s not a sign of stupidity so they don’t make fun of others. (I bet some adults reading this post use their fingers. We’re not stupid. We’re body smart.)

Sky writing will help children with body smart strengths learn spelling words, vocabulary words, chemistry abbreviations, poems they’re memorizing, and many other things. Just like with clapping math facts, its use won’t hurt any students, but it will especially help those who are body smart.

When sky writing, children pretend to hold a paintbrush and write as large as they can as if they’re painting in the air. They can actually use sidewalk chalk on pavement, markers on chart paper, or markers on a white board if they prefer and the opportunity presents itself. This strategy helps these kids because more muscles are involved than when they’re just writing on paper. Their comprehension and especially their memory will be enhanced.

It’s also body smart kids who will benefit from running errands for you and doing physical tasks like distributing papers and dusting your shelves. Being physical for a while can help them sit still for a while.

Practically, these students benefit from knowing they need to move because they’re smart in a certain way. So many of them get into trouble for moving and many think they’re stupid. Yes, they need to develop self-discipline and self-control. They also need our compassion, understanding, and optimism. When they know they’re smart and not stupid, they’re more likely to work on obedience and character development. Try it. Speak love and hope into their lives and see what happens.


If you want to read the other posts in this series about how the way children are smart can frustrate them, you can search our Multiple Intelligences archives. You could also use the “Search my blog” box at the very top of the sidebar for all posts related to your topic of interest.[callout]Every Wednesday, I’ll post about multiple intelligences so we can better understand children and why they do what they do.[/callout]