RESEARCH NOTES: linking Tai Chi Push hands and EF [executive functioning]


I was recently reading “Taichichuan Ching” by Chang San-Feng. He was describing how a practitioner studies the artof tai chi. One of his lines resonated with me: “By making a small mistake, you may go wrong by a thousand miles.” I often find in my tai chi practice, how one small mistake, such as angling my foot in a certain way, can disrupt my whole physical equilibrium. I might try for days to change other areas of my body as I do the form, however, without bringing the foot into the correct angle, I am stuck.

In working with children with executive functioning challenges, small mistakes can create major headaches. For example, a student might do incredible work writing an essay, however, she may forget to include her bibliography at the end. The teacher might then deduct 15 points, bringing her score from an A to a C. Small things can equate to big results. On the other hand, a student might write a mediocre paper, however, she makes sure to include all the requirements. She may get a better grade than the student that wrote the stunning paper. As an EF coach, my job is to help kids identify the little [but sometimes big] things that make major differences in their performance.


Kai [executive functioning and Alexander Technique coaching]

RESEARCH NOTES: staying focused even with the internet

One major challenge for the people I work with on executive functioning issues is the constant pull of the internet, especially social media: instagram, Facebook. Sometimes games and the random Google search that spirals out of control [until the next thing you know you’re looking up “what dog could live in outerspace” … OK.. well maybe that was just me…but…]

Here are some tips to help people stay on task:

  • Make access to the internet less easy. For example, do your work away from your devices if possible. Put the device on airplane mode
  • Put the apps that cause the most distractions in specific folders.  Label the folder “distractions” or “social media”
  • Use music without words to keep a reminder that it’s work time
  • Use the pomodoro technique: set a timer for 10-25 minutes, work straight through this time, then break for 5 min and again use the timer.
  • Use a focus app such as FOREST. The forest grows as long as you don’t exit the app and go onto another more distracting app.
  • Reward yourself after X amount of time working. For example, put out a ring of candies, for each 10 minute focus time grab a candy [maybe use grapes instead for the sake of your teeth:) ]

There are many more ways to stay focused.  Try different experiments and see what works for you — sometimes it might be about the environment – how about a cafe vs. library vs. dining table…. you’re your own experiment. What works for you will change each day and over time. Keep finding what works then teach others.



Kai Kleinbard
executive functioning coach and Alexander Technique teacher
director of bodyLITERATE and Institute for Playful Beings



pic-play-lab-may-7NEXT PLAY LAB!!!
May 7, 2017

Toys can’t walk on their own 🤔, so it is hard to get them to places where we can play. Come to the next Play Lab to make a traveling toy for the park, for a restaurant, or for a friend’s house. You may want to make an art set, a parking garage/city in a box, a kitchen set, or your own creation. We will be using traditional art supplies and recycled materials. Feel free to bring your own materials as well.

LOCATION: 808 Union Street, Park Slope
TIME: 10 a.m. to Noon
FACILITATOR: Priscilla Shen
PARENTS: Drop off only
Participants: 4 kids maximum per Play Lab

RESEARCH NOTES: using a back pillow to support upright sitting for children.

Encourage children to track their attention by being aware of how their sitting.

  • Have him sit more at the edge of chair.
  • Make sure his feet are on the ground.
  • Put a firm pillow behind him to help him sit upright.

We often tell children focus — but the question is how: Observe how the body supports focus!

img_20170215_101344 img_20170215_111024

For more info on executive function coaching, visit


 RESEARCH NOTES: incorporating mindfulness breathing with kids – when to do it?
mindfulness process:
  • lie down or sit with feet on ground
  • put hands on belly
  • breath into your belly
  • feel your belly rise and fall
  • count 5 breaths or set a timer for 1 min

It’s a good question about how to incorporate mindfulness practices into a daily routine. One rule of thumb, is to practice doing it during moments of calm [eventually, you can weave it into stressful situations, but the child will be better able to learn it when they’re relaxed].

I would incorporate it whenever you can into your own life [in front of the child, so he sees when/how you do it].  You might comment to him, “I’m going to take a few breadths, to relax myself…” This might be great when you find yourself over-reacting – you might then explain to him you realize you’re very heated, and you’re going to take a moment to breath to calm down.  Then when you’re calm, he’ll experience how you’ve shifted, because you took that moment to pause.

