When we think of education, we often picture exam rooms, multiplication tables, and thick textbooks in our minds. But science is increasingly showing that these rigid educational practices may not be the best way to enrich children’s brains.
in her book The playful brainInternational child development expert Jacqueline Harding draws on the latest research in neuroscience and child development to challenge this traditional view of education and highlight the importance of play for brain growth.
“It’s easy to think that formal education is the main driver of achievement in later life, but that’s not the case,” Harding said. Weekly newspaper. “Every thought and every action creates a new connection in the brain.”
During early childhood, our brains are most receptive to forming these new connections. “Through childhood play, we learn how to respond to the world, our environment and other people. We unknowingly prepare ourselves for our future,” Hardin said.
Different types of games stimulate different parts of the brain. For example, toys like Legos can help develop spatial reasoning skills, while imaginary play can help develop social skills and process emotions.
“Imaginative play and creative pursuits are known to produce exciting biological and neurological benefits for children and adults,” Harding said. “One of the most compelling [new] The discovery is that the power of imagination can turn genes on or off within nerve cells, which produce proteins that can then change the structure of the brain.In essence, imagination is Speaking Communicate to the brain in the language of the brain. “
The brain circuits involved in imagination and perception overlap, so by simply imagining a conversation with a friend, your brain can practice lighting the desired path during these social interactions.
“If this process is repeated regularly, a new pathway forms in the brain, and that pathway then becomes the chosen route,” Harding said. “Neurons that fire together wire together.”
This doesn’t just apply to children. Numerous studies have found that just imagining that you are exercising increases your muscle strength.
Play also appears to play an important role in the development of the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s “executive control center.” “This part of the brain is critical for regulating emotions, planning, and problem-solving—not just for academic life, but for making it easier for us to cope with life’s challenges in general,” Harding noted.
If children stray from their natural instinct to play, they may miss out on these important learning experiences, calling into question our ingrained dichotomy between work and play.
“It appears that young children’s bodies and brains are designed for play, which is critical to their development,” Harding said. “Children are wired to play, and any continued deviation from this masterful design comes at a cost. of.
“There’s no question, based on all the latest research, that the brain likes to play, and it’s time that we, as adults, accept that too,” she said.