Kids

Stop Telling Students to Sit Still: Importance of Movement in Child Development

The period from when a child is born to the end of adolescence is the most critical time for child development. During this time, children are… Trista - September 16, 2019

The period from when a child is born to the end of adolescence is the most critical time for child development. During this time, children are guided through emotional, psychological, and biological changes. These changes are a lot to deal with for young ones; therefore, children need guidance as they grow. Many children learn valuable lessons inside and outside of the classroom while in school.

In addition to learning valuable skills through their education, children learn socially through playtime. Giving kids the opportunity to move around during the day and interact with each other is an essential part of their development. By being able to go outside and play, children become more focused in the classroom and better at retaining information. Eliminating recess time would be detrimental to a child’s growth. For more information about how a child develops throughout their lives and how their education is provided, keep reading!

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1. Child Development

From a child’s birth to the end of adolescence, many changes occur in their biology, psychology, and emotional maturity. For their first eighteen years of life, a child goes from being dependent on learning how to be increasingly more autonomous. This sequence is predictable, but each course is different for every child.

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Each stage progresses at its own pace and is directly impacted by the stage that occurs before it. Genetic factors and events that occur during a child’s prenatal time can affect a child’s life after it’s born, so fetal development goes hand in hand with child development. There are many different methods for researching child development created by some of the most notable psychologists. 

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2. Theories

As we mentioned above, there are several different methods or theories used to study the development of a child. One of the main arguments of child development is the ecological systems theory. Also known as the development in context or human ecology theory, this idea studies four types of environmental systems.

The four systems studied in the ecological systems theory are the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. In each of these systems are roles, rules, and norms that strongly influence a child’s development. This theory is profoundly influential, and each of these systems is considered a part of the life course spanning from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.

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3. Piaget

Swiss scholar Jean Piaget began studying intellectual development in the 1920s. He became interested in exploring how a child’s brain worked and developed his own laboratory to study child development. Piaget worked for years to record the intellectual growth of children.

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With his extensive research, Piaget developed the four most important stages of a child’s cognitive development. These stages are the sensorimotor stage, which is from birth to age 2, the preoperational stage, which is from age 2 to age 7, the concrete operational stage, which spans from age 7 to age 12, and the formal-operational stage, which begins around ages 11 or 12 and continues on until adulthood.

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4. Vygotsky

Russian theorist Lev Vygotsky originated the sociocultural theory of child development. He firmly believed that children learn best through hands-on experience. Vygotsky asserted that A technique called scaffolding could help children be even better at learning. 

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With scaffolding, a parent or adult helps a child learn when they’re on the cusp of completing a new task. He posited that this could help a child learn faster as well as learn other functions along with the original one. For example, if a parent is singing and clapping a song with their child, they could take their child’s hand and make them clap until the child learns to clap by themselves.

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5. Attachment Theory

Developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, attachment theory examines the interpersonal relationships between human beings. It studies how humans react in relationships when they are hurt, alarmed, or separated from their loved ones. Attachment theory maintains that when provided with a caregiver, any infant will become attached.

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Bowlby theorized that primate infants develop attachments to their elders because of evolutionary pressures. Their survival is dependent on their bond with a stronger leader in the face of dangerous predators or exposure to the elements. This form of attachment has trickled down to humans. In attachment theory, a child needs to have one meaningful relationship with a parent or guardian in order to have successful emotional and social development.

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6. Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson was a loyal follower of Sigmund Freud and combined his and Freud’s theories of child development. With that, he created the psychosocial stages of human development that start at birth and continue on until death. In the Erikson theory, there are eight separate stages.

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Each of the eight Erikson stages involves two conflicting forces of psychological crises. For example, stage one is hope and involves trust versus mistrust. If a child finishes the first stage with more trust than distrust, they will enter the next stage (autonomy versus doubt) and the subsequent stages with a virtue of hope.

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7. Behavioral Analysis

The behavioral model of development was formed in 1925 by John B. Watson. Watson’s theories of psychology were based on classical conditioning. Through this process, Watson hypothesized that each individual’s behaviors were a result of different learning experiences.

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Watson conducted research and determined that phobias could be caused by classical conditioning. His methods of behavioral analysis led to other experts experimenting with theories. B.F. Skinner used his notable Skinner box experiment to see how animals behave in a controlled situation and how they can be influenced by their environment. He also observed that behaviors could be molded by reinforcement and punishment.

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8. Continuity and Discontinuity

There are quite a few aspects of child development that are continuous and will not show noticeable changes. Things like growth in stature are ongoing developmental changes that are gradual and pretty predictable. Developmental changes that are discontinuous may present notable milestones as well as related age periods called stages.

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Stages of development, like movement or speech, can overlap or become associated with one another. If a child’s movement has fully developed, their speech is not a guarantee to have developed at the same time. Occasionally, children will be able to use critical thinking to solve a specific type of problem but may have issues solving other, less familiar problems. 

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9. Mechanisms

Developmental changes occur parallel to a child’s chronological age. Even though that is the case, age does not cause development by itself. Environmental and genetic factors lead to fundamental causes or mechanisms of a child’s development.

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Cellular changes come from genetic factors. That includes changes in brain parts and body proportion as well as dietary needs and vision. A child’s genotype can change over time, leading to potential developmental changes later in life. Environmental occurrences that can affect a child’s development include exposure to a certain diet or disease along with cognitive, emotional, and cognitive experiences. Many studies have shown that children can handle living through a broad range of environmental exposures.

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10. Nature versus Nurture

The nature versus nurture theory argues whether a child’s genetics or their environment determines their behavior. The nature side examines how we as humans are pre-wired and influenced by the genes we get from our parents, along with other biological factors. The nurture side studies how outside influences and experiences shape us as we grow up.

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Famous philosopher John Locke believed that humans get all of their behavioral traits from outside exposure. He thought that we are all born as “blank slate” humans, and we are shaped into ourselves by the world around us. His theory became outdated in the early 2000s as scholars have proven that both nature and nurture factors contribute to a child’s development.

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11. Asynchronous Development

When a child’s areas of development occur at differing rates, you get asynchronous development. This happens when the emotional, cognitive, and physical development stages don’t overlap. Asynchronous development is seen a lot in kids who are deemed gifted.

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Gifted children tend to have their cognitive development happen much faster than most kids. Their physical and emotional maturity tends to lag. That’s why, in many cases, gifted children will skip many grades in school but still look their age or cry over childish things. A child who is experiencing asynchronous development may have a hard time fitting in or relating to their peers. 

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12. Child Development Stages

The theoretical milestones of child development are presented in stages. While there is a wide range of what is considered normal in child development, these stages are widely considered standard for studying child development. Changes in genetic, physical, cultural, nutritional, educational, and environmental factors contribute to when a child reaches these stages.

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Those that study child development will spend a lot of time examining the stages of child development and patterns of growth. Standard areas of development are referred to as milestones, and most children are expected to reach each of them. Although every child develops differently, the standard fields of development are used to help understand a child’s growth from birth, throughout adolescence, and into adulthood.

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12. Milestones (First 8 months)

In a child’s first eight months, their head circumference will increase between 0.5 and 2 centimeters each month as their brain grows. They will have red gums and cry with tears. Their eyes will move together, and they will respond well to warm physical contact.

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In terms of motor skills, they will develop rooting and sucking reflexes. They will also be able to grasp with their entire hand as well as raise their head and upper body on their arms when in a prone position. Their blinking reflexes will become stronger, and they will eventually be able to eat solid foods. Babies eventually can sit up by themselves without support and play games like peek-a-boo. They do not yet understand what “no” and “danger” means.

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14. 8-12 Months

At this age, environmental conditions may affect body temperature variations. This is the time where several teeth will start to form, including the lower and upper incisors. The arms and hands will develop more than the legs and feet.

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At around eight months, children will examine new objects by poking them. They tend to use their thumb and forefinger to pick up items using the pincer method. Children at this age like to stack objects and release them by throwing or releasing them onto the floor. During this period, children will be able to pull themselves into a standing position and stand alone. Their balance while sitting down is strong at this age.

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15. Toddler (12-24 months)

Physical changes in a baby that’s 8 to 12 months old include their weight being three times their birth weight. Their growth rate will slow down, and they will start to lose baby fat as they begin walking. They may still have bow legs and will be quite top-heavy.

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At this age, babies will be able to crawl quickly. They will stand by themselves with stiff legs and extended arms for support. As they approach the age of 1, children will most likely be able to walk around without assistance. They like walking while pulling or pushing toys as well as carrying toys around the house. Another fun activity for them is drawing with markers and crayons.

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16. 2-4 Years

Children in this age range have good posture, and their brain has grown to be roughly 80 percent of its adult size. They will have 16 baby teeth that have all nearly grown out. These kids can walk around obstacles quite well and go upstairs by themselves. This is the age where most children become toilet trained.

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Their eye-hand coordination becomes better, and they can become easily engrossed in figuring out occurrences. Object permanence becomes strong during this stage, and children are able to know where familiar people in their lives should be. They can also name familiar objects as well as express pain. Children between the ages of 2 and 4 should have a vocabulary of fifty to three hundred words.

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17. 5-8 Years

During this age range, a child’s head becomes equivalent to that of an adult’s. Their baby teeth will begin to fall out, and they will start to gain more muscle mass. Children will develop 20/20 eyesight and require about 1,600 calories to maintain their weight.

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These children will have a considerable amount of energy and will enjoy running, throwing, climbing, and jumping. They will understand how time works and enjoy making things and reading. Problem-solving activities like puzzles and mazes are a lot of fun for kids in this age range. They tend to talk a lot and learn about 5 to 10 new words per day.

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18. 9-12 Years

As children grow up, they become more skilled in drawing due to the development of their hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. They are also able to withstand endurance activities like team sports and bicycling. This is a significant stage for social development in children. 

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Children in this age range have a hard time staying still and are very jumpy. Many kids experience rapid height gains, and some boys and girls begin puberty closer to age 12. In girls, acne is common at this stage. These kids are able to read books for older readers as well as proofread their homework in terms of logic, spelling, and grammar.

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19. 13-16 years

Teenage years in a child are dominated by puberty. Kids may become moody and fight a lot with their parents and other adults. Girls will begin menstruating, and boys will develop body hair and changes in their voices. Teenagers value privacy and like to spend much time by themselves.

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These children have many interests in after school activities. They will have a desire to please people and be popular. Many teens have a large circle of friends of both genders. Teenagers tend to get along better with their siblings and peers than their parents. The closer they get to the end of adolescence, the better relationships they will have with authority figures. 

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20. Physical Growth

After a child is born, they will grow from an average of 8 pounds and 19 inches at birth to their full adult size. As a child grows, their stature and weight will increase. During this time, their body proportions will also change.

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Babies start out with having a large head and small torso and limbs. They will grow in a head to toe direction until they arrive at their adult stature of a little head and long torso and limbs. In the first few months after birth, the speed of growth is quite rapid. Eventually, it will slow down, as the first four months see the birth weight is doubled. Birth weight triples by 12 months and then does not quadruple until the age of 2. Then a child’s growth will slow down until puberty, where rapid growth will occur once more. 

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21. Motor Development

A child’s abilities in physical movement change throughout their childhood. Young infants experience mostly reflexive movements that are involuntary and unlearned. Children in later childhood and approaching adolescence have actions that are highly skilled and voluntary. 

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Motor skills are separated into two categories. The first is a movement that is a necessary skill essential for everyday life. The second is a movement that is a recreational skill that can be for a particular interest or for employment. Motor development is rapid in a child’s early life and begins to slow down after their first year. Along with physical growth, patterns of motor development can be predictable throughout a child’s life.

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22. Cognitive Development

Cognitive development involves the ways in which children develop and use their mental capabilities like memory, language, and problem-solving. As a child grows, they progress as their capacity to remember, learn, and symbolize information increases. Children as young as the infant stage have the capability to do cognitive tasks like recognizing numbers or telling the difference between an inanimate and animate object. 

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Information processing increases in speed, the memory becomes more extended, and an understanding of abstraction all happen during childhood until adolescence, where it develops into an almost adult-level of cognition. Occasionally, genetics and biological mechanisms can affect cognitive development, as seen in those with intellectual disabilities. A child’s brain development is greatly influenced by physical activity, nutrition, parental responsiveness, daily experiences, and love.

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23. Social-Emotional Development

For a newborn baby, emotions are quite simple. They do not know what it’s like to be afraid or prefer the contact of individual people. Newborns only experience anger, sadness, and happiness in their first few months. A baby’s first smile will happen between their sixth and tenth week. Known as a “social smile,” this will most often occur during social interactions. 

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Between their eighth and twelfth month, babies will begin to show fear as well as a preference for familiar people. During this time, separation anxiety will become apparent. Tantrums, screaming, and crying are all a part of this typical development stage. It’s during preschool that a child begins to learn how to empathize with others. This will continue on into adulthood.

