Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Brain Needs to Play

Early education is probably the most important level of education. It is the time in children‘s lives where they start building peer relationships and the foundation for the people they will become. It is also a vital time for brain development.

The development of our brain structure is based on two main factors; experience shapes the properties of our neurons (experience dependent plasticity) and there are distinct time windows during early development that shape brain function. 

This means that while children play they are also organising their way of thought and how they acquire information and store it. They organise information based on the sensory stimulation that is associated with it and not the content of the information. The brain will then build systems of knowledge (neural networks) connecting together related information and enabling children to recall facts, evaluate circumstances, and solve problems.

The brain is designed to form memories as a survival strategy so that it can understand and predict an outcome of a possibly fatal situation. When threatened, the brain shifts into reactive mode and treats information as a short term resource for survival. But when children are relaxed and enjoy learning, the brain will reflect on the information and a real learning opportunity occurs.

This is why we all struggle with learning things that bore us. The brain reacts to boredom in the same way it reacts to stress and anxiety and fails to reflect on the information and store it long term. We need to engage children in a variety of sensory stimulation and offer them opportunities to explore, imagine, and create.


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