Learn using the whole body not the only mind

When we talk about learning or education typically we often relate to some activity for the brain. I have seen educators and parents rushing to enrol their children for the brain development courses. Some courses designed for children as young as 18 months, use flash cards, memory games and auditory learning approaches. Although the intention to make the child smarter is correct, the approach is not the best.

The reason is children before 6 years learn through experiences more than listening to instructions. “The hands are the instruments of Man’s Intelligence”- Dr Maria Montessori had famously quoted. Using the hands can we sense and shape the environment around us and thus come to greater understanding about everything around us.

Recently Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago said to engage children, we need to move beyond the head. Prof Sian Beilock has been working on embodied learning  an approach to involve the child’s body as well as his mind for learning . Physical activity, movement and use of hands helps the child to better understand the situation. “Encouraging kids to use their hands brings out unsaid, and often correct ideas, which then makes them more open to instruction and more likely to learn” – Sian Beilock.

Montessori education has been practising hands-on, child led learning for long time. Montessori involves children to work with 3 dimensional, concrete activities first. Once the children master these, then abstract concepts are introduced. Abstract concepts are not rushed to the child because the brain cannot process or imagine abstract concepts. For example children use sand globes with rough sand paper representing land continents and smooth surface representing water.

The best way for young children to learn is

  • Allow children to move freely in the classroom
  • Children should be active during lessons, perform the activities with their hands
  • Not to rush in with abstract concepts

Dr Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori method scientifically observed that children under the age of 6 years tend to learn with movement.  “Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside.  Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.” – Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood.

Children need to touch and manipulate the objects in the environment. This is critical to learning in early years. Movement helps the brain acquire and process information and maintain energy.  So, when your child is restless or cannot sit still, remember that this is all a part of the child’s innate need to learn.

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