Why are children always wiggling, jumping, twirling and running? It is because their muscles and bones need the stimulation to grow stronger, AND because movement causes the brain to develop.
When the body is moving, different parts of the brain that are important for learning become more active. The part of the brain that processes movement, the cerebellum, is the same part that processes learning!
In his book, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen states that the cerebellum in the brain sends information from movement and the five senses to regions of the brain needed for learning – memory, attention, vision, perception of space (helps math) and language (spoken and written).
Over the past several years, a sad trend has taken over our families and schools. Opportunities for children to have PE and recess at school and rough and tumble play at home have been ebbing away.
States have cut funds for education, causing many schools to provide less Physical Education. Also, many schools have restricted recess, because they believe it is more important to spend that time preparing for state achievement tests. However, researchers found that students who had daily PE showed better academic performance than students who did not (Donevan & Andrew, 1986). Another study showed that loss of study time from participation in PE did not result in lower academic scores (Dwyer, Sallis, Blizzard, Lazarus & Dean, 2001). For more information, go to www.sparkpe.org.
Why are children not getting enough movement through play at home? A couple of reasons come to mind. First, some parents fear their children will be kidnapped, so they won’t let them play outdoors, an important avenue for developing the children’s lungs, heart, muscles and brain. However, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, of the numbers of children who are reported missing each year, only 115 out of our population of 72.5 million children are taken by a stranger or acquaintance, who has criminal intent.
Another reason some children are not getting enough movement at home is that their parents like them to be quiet. It’s time to put down the video games and go play outside! These parents provide their children with electronic games via computer, phone and other devices, which, by the way, are often addictive. Sure, electronics keep children quiet and out of the way, but at the expense of their health and academic success. When two children came with their parents to our center at Brain Works one day, I offered them our many toys and games to choose from to play with. “No, thank you”, they replied, and they sat in our reception room to play games on their parents’ iPhones.
At Brain Works, we include movement exercises as part of our brain training. When the children are on a balance board tossing and catching a bean bag, the vestibular system in their inner ear is activated. It gathers information from the child’s body and eye movement and sends it to the cerebellum and other parts of the brain. Eye tracking, hand-eye coordination, auditory processing, attention span, memory, reading, writing, math and learning all benefit from those exercises.
Research shows that movement and moderate exercise each day enhances learning. Schools and parents that do not intentionally provide opportunities for sustained movement each day are shortchanging our children’s ability to make the most of their mental capabilities. The power of movement through physical activities, PE, recess, sports and playing at home is just as important as book learning. It’s time we do what research tells us is best for the child.
Diane Daniels, Director of Brain Works. Call 352-332-2420 for a free consultation to inquire about brain training through movement and auditory stimulation of the brain. Website: www.listenez.com