Monday, July 5, 2010

Freedom to Explore

Deborah McNelis, the creator of braininsights, is a brain development specialist. Her website Early Childhood Brain Insights offers up succinct "Brain Facts." The June 29th and June 30th "Brain Facts" both support concepts that we have spoken about in the past -- the value of being in nature, the importance of unstructured play and the benefits of physical activity. The two Brain Facts are:

  • Freely exploring nature and objects increases blood flow to parts of the brain

  • Physical activity enhances brain function through providing more oxygen to the brain

Unstructured play is not only important to children, it is important to a child's future happiness as an adult. It is vital for children to have time to explore their world, both in nature and at home. You can learn about setting up spaces at home that inspire children to learn and play at Childhood 101. Find time to be in nature and let your child play without an agenda. Seeing my daughter playing with river rocks by a running stream at the base of a waterfall this summer was one of the most fulfilling moments of play I can recall. She was charged up finding different shapes, exploring how they would break and creating "statues" with groups of rocks. She also loves the "swamp walks" in Big Cypress National Park. Talk about sensory learning -- you slog through waist-deep water under ancient cypress trees.

There are so many sedentary distractions for children, from portable media players to cell phones to television. Take time to disconnect from electronic devices and get physical. Those clever animals in the animated film Madagascar knew what they were saying when they sang, "I like to move it move it!" Research from the National Institutes on Health is even showing that being physically fit at 18 is linked to higher IQ and is a predictor of educational and professional achievement later in life.

Use these final days of summer to experience nature in an unstructured way. Be explorers. Disconnect from electronic devices and connect with one another. Hike, bike, walk. Physical activity will not only benefit your child's body but his brain as well.

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