This article is from Active for Life.
Our child’s brain is a most amazing organ. Its structure is established in the early years of life, so how can you ensure that your children’s brains are healthy, well developed, and will last a lifetime?
Building your child’s brain is like building a house. The first five years of a child’s life is a crucial period of time where the foundation of the brain is laid down. The four walls of a house are the four walls of development: cognitive, emotional, social, and physical. All four walls need to be developed equally for the house to be strong and well balanced.
Houses can be built of many materials – wood, brick, stone, even mud or straw. Some materials are more durable and long-lasting than others. What are the building materials of our children’s brains? The simple answer is: experiences.
Children learn by actively using their five senses
Young children learn by doing. They need to be actively involved in seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, tasting; in other words, using all five senses to learn. Each experience that a young child has builds a synapsis or neural connection in their brain. The more experiences, the more synapses. The more meaningful an experience, the more often a child will want to do it again and again. Each time an experience is repeated, the connection becomes stronger and more permanent and the child begins to build confidence and competence.
Check out this 2 minute video from the Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University for a great, plain-language summary of this process.
The goal of becoming physically literate (the fourth wall of the house) is to develop the motivation, confidence, and competence to move – for a lifetime. This requires that preschool children have experiences with many kinds of activities: on the ground, on snow and ice, in water, and in the air. These experiences should be positive and fun so that children want to do them over and over again (motivation), begin to challenge themselves (confidence), and develop skills that enable them to participate actively (competence). This builds strong permanent brain connections.
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