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Automaticity

Unlocking the Brain for Learning

In the early years, the brain is organizing itself to make way for all the learning to come. Key to that is mastering movement. Here’s why...

 

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

The human brain can only do one thinking (conscious) task at a time. With all the juggling you do that’s probably hard to believe. But in fact, your brain is actually switching from one thinking task to another. The switch is so fast it feels like you’re doing 10 things at once.

 

But more, the brain creates short cuts for us. The brain CAN do one thinking task on top of AUTOMATED tasks. For instance, you can talk on the phone (thinking task) while walking down the street (automated task) because you don’t have to think about walking. You automated that movement and a thousand more when you were little.

 

But for kids...

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Movement is a Thinking Task for Kids.

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Think about all the things your child has to think about in a day from the ABCs, to saying “please,” to putting their shoes on the right foot. For kid, everything is a thinking task.

 

And that includes movement.

 

As they grow and their body changes, movement is a constant challenge that demands their attention. So while we may want them to focus on 1 + 1 = 2, they might be trying to figure out how to sit in a chair and not fall off. (Yes, that’s a thinking task too.)

 

That’s why the brain is so focused on movement in the early years, coaxing kids to move and explore over and over to develop “muscle memory.” When the body and brain are synchronized and movement is automated, the brain can put more time and energy into more important matters like reading, writing, mathematics, drawing a picture, making a friend, and figuring out how to get that cookie.

Let’s Have a Parade!

Turn on some music with a strong beat and march (knees nice and high) together around the room, up the stairs, down the hall and anywhere else. Once they’re marching to the beat pretty well, add clapping. March and clap at the same time and watch to see what happens. If they can’t clap, or stop to clap, they’re trying to do two thinking tasks at once. Marching hasn’t been automated yet. Go back to marching and try again later.

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Movement is a language that tells us what is happening in their development.

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