Finding a time to belly breath with him is great [morning or night]. I know it’s hard during busy days for consistency; you can only do your best, it might now always happen! I would also find intermittent times to weave it in. You might even bargain with it…meaning, “Hey Lennie, you can play the video game, but first let’s do 5 breadths together…”

I also like to empower the children to take ownership by asking them to teach others the technique.  So you might ask your child to teach the belly breathing to grandpa, his aunt, etc.


Kai Kleinbard
executive functioning coach and Alexander Technique teacher
director of bodyLITERATE and Institute for Playful Beings

RESEARCH NOTES: Graphic Novels for kids
some great graphic novel ideas from my friend Rebecca!
As for graphic novels, let me tell you which ones are a big hit at my school.
Smile and Sisters are a huge hit and even though the protagonists are female, the boys at my school are drawn to them too –
The Amulet series is also very popular at my school but it’s a very different type of graphic novel than Tintin. It’s a dark story that starts with a father dying and a family being forced to move to an old haunted house –
I hope that helps!

for more information on EF coaching visit:

RESEARCH NOTES: helping kids sense time, write with more details and work with word problems

Some students run into ruts, because they don’t understand what the question is asking. Have them write an answer system that translates the question directly into an answer sentence.

For example:
How many total hats does the lady have? Would be translated into “The lady has ____ total hats.”

It will be helpful for the student to translate the question into his own words–he can practice this out loud when working with a parent.


On sensing time, I’d recommend getting an analog watch for the student to wear. Then, I’d use a larger analog watch near where he does HW, and wherever you need him to be aware of time [by the TV, in his room, etc.]. The reason for an analog watch [with minute, hour, second hands] is that it gives young people a volumetric sense of time — it shows time as a changing length. There are also special clocks for ADHD kids that push this idea: Timers to help kids sense -

Student that have difficulty editing their writing will have an easier time when it’s on the computer. I highly recommend encouraging him to write on a computer/tablet when possible. Or, after he hand-writes something, type it up for him on a computer, and then have Hayden edit it. He’s more open to editing his writing digitally, because it can be easy moved around.




RESEARCH NOTES: using quotations

RESEARCH NOTES: using quotations in Essay writing for early writers

In working with a number of students on writing, using quotations effectively can be challenging, Often students “plunk” the quotation directly into their paper without adequately giving context or analyzing the quotations.

quotation sandwich

When inserting s quotation into an essay it should have 3 parts: 1) Context 2)Quotation 3) Analysis

There are three parts to any quotation:
1) CONTEXT: introduce the quote, describing where it’s from and smoothly integrating the quotation into your essay.
2) QUOTATION: add in the quotation itself. Some teachers appreciate that the quotation flows directly from the student writing:

Blueberries are healthy. “A handful of blueberries have a as much vitamin C as 2 cups of Orange Juice” {NY TIMES}.

The body should integrate the quote into their paragraphs:

Blueberries are healthy; in fact, the NY TIMES reports that “a handful of blueberries” had “as much Vitamin C as 2 cups of orange juice” {NY TIMES}.

3) ANALYSIS: link the quotation back to the main topic of the essay.


for more information on Executive Function Skills visit:

next play lab: THE HAT

Play lab: The HAT January 8, 2017play-lab-pic-small-size

Why do we use hats? Hats can be used for many purposes. They can protect our heads. They can be worn for special occasions. They also can be worn for fun. Let’s celebrate the New Year with your unique creations on a hat! Come and create a playful hat and parade it around for all to see! Each participant will be provided with a plain hat. Feel free to bring any items from home that can be added to your hat.

For more information visit:

Below are a few resources that you might look into

“Smart but Scattered”
-breakdown of executive functioning for children as well as some good tips

-great book on parents learn how to frame learning to their children

-great book on teaching children the power of grit/working hard on their challenges

“Delivered from Distraction”
-author is a renowned doctor. His view on ADHD is that it’s like a Ferrari that just needs a different kind of gas

For more information on Executive Functioning Coaching visit: