The wonderful body-brain connection
Most people still believe that learning happens in the brain and the body doesn’t play a role. See how teachers insist that children sit still without any fidgeting with any part of the body when in the classroom.
In the past, children could make up for this body neglect by using their bodies in all kinds of activities after school hours. They used to climb, run, tumble, dig, fall into ditches and fall out of trees. The change isn’t all due to TV and screen time but also because today’s families live in small homes without access to open play areas. Long hours are spent in commuting to and from school. The streets have become dangerous places. It’s been estimated that children are spending 25% less time on free play than they did in their grandparents’ time.
The reality is that the brain needs the body’s movement in order to create the neural pathways that make ease of learning possible. You can’t make a child learning ready with workbooks, i-pad games or computer programmes. It develops as children’s brains mature along with experiences occurring as a result of bodily sensation and movement.
Important movements are the early reflexes, followed by large body movements such as climbing, jumping, swimming, playing hopscotch, catching and throwing balls, riding bicycles, running, skipping, sweeping and digging. Smaller body movements develop fine motor skills, such as cutting vegetables, drawing, building with blocks, moving to music and learning rhythm through clapping, singing and so on. Movements that need crossing the midline help build the pathways connecting the two brain hemispheres and are crucial for learning to read, write and understand maths.
Children love to move; they need to move. If their bodies are given the chance needed to move in play, they will develop to a stage of learning readiness. Perhaps not all of them will reach this stage at exactly the same time but we do have the genetic potential to be wired to learn.
So limit sedentary time. Push your children out of doors. Make sure you spend quality time in play parks or open spaces over the weekends. Buy body healthy toys like trampolines, skipping ropes and balance boards rather than the latest hi-tech toy. Go back to basics if you really want your child to reach his or her potential at school.