The Amazing, Changing Brain
Have you ever thought about everything your brain accomplishes? From birth until death, your brain changes to meet your needs and interpret your experiences. Your brain changes with every experience: every sight, every sound, every touch, every thought, every emotion. It then interprets future experiences based on past experiences. Did you know that because every person’s brain constantly changes, parents, teachers, friends, and heroes all can shape the way a child thinks? We owe it to our children to help them shape their brains to be the best tools possible.
It was once said that the brain stops learning at a certain age, but research has since shown the brain constantly shapes and changes throughout our lives, which means we can continue learning at any age. This is what is known as “brain plasticity.” Sounds like a mouth full of cotton and something only a scientist or medical professional would understand, but the fact is, we use our brain plasticity every day. If you read books, play games like puzzles and checkers, are involved in sports or outdoor activities, or even help your kids with their homework, you are exercising that brain plasticity every day. Exercising our brain plasticity means we are participating in activities that involve the entire body that directly relates to learning.
So if our brains can continue learning even when we are 80, that means some of the most critical moments to exercise learning and education is when we are young. That is why the window of time for teaching our children basic topics like speech and language, vocabulary, reading, writing and spelling is very important between the ages of three and 13. It builds the foundation for higher learning as they grow older.
The wonderful thing about helping our children use their brain plasticity is we don’t have to constantly fill their heads with facts, numbers and historical information. The body plays a huge role in learning and building intelligence, which means all that playing at the park, swinging on the monkey bars, kicking a soccer ball and jump roping actually wires a child’s brain for what the teacher is teaching your child in school.
The brain is definitely a mystery to all of us, but when each of us is born, we all have the same opportunities to learn and expand our minds as we make learning connections from babies to adults. Have you ever heard people say it takes seven times of seeing, hearing and reading information before it finally sticks in our brain? It is absolutely true! When our children are at school, the brain doesn’t catch most things that are glazed over or mentioned in passing. The more our kids are exposed to words, letters, math problems and stories, it creates permanent changes in the brain to help them digest, retain and retrieve that information when they need it. What’s even more fascinating is our children need specific sensory activities using their senses (touch, taste, smell) for long periods of time before they fully grasp higher learning concepts.
Consider a rose bush. If a gardener allows a rose bush to grow without pruning, the bush eventually becomes disorganized and weak. If the gardener, however, prunes the rose bush regularly, the brush grows stronger and grows into a thing a beauty and organization. Our brains do that naturally and automatically with synaptic pruning by removing the branches we no longer need, which allows other branches to grow stronger. Neurons used frequently develop stronger connections. Neurons that are rarely or never used, eventually die. By developing new connections and pruning away weak ones, the brain is able to adapt to the changing environment.
Remember, brains adapt based on a person’s experiences. That is why a child’s environment can affect how they learn and what they learn. Your child’s environment and what they surround themselves with helps mold the brain. This is why it is so important for us and for our teachers to recognize how our children learn so we can adapt our teaching techniques to fit their specific learning techniques. Every child is different and learns differently too.
So what activities can you do to help your children use their whole body to improve their memory, retain information and expand their brain plasticity? Try fun games like hopscotch, jump roping, skipping and swimming that may seem simple to us, but may be tricky for our kids.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs