Tag Archive for brain development

25 Benefits of Active Outside Play

You won’t believe what my kids are learning through simple outside play. Being outdoors has positive effects for physical and mental health in all ages of people. We need more time outside!

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Look at this picture of my kids playing outside, and let’s talk about all the things that are being learned here. There is so much learning going on, and these are all things we are pressured for our kids to learn, things they are tested on, things they are drilled in school. These kids are getting all of these benefits without feeling pressure or anxiety, they are HAVING FUN!


Get the kids outside.

Let’s start with the two kids in the front on the teeter totter, what are they learning? Teeter tottering teaches kids how to balance their weight against another child’s weight which is a math skill. It also teaches them balance in their physical bodies as well as multiple other physical development skills they need. In addition, the back and forth motion the kids experience as they go up and down fires synapses in their brains which form brain connections for them that lay the foundation for further learning such as reading, math, and science.

Okay, now let’s look at the next group of children on the swings, what are they learning? They are developing large motor skills like the two kids on the teeter totter, as well as learning balance. They are learning how to make the swing go back and forth which is simple physics. They are learning gravity. They are learning coordination. Their brains are firing synapses that will form pathways for later information to travel on as well. Physical activity teaches children SO much!

Now let’s check out the kids at the back table. They are scooping gravel and filling the top of the table with it. What could be learned from scooping gravel? They are developing fine and gross motor skills as they scoop up gravel and pack it into their prescribed areas on the table. They are learning math skills such as volume and measurements. They are using their imaginations and building critical thinking and problem solving skills as a group. They are also learning social skills. The scope of what is happening in this picture is immeasurable and what I have mentioned here only scratches the surface.

These kids are having a great time, doing healthy things, and their brains are exploding with learning and pathway formation for future learning. This is a miracle to watch every day. They are developing balance, muscles, control, coordination, critical thinking, problem solving, math, science, colors, language, social skills, and the list goes on and on. And guess what? They are LOVING what they are doing!

Active play makes kids smarter! It just does. Where did we come up with the idea that learning is supposed to be miserable? Learning is supposed to be fun! Let them play!

Let them play, inside and OUTSIDE. There are so many extra benefits to active play outside. When the kids are super crazy active outside it saves wear and tear on my house and furniture. My house is small and if they are flipping and running inside the house, someone always gets hurt. Outside there is room to run and play actively without risk of slamming into a wall or a piece of furniture.

kids playing and learning outside

There are other great benefits to being outside. There is so much more to explore and learn about outside. There is sensory stimulation from the breeze, grass, trees, animals, bugs, rocks, dirt, and so many other things that are full of learning opportunities. There is so much to see and do. There is so much to find out. Check out the amazing benefits of gardening outside with kids. Click here to read about it or here to watch a video on the benefits of getting kids in the garden.

kids learning outside

Outside there is plenty of fresh air and sunshine which gives kids vitamin D, a vital nutrient for health. There is also immunity boosting power in the outdoors. There are mental health benefits from soil touching the skin. I don’t know how it works but somehow, the beneficial microbes that naturally occur in the soil, make the chemicals in our bodies work more like they are supposed to and helps keep our mental health on track. Also, getting dirty outside may actually strengthen a child’s immunity and overall health. Talk about wow! Click here to learn more about it.

 

In the past twenty years, we have become and inside society. The average child in the US spends as few as 30 minutes of outdoor play each day and more than seven hours in front of an electronic screen. EVERY. DAY. What’s even worse, some children get even less time for active play, as little as 15 minutes.

learning outside with free play

Active play is vital for children’s academic success. Kids cannot learn if they are not moving. Why? Children are unable to blow off steam without playground time. Behavior problems arise in children who don’t get enough recess. In addition, children must engage in active play for optimal brain function. Physical activity sharpens their minds. Extra homework does not help children advance in school, the brain-body connection is stronger than we realize. Children who are allowed to run for more than an hour a day, have increased cognitive skills including focus and multitasking.

People were made to move, but today most of us are sedentary. We were created to work to get food or travel, and historically had to perform physical tasks for our own survival. Movement, or lack thereof, is shaping children’s brains.

Physical activity boosts overall health, strengthens muscles (the heart is one of those muscles) improves brain function and thinking skills. We must exercise our bodies in order to exercise our intellectual potential.

