In a comment regarding my previous post, Loni refers to a "mind, body, spirit" approach to family; and I was delighted to read it. For many years early childhood professionals have talked about the education of the "whole child" -- meaning that their programs should address all three domains of development: cognitive, social/emotional, and physical. The thinking, feeling, moving child. Unfortunately:
- Too many people see these domains as separate entities.
- Too many people view the functions of the mind as superior to those of the body.
- The moving part is often left out of a child's education.
The truth is, the three domains are intertwined -- especially in early childhood. And because young children don't differentiate among thinking, feeling, and moving, when they learn something in one domain it impacts the others. Recent brain research is confirming the importance of the body in the learning process!
For example, Eric Jensen tells us that physical activity activates the brain much more so than doing seatwork. While sitting increases fatigue and reduces concentration, movement feeds oxygen, water, and glucose to the brain, optimizing its performance. Moreover, according to neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford, learning by doing creates more neural networks in the brain and throughout the body, making the entire body a tool for learning. Her book, Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, should be required reading for every parent and teacher!
Movement is the young child's preferred mode of learning -- because it's concrete (as opposed to abstract) and because it's fun! But we mustn't think the body's only function is as a tool for improving the brain. The body matters, too!
I'll leave you with this quote relative to the integration of mind, body, and spirit. Plato said: "The right education must tune the strings of the body and mind to perfect spiritual harmony."