Children are always learning. They learn from every interaction they have with the world and those interactions are with their whole body-mind-heart. The 3 basic areas of our brains, per the triune brain theory, work together to receive, process and integrate our experiences. So, learning is a sensory, kinesthetic, visual, auditory, reflective – whole child process.
Why is it important incorporate play and movement in the classroom?
Though for decades, the educational and scientific communities saw thinking and movement as separate, we now know definitively that the old “sit still” educational model is absolutely not how to support learning. Quite the opposite, engaging the whole child through play and movement can be an effective cognitive strategy to (1) strengthen learning, (2) improve memory and retrieval, and (3) enhance learner motivation and morale. Why? because:
- The more senses and areas of the brain you light up to introduce information – sight, song, movement, touch, – the richer, more elaborate, and more robust the retrieval ability.
- The more movement/play – the less stress, which negatively impacts the ability to access higher order thinking and act rationally or intentionally and
- Movement builds not just fitness but brain power – the growth of endurance, speed, and power in our muscles is literally reflected in the weight and density of our brain.
- Mindful/ intentional movement (yoga, karate, gymnastics, sequences of movement) supports executive function which controls impulse control, planning, reasoning and short and long term memory.
- Children who engage in daily physical education programs consistently show not just superior motor fitness, but better academic performance and a better attitude toward school
Research validates what we really already knew – the best way to learn is through a wholistic format, especially in early childhood! Active, play inspired learning, has been shown to not only enhance well-being, but also improve memory, learning and behavior. In fact, reading, writing and other cognitive skills are not possible without the mastery of specific motor skills. So, weaving together story and movement, pretending to be animals as letters, memorizing using song and rhythm, strengthen the body, light up the brain for cognitive learning, engage emotional intelligence, and nurture creativity. Transforming lessons into embodied, emotion and sensory filled explorations are the most powerful way to support optimal development of self-awareness, listening, direction following, focus, fine and gross motor skills, as well as critical thinking.
Rae Pica, educational expert and consultant, writes, “Children need to physically experience concepts to fully understand them, and their preferred modes of acquiring knowledge have always been, and still are, movement, play, and active learning.” Why? because:
- Play is the language of children and largely nature’s biological blueprint for learning
- Play generates joy which in turn fuels growth and development
- Play is multi-sensory and invites the whole child to show up – body, mind, imagination, heart
- Play inspires creative thinking
- Play pumps positive chemical messengers throughout the body that are necessary for brain growth and for building self-confidence.
- Play puts children in a present, focused, receptive, and integrated state
- Regular active play and stimulating physical education helps to balance energy and behavior naturally.