Regular participation in physical activity helps cognitive skills because of increased blood and oxygen to the brain. Increased growth factors that help create nerve cells and keep our brain synapses plastic, (or flexible) which strengthens interconnections and protects them from damage. Physical activity, also increases endorphins and norepinephrine which improves our mood and reduces stress.

Numerous studies have been done on children, adults, and animals and they all come up with these same results, we need to move and we need to get OUTSIDE!

Click here to learn more.

Play is important in the lives of every person, young or old. We should spend time every day doing something we enjoy and the more of it that is done outside the better. The benefits that help children develop, help us adults to function better as well. We get positive mental health benefits, enhanced mood, better ability to concentrate and focus on the tasks we have at hand, and a plethora of other benefits for our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Get outside and get moving today, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when your lungs and pores are full of fresh air!

Next week is EARTH DAY! Here are some great Earth Day activities to get you playing outside from Ever Change Productions: 12 Outdoor Activities to Celebrate Earth Day

 

More Than JUST a Provider

More Than JUST a childcare Provider

I am not a babysitter. A babysitter is a teenager you pay to eat your food, watch your TV, and play with your kids for a few hours while you go out. I am a childcare provider. I provide a quality environment for children where they can learn, play, and build relationships. I provide a safe, nurturing place for the kids I take care of. I am more than JUST a childcare provider. I put my heart and soul into what I do.

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How to Use the Power of MUSIC!

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Music moves us. Think of a time when you have been down, tired, or even just plain grouchy and your favorite song comes on the radio. You are instantly transformed into a time in your life when you were having fun. Your spirits are lifted, your mood is changed. Music changes people.

Disco Fever!

Disco Fever!

Me playing the world's largest wind chime!

Me playing the world’s largest wind chime!

I remember my grandmother holding me on her lap humming and singing to me. I can remember her and my mother always hum when they cook a nourishing meal for me. I remember listening to music all day long when I was a kid because my dad loved music so much. It soothed him and he couldn’t live without it. My neighbor blares music in his garage when he works outside. My husband and I love it! In fact, when we’re outside working and he’s not, we miss it.


music

God created sound and I firmly believe He loves all kinds of music. I believe He gave us music as a beautiful and lasting gift that would span the ribbons of time. There are hundreds of different sounds and types of music and people like different ones because God made us all different.

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If music can change your mind and your mood, how can we use music to change our children? If we are having a grumpy day at Little Sprouts, I can crank up some rock music and my babies are instantly transformed. If I’m having a grumpy day, I can use some beats to change myself and be better for them.

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Children SHOULD be exposed to music. It’s good for every part of them. Click here to see why it’s so important to include music and movement in your time with your kids.

There are so many different types of music in different cultures. Children should be exposed to a wide variety of music. Music was involved in all parts of history. It was used in the Bible to comfort the king when he was anxious. It was used throughout history, even in writing our Declaration of Independence.

My baby girl when she was in the high school band. :)

My baby girl when she was in the high school band. 🙂

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Children who study music have a higher grade point average than children who do not. Albert Einstein improved his learning by playing the violin. As music relaxes your body, you are able to concentrate more fully on what you are learning. Listening skills are improved through music. The top academic countries in the world place great emphasis on music education. In the United States, we are cutting music programs left and right as budget shortfalls continue. What will the effects of that be?

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Music effects neurological, psychological and physical functions. Processing language and expressing emotion are effected by music. Memory and motor responses are effected as well. Music links the spiritual, physical, and emotional with the thinking parts of the brain. Music is mathematical. The beats and notes in the music have a rhythm and a time. This is what makes music help children learn. Particularly memory can be enhanced by music.

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Click here for more information on the power of music.

Music changes the speed of the heartbeat, changes your mood, calms and comforts, and can even reduce pain. Music can also lessen the effects and symptoms of depression. Both sides of the brain are working when we are involved in music which also stimulates learning.

Click here to find out more of the benefits music can give us.

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The more experience you have with music, the more you are able to enjoy it. Practice makes perfect is no different when it comes to music. If there is a particular type of music you find no value in, perhaps more exposure to it can help your mind comprehend where there is beauty in it.

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Musical beats, rhymes, expressing language, emotions, and so many other great benefits are held in an arm’s reach at your cd player. The next time your kids all come in grumpy on a Monday morning, I challenge you to put on some tunes and see if that changes their minds. I would be willing to bet it will.

