To Develop Mind and Body, You Have to Move
“Since it is through movement that the will realizes itself, we should assist a child in his attempts to put his will into act.”– Maria Montessori (source)
A child’s natural approach to learning about their world involves playful movement. We learn by doing, and one of the very first things we do is play. Our knowledge grows by acquiring experiences, and then reflecting on them. These periods of activity and rest are essential for the development of an inquisitive mind and a well-coordinated body.
Exploring our physical limits and creative impulses on the playground also has significant cognitive benefits that are only now being fully understood. The physical development that occurs during play can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of fearlessly approaching and overcoming challenges. Whether such exploration occurs through unrestricted free-play in an outdoor playscape, or with highly structured activities like sports, the essential component is movement.
Spinning, swinging, swaying, crawling, climbing, rolling, and jumping; while moving under, over, and around play structures produces significant developmental benefits for children. Beyond increasing physical dexterity, a sense of balance, and physical stamina; the combination of direct experience and movement strengthens the synapses connecting neurons. Any experience that includes a physical connection generated by movement produces stronger synaptic connections that persist for a much greater period of time. (source)
As children first begin to learn how to navigate the world around them, opportunities for regular play that includes a significant amount of movement is essential for helping a child reach their full potential in life. Playground equipment designed to encourage a variety of activity can positively impact a child’s entire life. Offering a number of different physical challenges that excite curious minds and inspire creative impulses has a real and measurable effect on development.
More recent research into the development of motor and cognitive skills demonstrates their inter-connected importance. As our physical dexterity develops, so does our ability to understand the more esoteric concepts of math and science. The progression of motor skill development is even a predictor on our ability to read. (source)
Being able to freely move about a space while in a state of play, confronting challenges that require an increase in stamina or a greater degree of physical control, actively involving mind and body in the pursuit of novel activities; more and more we are discovering that these are the things which set the stage for a full and complete life. We were built to move, and move we must.