Play for the Brain…

Proper brain development in early childhood is critical, and current research is shining a light on how best to support children during this stage of development.Playstructure01 The human brain is not a finished organ at birth — in fact, another 10 or 12 years are needed before even a general development is completed. Myelination is a process that thickens the insulation around the connecting fibers and pathways of the brain required for the successful development of cognitive, motor, and sensory functions. The most recent brain research clarifies that in order for a young child’s brain to go through this myelination process, the body must be engaged in healthy movement. Children engaged in large blocks of movement and play time have opportunities for this myelination to occur.

Play is a profound practice for young children, engaging the foundational senses of touch, life, balance, and movement.  A simple warm environment with toys that inspire imagination and problem solving play with others may appear “non-academic” but the young child is actually being given that which is vital for healthy brain development.

A balance of low stimulation visually and intellectually on the one hand, and high sensorial opportunities with movement and engagement with the socio/cultural needs of children on the other is optimal. Rhythm in the day, with a rich tapestry of nutritious foods, an array of fine and gross motor movement and artistic activities also support the child with experiences primed for brain and body development. The sweetness of a gentle approach to the child’s day nurtures the child to blossom innately and naturally with optimal development of body, mind and soul. Play, nutrition, movement, and thoughtful engagement at these early developmental stages prepares the child for a life-long journey of success in life and learning.

The 7 Essentials for Young Children:

  • Warmth
  • Breath
  • Nutrition
  • Rhythm
  • Sleep
  • Harmonious non-competitive movement
  • Unconditional LOVE!

Maka’ala Palmore, Haleakala Waldorf School

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