Maren Schmidt: Do the Hokey Pokey


Maren Schmidt, Kids Talk

Maren Schmidt's "Kids Talk" column appears Tuesdays in the Craig Daily Press.

In the gardening shop, I looked up to discover a sign over my head.

"What If the Hokey Pokey Is What It's All About?" For whatever reasons, I started to laugh. Uncontrollably. My husband came from across the store to see what could be so funny.

For weeks afterward, Mark and I had a running joke with "What If :?"

Later, I realized that the reason I perceived this sign as so humorous is that the words contain a basic truth.

What is this fundamental truth?

Let me back up a little.

During this time of the Hokey Pokey joke, I was researching current brain development. The working of the hand with the mind is now being understood as perhaps the most essential element to optimum brain development. So the words from the song, "put your right hand in" and "put your left hand in" are the keys to creating learning success for all of our lives.

Almost a fourth of the real estate in the sensory motor cortex of our brains receives input from the hands. Another fourth is from input from the eyes, ears and mouth.

Basically, our hands dominate sensory input into our brains. Whenever we can involve the hand in learning, we should. It's as though we double the input and thus learning and memory when we do so.

Once we get the hand involved in learning and idle curiosity is satisfied, the hands and the mind guide all the other parts of the body to engage. "Put your leg in, put your leg out." As we extend our self-control to all parts of the body, we "shake it all about" to gain a full experience.

Hopefully, we've all had that experience of being intensely interested in something that made learning exhilarating and challenges were thrilling. Understanding new concepts came easily. This idea of fun learning is referred to as "being in flow" by learning researchers.

When we are engaged fully in an interesting activity, it's as though we are doing the Hokey Pokey as we turn ourselves around and poke and prod ideas from different angles.

The engagement of the child in a self-selected activity that absorbs the entire personality is perhaps the most powerful learning tool.

"Put your whole self in and shake it all about."

Researchers who look at happiness in older and retired populations say that three factors contribute to a healthy older life: Stay involved in your community, be involved in personally meaningful activities and laugh often.

Young or old, the meaning of life might be summed up as the song says: "Do the Hokey Pokey. That's what it's all about."

Laugh. Do personally meaningful work. Be part of your community.

"That's what it's all about."

Kids Talk TM is a column dealing with childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Ms. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. Contact her at or visit Copyright 2009.


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