2.12.16 NLS BLOG: Number 4. Movement Develops More Than Muscles

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the importance of movement, physical activity, and physical education and its role in our educational system. We come across articles on a regular basis relating childhood obesity rates to lack of physical activity in our young children. Schools across the country have piloted programs to increase the amount of physical activity in their programs from “outdoor-based” programs to multiple recesses throughout the day. Early education curriculums push the importance of including movement, gross motor, and outdoor play in daily routines. It is undeniable that children need movement.

There is a logical connection to physical health when considering physical activity for children and adults alike. Yet, what we know now more than ever is there is a firm connection between cognitive growth and physical activity as well. Current brain research shows connections to brain growth and cognitive understanding that requires movement during the early years of life. As our young children move they not only develop muscle growth needed, but also growth in their vestibular system that controls balance, hearing, and is directly connected to cognition as well. If children lack this movement, there can be noticeable delays and even life-long deficits. The brain itself grows and makes connections through interactions that include verbal, visual, physical and emotional domains. The window for this brain growth is within the first few years of life.

Furthermore, we also know that movement connects to more academic types of learning such as language, vocabulary, comprehension, mathematical and geometry concepts. Social and emotional implications such as boundaries, limitations, and appropriate social interactions are also part of learning through movement. In Rae Pica’s book What If Everybody Understood Child Development she states, “Movement is the young child’s preferred mode of learning. Why would we want to teach them in any way that isn’t their preference?” We agree. Children NEED to move, and movement is not separate from learning. They are necessary parts of one another. Let’s keep our children moving, growing and learning!

Erin Akers, M.Ed.
Director, National Lecture Staff
Gesell Institute of Child Development