The Child Brain and the Playing Teacher

Scientific research has established that the major part of the development of human brain happens in a child’s first three years of life. These first three years of pre-school life is the most impressionable period of human brain during which new neural networks are being formed in certain parts of the brain. A child who is one year old has the maximum number of brain cells the human brain can have in its entire life span. Neurobiologists believe that about 10 billion nerve cells in the infant brain are constantly making the synapses that promote thought, emotion, and physical movement. The capacity to form such neural connections depends on whether the infant brain receives proper stimulation.

Sensory stimulation such as listening to speech or watching colors or emotional stimulation by getting hugs or eye contact can change the physiological development of infant brain by changing the quality and quantity of the electrical wiring between brain cells. This promotes the growth of dendrites in the brain making stronger and richer neural connections.

Different parts of infant brain get stimulated in different ways when infant brain experiences different emotions leading to connections between different synapses. Infants who experienced playful teaching by happy adults or teachers in a fun environment showed considerable neural activity in areas of brain which specialized for positive emotion. When such infants grow up into adulthood, they are more like to feel positive and stay positive even when they experience a negative or stressful event in their environment. Such stimulation of the infant brain can determine whether the infant will grow into peaceful & happy adult or a violent antisocial troublemaker.

Therefore it is prime responsibility of the adult teachers to stimulate the infant brains in various playful ways to bring about the optimum physiological, emotional, social and mental development of the infant’s brain and body. Playful teaching is a dynamic and constructive behavior which is essential for infant’s healthy growth, development, and learning, especially during the first three years of life.

Lack of play in teaching methods stifles creativity and healthy development. A playful method of teaching allows the child to discover his own strengths, his own body, and his environment by allowing him to experience by experimenting. Opposite of playful method of teaching is the instructional method of teaching in which child is directed how to do things. When the child learns by playful techniques, he develops a head full of knowledge and a heart full of confidence. On the other hand, the instructional method of teaching makes a child feel less confident and less clever because he is given this subtle message by his instructional teacher that he is incapable, he does not know, he needs the teacher to teach him.

As you read below, you will discover how a playful teacher can stimulate the infant brain to result in multifaceted growth of the infant human life.

To develop the gross motor skills and body awareness in an infant, the playful teacher should encourage the child to participate in various physical sports which allow him to walk, climb, kick, jump, climb and catch. This will help the infant to develop higher control of large muscles of the body which coordinate the movement.

To develop higher control of smaller muscles of the body which coordinate fine motor movements, the playful teacher should encourage the infant to indulge in activities such as sketching, painting, sculpting, block building and cutting.

In order to encourage innovation and creative thinking abilities in the child, the playful teacher should allow free reign to fantasy and imagination of the preschool infant. They should encourage the child to playfully re-enact events or take on roles, and use props to replace an original object. They should allow the child to make their own story suiting their personal desires, without putting pressure on them to win any contest and without judging the child. While re-enacting events or playing role of someone else, child learns to visualize and imitate codified rules. While narrating his story as in role playing, child learns creative thinking and learns how to express his story and plan to others more effectively. This helps in building the confidence level of the child.

The playful teacher can develop analytical reasoning and problem solving skills of a child by asking him to arrange and organize what he can see, touch, hear or smell. He should encourage the child to play with another child and help another child in the process to solve the problem which another child may be seemingly facing. By helping another child, the child will learn the skill of problem solving and joy of mastery.

Much before the infant can learn to speak himself any meaningful words, his ears begin to be conditioned by language input of the playful teacher or caring adult. To develop the speech and language skills of the child, the playful teacher should frequently talk to the infants and condition their ears to differentiate between different sounds. By repeated talking to the infant, ability for speech is developed by forming new neural connections which help infant to combine sounds in order to form words. To teach the language skills to older infant, playful teacher should use music and poems to make the child understand comprehension and correct use of those words.

Thus, it can be inferred that a playful teacher can unlock the world for an infant with care. What stimulation the infant brain will get and thus what the child will know, think and feel, will depend on the playful teacher. What playful teacher does not offer, the child will not know.

Simi Agarwal, DDS

Simi Agarwal, DDS, is a dental surgeon and published medical writer from the University of Pune, Medical & Dental College and Hospital. She is certified by the General Dental Council, London and is a member of the Indian Medical (Dental) Association. She has been a regular contributor to several medical websites and blogs.
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