Neuroplasticity is a big word that you may not have heard of, but your body is continually doing it.Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to structurally change and form new pathways and connections due to different circumstances resulting in learning or acquiring skills. In other words, as we perceive and receive our environment, our brain physically changes to integrate the world around us. The primary way it does this function is through movement.
Our brains are designed in such a way that movement and higher function are actually located in the same place within the brain- the frontal cortex. You may remember as a child learning different songs by performing different movements (or even line dancing as an adult); in fact, you probably could perform those movements right now if you thought about it! That’s because a child’s brain is just a large magnet for new neuropathways to be formed. Neuropathways are the way in which our brain communicates in order to send signals to the rest of the body for movement, response, and functionality.
In children, movement is vital for their development. Movement begins from inside the womb as infants actually push against the uterine wall instinctually to move, make room, and be birthed. Movement allows children to absorb and integrate sensations in the world through their senses. Because movement and higher cognitive function are located in the same place, experiences through movement and senses are anchored deeper in the brain which allow for easier learning. As children develop, movement, and by extension the development of their brains, allows for ease in expressing their desires, emotions, and needs. Whether through dance, play, exploration, or trial and error, movement strengthens the mind to adapt and create. Allowing a child play time gives their brains the opportunity to problem solve, imagine, and feel their own bodies. These are skills that cannot be taught through hypothetical scenarios promoted in institutional “learning”.
Every movement of the body provides sensory feedback for the brain to process and adapt to. Repetitive movement not only trains the muscles, but strengthens the neuropathways that result in that movement. Movement in a child allows for their sense of spatial awareness, balance, and body awareness.
Our brains are made of several different areas (or lobes) that are responsible for different functions. Oddly enough, your body is controlled by contralateral sides of the brain; The right side of the brain controls the left body and vice versa. By encouraging cross lateral movement in your child (movement that crosses the midline of the body), you are “exercising” their entire brain and promoting development of all the areas of the brain that control sight, sound, touch reception, speech, reading, integration, and memory.
In order for these developments to occur and strengthen, repetition is key. Daily encouragement of movement or play allows for not only “muscle memory”, but “brain memory” as well. Movement is a great way for kids to create, explore, run, and express themselves, which is something they love!
For more ideas on how to get moving: