“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment. –Carol Dweck, Mindset

In my call-back for the Grad Acting program at NYU, a teacher, in all seriousness, asked us to feather balance a feather on our hand.  I was thinking, wait, don’t you want me to like improvise a sonnet?  It was a totally impossible task.  None of us could get it “right”.  The feather would always fall.  But a challenge can be deeply enjoyable – and this was the lesson.  It was so surprising how much fun we all had laughing and colliding with each other, getting totally lost in the moment.

I never balanced a feather again until I became a teacher.

Now it’s something I play in my own classes with Child’s Play NY and at home.

Boosts Kids Feather Balance

Here’s why I love it:

  • It boosts kids’ interest in trying new things and helps engage their curiosity.  
  • It’s a cool indoor activity for these colder days that gets kids moving around in unexpected ways.
  • It’s a neat ice-breaker on a playdate or at a birthday party
  • It teaches meditation in a kid-friendly way – you have to relax your brain, give over to the moment and be really present in order to keep the feather balanced.
  • It’s a game where you can’t win.
  • It’s a great “brain break”:  you’ll feel more alert and energized after a round of Feather Balance.
  • It helps teach that effort can be pleasurable.

Even though our kids may love the fun and silly elements, this game is ultimately working on a more profound level.  Feather Balance is one of those exercises that makes us appreciate the power of focused attention.  My collaborator, Dr. Belinda Bellet, of Brooklyn Heights Behavioral Associates speaks about this in the video.  

Exciting research on neuroplasticity finds that the brain is similar to a muscle that grows.  Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD in their book, The Whole Brain Child say that “the brain physically changes in response to new experiences.  With intention and effort, we can acquire new mental skills…There is a lot of scientific evidence demonstrating that focused attention leads to the reshaping of the brain.”  But you don’t have to be a neuroscientist to understand that the more practice you give something the better you are at it.  And in this case, your child is practicing focus and throwing themselves into something with curiosity. It is all in the guise of play so they’re having fun while creating new neural pathways. Double win!

Unlike most of the games on Child’s Play in Action – like Magic Elevator or Animal Yoga, it does require that you have an actual prop:  You need something to balance!  Of course I recommend a feather – but you can also do it with a balloon or an empty roll of paper towel.  I sourced the feathers you’ll see in the videos from Halloween Adventure in Manhattan, but Michaels and Oriental Trading Co has them too (I’m not getting paid to tell you that, it’s just good to know!).

So find the fun in the falling and I’ll see you in the next game!