What if a child’s development and education didn’t stop when school ended? What if their development required more than reading, homework, and projects? In reality, it does! A child’s development requires stimulation and learning from sensations that aren’t classroom related. Education reaches far beyond math, science, reading, and history, and extends into integration of the surrounding world, creativity, problem solving, and discovery.
So what are some of the ways a child can receive a full brain stimulating, world integrating education?
1. Nature. The outside world is so very different from any home or classroom. While we may have soft carpets, nice smells, and temperature regulated homes, the outside world is full of varying stimuli. Hard stone, soft grass, the smell of flowers, tough tree bark, heat, and breeze are just a few things that can be experienced in just a few moments of being outside. Children that are playing, especially outside with these new sensations, are problem solving. They’re creating and testing theories that they create because there is creation all around them even if they are unaware of it. By connecting with the earth, children are also releasing negative ions from their bodies that cannot be stored. This allows them to learn easier, express their emotions, and feel more calm (see our article on Grounding here).
2. Art. Art is another key element to learning. Through crafts, children learn fine motor skills, how to follow instructions, and the concept of sequences. Through free crafts, children work their brains to create, problem solve, engineer, causation, and patterns. The visual, motor, and even social skills of working on art promote brain development. For many children, art is used as a form of expression. Though they may not understand why, using red or sharp lines in their drawings may indicate frustration while softer colors and smoother lines relate to calm feelings. The expression of these underlying emotions is a form of release for the child which results in better opportunity for learning and verbal expression.
3. Music. From the very beginning of life, we use sound to express ourselves. Through music, children are able to develop social skills, intimacy, motor control, and complex brain function. Making noise with other children, coordinating or even competing allows for interpersonal connections to be learned and made. As a caregiver sings a soft lullaby to a child, that child is learning music is a safe, calming form of expression (especially of love in this instance). Through music, children are able to learn pitch, rhythms, patterns, and lyrics/ speech. Clapping, tapping, bouncing, and dancing to music creates the neuropathways required for motor control and body coordination.
4. Movement. In children, movement is vital for their development. Movement begins from inside the womb as infants actually push against the uterine wall instinctually to move, make room, and be birthed. Movement allows children to absorb and integrate sensations in the world through their senses. Because movement and higher cognitive function are located in the same place, experiences through movement and senses are anchored deeper in the brain which allow for easier learning. As children develop, movement, and by extension the development of their brains, allows for ease in expressing their desires, emotions, and needs. Whether through dance, play, exploration, or trial and error, movement strengthens the mind to adapt and create. Allowing a child play time gives their brains the opportunity to problem solve, imagine, and feel their own bodies. These are skills that cannot be taught through hypothetical scenarios promoted in institutional “learning”.
5. Touch. Starting as early as 16 weeks gestation, a child’s sense of touch begins. Touch not only has effects in the short term development of an infant, but can have lasting effects into adulthood. Through physical touch, infants are able to learn about the world, bond with their caregivers, and communicate their needs. Research indicates that physical skin to skin touch in newborns has a significant impact on their growth and development not only in their first few months, but years after. Lack of affection and touch has been linked to aggression, inability to express, and lack of social skills in children and teens. Oxytocin, known as the love or bonding hormone, is released through physical touch. This hormone impacts the socio-emotional development of a child and is, of course, stimulated by breastfeeding, snuggling, affection, and play time.
6. Sleep. In the crazy energized world of children, their bodies require time to rest, recover, and grow. Otherwise known as sleep, a child’s recovery time has a significant impact on their physical and mental growth. While asleep, the body is able to focus on growing new or rebuilding damaged tissue. Regular naps in infants and children teach their brains how to “self soothe” and regulate their heart rate prior to sleeping which can have impacts on their mental and emotional development. During sleep, children are able to process their experiences from the day and integrate them into their worldview and perception.
7. Nutrition. Lasty, nutrition plays a vital role in a child’s development. We want the very best fuel for our children that energize their bodies, strengthen their muscles and bones, and give them the proper micro and macro nutrients. On top of receiving the necessary nutrients for physical and mental development, meal and snack time encourages other skills. Forming certain cravings and mealtimes form habits that a child will carry well on possibly into adulthood. Eating allows them to create/ perceive a schedule. Hunger encourages expression, and in toddlers is an opportunity to learn delayed satisfaction. Meal and snack time is a developmental opportunity in children to learn social skills with the family and kids around them as well as sharing. Later on, cooking and helping caretakers make their own food establishes sequence, sensory development (touch, taste, smell, and see the food they’re making), and a sense of self-accomplishment.
Infants, children, and even adults are constantly learning. There is more to growth and learning about the world around us than what can be read in a book or listened to from a teacher. Every parent is a giver when it comes to their child’s development and every child is just as anxious to receive what you have to give and teach them about the world around them.
Sleep tips for children in different stages: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/children-and-sleep