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24. Language Development

In order for a child to become competent in speaking their language, they must attain the four subcomponents. These subcomponents are phonology, lexicon, morphology and syntax, and pragmatics. Phonology is related to the sound of language. This is where children learn how to identify the sounds of communication as well as how vowels and consonants are pronounced.

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Lexicon is about the building blocks of words and phrases. Children learn how to use words and put them together to create sentences. Morphology deals with word formation and how they are structured. Finally, pragmatics teaches children how people use linguistics to communicate. It gives them the chance to see how to use words to tell others how you feel and what you want.

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25. Risk Factors

Unfortunately, not all children have comfortable or loving childhoods. There are several risk factors that contribute to poor childhood development, including postpartum depression, maternal substance abuse, and malnutrition. These three factors are the main occurrences studied by child development researchers.

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Studies have shown that children, especially boys, whose mothers suffered from postpartum depression experienced cognitive developmental issues. Male children of depressed mothers tend to have lower IQ scores than those with mothers who aren’t depressed. In terms of substance abuse, babies who are born to mothers who abuse cocaine tend to weigh much less than babies not exposed to the drug. Drug use can also negatively impact a child’s cognitive development. Being malnourished can result in cognitive defects, poor social relationships, and unimpressive school achievements by age two.

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26. Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education focuses on the teaching of children from birth to age eight. In most schools, this is up to the third grade. This period in a child’s life is crucial as a child’s personality develops during this time. Parents are considered their child’s first teacher as they create their first sense of self by the age of two.

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A child should develop comfort in their surroundings by the age of two. This process can significantly influence their future education. Parents who are consistent with responding and maintaining emotions can give their child the tools to make their early childhood attachments early on. Without attachments, children will have a hard time forming friendships and relationships later in life.

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27. Learning through Play

In a child’s early education, one of the most critical aspects is learning through play. Jean Piaget, whom we’ve mentioned before, determined that play meets the PILES needs of children. PILES stands for physical, intellectual, language, emotional, and social needs.

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The best way for a child to develop cognitively is through playing. They are able to explore their imagination and curiosity while learning. It also gives children the chance to work together to solve problems. By playing social games, making art, and dramatic play, children can become more efficient at learning and gaining more knowledge. Although play is essential for younger children, having access to movement in school can benefit children of all ages.

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28. Primary Education

Primary education is the second stage of a child’s education. This stage is the first of a child’s formal education and extends from the first grade to the sixth grade. Children from age 4 to age 11 are considered to be in primary, or elementary, school.

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Kindergarten is the first year of primary education and begins around age 5. First graders are age 6, second graders are age 7, third graders are age 8, fourth graders are age 9, fifth graders are age 10, and sixth graders are age 11. Many schools will transition children after they finish fifth grade into middle school when they start sixth grade. 

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29. Curriculum

The curriculum in primary schools is decided by each school’s individual school district. They choose curriculum guides and textbooks that fit with their state’s learning standards for each grade level. This period of time in a child’s life is for learning basic academics and social skills.

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Elementary arithmetic and mathematics, English proficiency and grammar, as well as several other subjects, are considered standard in primary schools. Students are taught science, history, geography, art, music, and other elective subjects. Many schools also provide recess and physical education periods for primary students. In most primary schools, teachers are required to prepare for standardized testing at the end of the year.

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30. Primary Teaching

Teachers who work with primary students are given training that emphasizes the importance of human psychological and cognitive development. They are required to have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education. Elementary teachers usually teach a classroom of twenty to thirty students.

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Many elementary classrooms have children with a wide range of learning needs and abilities. Teachers have several ways to teach and get their students’ attention. They use various methods like humor and cartoons to engage their students. The main focuses of a primary teacher’s classroom are reading, writing, and mathematics because they directly impact a child’s proficiency in other subjects like social studies and science.

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31. Secondary Education

The last seven years of a child’s formal education, from sixth grade to twelfth grade, is known as secondary education. These periods are known as the lower and upper secondary phases. Until the turn of the 20th century, middle school students were required to take an entrance exam in order to get into high school.

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In the United States, two-thirds of students are required to take an exit exam before graduating high school. That is due to an educational reform movement started by the federal government and state legislatures in the early 1990s. Strict state requirements have led to the creation of many charter schools which are intended to be free from state laws and district-enforced regulations. 

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32. Middle School

Middle schools, also known as junior high schools, span from grade six to grade nine. Starting in junior high, students pick a class schedule and take classes from several different teachers each day. They take a four or five core academic classes along with one or two electives during a semester.

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Essential core classes in middle school include English, math, science, history, and social studies. Elective courses include foreign languages like Spanish, French, or German. In some schools, students can also take computer science, woodworking, performing arts, visual arts, and health courses. Physical education courses are typical for junior high students.

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33. High School

High school is the final four years of a child’s formal education. This period of schooling occurs from grade nine to grade twelve. High school education is geared toward preparing students for college and adulthood.

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High school students are required to take core classes along with electives. Many students have a lot of freedom in choosing their core classes, depending on their district. There are specialized high schools around the world, including some for gifted children and others for performing arts students. Students in high schools have access to specialized courses like business education, consumer science, and even drivers’ education.

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34. Types of Schools

There are several different types of middle and high schools. The most common is the public school. Every child in the United States is guaranteed a free elementary and secondary public education. Private schools are independently run institutions that have no government involvement. They typically have a tuition cost to attend.

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Charter schools are unique in that they have no involvement from state and federal governments and do not receive as much funding from the government as public schools. Students that attend college preparatory schools tend to want to study a particular area of education as well as get into a specific college. Another option for secondary education is homeschooling. Nearly 3 percent of children in the United States are homeschooled.

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35. Movement and Learning

For decades, many people, including educators, have believed that the key to a good education is sitting still. Students should sit in their seats all day and pay attention to their teacher without moving a muscle. Experts many years ago though that thinking and movement were two separate ideas that should never be combined.

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Luckily, that idea has changed a lot over the years. Now researchers have seen how movement can lead to cognitive excellence. Students who are allowed to move in school are better at learning, memorizing, and remembering. They are also highly motivated and have great morale.

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36. Mind-Body Link

Anatomically, there is evidence that the mind and body work together effectively. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that is associated with motor control. This area contains almost half of all the neurons in the brain. There is a direct pathway from the cerebellum to the parts of the brain that control attention, memory, and spatial awareness.

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The area of the brain that processes movement also processes learning. When humans grow and evolve, we learn how to think about our body movements before we execute them. As a result, we are able to control our actions better. Having this ability suggests that quick thought processes always precede motor function.

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37. Cognitive Evidence

It’s enough to say that movement is good for learning, but how important is it really? The first sensory systems in the human body to mature is the inner ear and motor activity system. With these systems, the inner ear and the cerebellum send impulses back and forth, to and from the brain via nerve tracts. 

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These interactions regulate incoming sensory data. They help humans keep their balance, coordinate movements, and take thoughts and put them into action. Because of this occurrence, playground activities like jumping, swinging, and rolling stimulate inner-ear movement. Studies have shown that these activities can contribute to better attention spans and reading comprehension in students.

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38. Functional Evidence

Research shows that exercise is vital to learning. People who exercise have been found to have more cortical mass or thicker tissue around the entire brain. According to biology, enhanced blood flow leads to an increase in oxygen to the brain. This can lead to better brain function.

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The best way to increase blood flow to the brain is with physical activity. Even something as simple as a brisk walk can increase a child’s heart rate and activate vital brain chemicals. Just standing up from a desk for a few seconds can increase heart rate and blood flow by as much as 5 to 8 percent. Regular exercise can influence a person’s genes to improve their learning and memory.

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39. Movement in Schools

Since movement is so essential for a child’s learning abilities, you would think that all schools would implement a physical education program. Sadly that is not that case. More than 68 percent of high school students do not attend a physical education class each day.

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Exercise is key to not only strengthening muscles, the heart, lungs, and bones but also boosting brainpower. Regular physical activity promotes the growth of new neurons in the brain as well as increase the number of neuron connections. All of this awesome brain activity leads to better memory, cognitive performance, and a decrease in developing depression.

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40. Support for Recess and Play

As you can see, regular movement is essential for not only a child’s health and happiness, but for their learning abilities. Being able to take a break from the classroom and have some time for exercise leads to happier, healthier children who enjoy learning. If your child’s school does not have a physical education program, consider appealing to the school to begin one.

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There are numerous ways a child can play and improve their cognition. Exercises like aerobics, dancing, and running are great. Rough and tumble play like soccer or football is an excellent activity not only for being active but also for being social. Even solitary activities like doing puzzles or making art are beneficial. Walking outdoors, playing hide and seek, cheerleading, scavenger hunts, tai chi, and observing insects can all give your child a boost in morale and education.

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