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Music is great for transition times. If you want the kids to pick up and no one wants to, jam an upbeat song on the radio and see if that helps them have more fun with their task and in turn be more willing to participate. I make up silly songs to clean with. Such as the old Barney song, “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere” I made a new second verse that goes “Clean up, clean up, don’t forget your underwear.” Kids think underwear is funny. So they giggle and laugh as they pick up the toys. It works folks!

the joy of music

Music is great for kids to rest by. It relaxes their bodies, quiets their minds and helps them feel more peaceful at nap time. We always sing together before I put my kids down for a nap. It focuses them and settles them.

Dancing is great exercise and who can resist a little jig when cool music is playing? Not me! I know we get a lot more movement at Little Sprouts because of music. I perform songs for the kids (and dance numbers). I encourage them to perform them for me. I dance with the kids at music time. It’s important to show children that it’s good to have fun. But moving to the music has more significance than just plain old fun. Movement to music helps the brain develop and learn as well.

There is no type of music that should be off limits. Variety in music genres can create more appreciation for different types of music as well as more connections in the brain. Kiddie music is fun and teaches good things, but it’s important for children to hear adult music to broaden their understanding and learning about and through music as well. Obviously inappropriate lyrics should be avoided, but styles of sounds should not. Adult music has a broader spectrum of scales and notes and produces more reactions in the brain.

It’s imperative that we model a love and appreciation for music. Hum, sing, dance, play, and enjoy music WITH your kids. It will be so beneficial to them, I promise. It doesn’t matter if your singing voice is good, or if you are a good dancer, it’s the enjoyment of it that matters. My kids beg me to sing to them for hours on end. I will do it until my throat hurts. One of my favorite things is when a child wants to sit in my lap and have me sing to them. I make up songs with their name (much to my husband’s annoyance), sing their favorite kid’s songs, sing songs from their favorite movies (which I usually only know the choruses I hear them sing), sing songs from my childhood, and sing hymns. I sing whatever I can think of and they love it. We are bonding. I’m giving them what my grandmother and mother gave me.

When I listen to music, I’m immediately taken back by the beat of it. I find the drum or percussion in the song and set my heart to it. It’s how I connect with the beauty of the artist. It transforms me.

I encourage you to put more music in your life today. I encourage you to share more music with your kids! They will be smarter, happier, and better behaved. And all of you will be having more fun!

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Music and Movement is FUN!

What’s the big deal about encouraging the kids to sing and dance?  Rich environments produce rich brains and every experience we present to the kids we provide care for is another way to enrich their learning.  But is music and movement really important to development?

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Obviously it helps develop motor skills, develops a positive attitude toward physical activity, and is just plain fun, but there are deeper reasons to expose young children to music and movement opportunities.  I totally geek out when it comes to brain development in young children.  I am in awe of the mold-ability of children’s brains at the age I teach in my home preschool.  Sometimes I get a little sciency when it comes to this subject, but I am totally enamored with the power we hold in our hands as we teach!

Brain development


Music and Movement

Listening to music and playing music games helps children use both sides of their brain at the same time.  It stimulates the frontal lobe, which develops language and motor skills.  The rhythm of music reinforces language.  Since the brain goes through a major growth spurt between ages 2-6, music and movement is of utmost importance in the toddler and preschool years.

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Endorphins

Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins, our feel good chemicals.  These chemicals increase energy levels and the ability to learn.  In addition, movement increases oxygen in the blood which sends more oxygen to the brain helping in thought processes.

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Music and movement activities include cross lateral movement, or crossing the midline of the body.  Think of making big scissors with your hands in front of your body or giving yourself a hug.  This movement is incredibly important in brain development.  When children’s arms or legs cross the midsection of the body, both sides of the brain work together which strengthens brain connections exponentially.  This stimulates critical thinking, and problem solving, as well as math and reading skills.  Music and movement is full of opportunities for producing stronger brain connections.

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Benefits for everyone.

Children of any age as well as adults receive benefits from music and movement activities. Singing songs and doing finger plays and rhymes with kids are great ways to get them interested in the rhythm of music.  Exposing children to all kinds of music gives them an appreciation for a variety of rhythms and tones and increases their learning as well. 

Every week we have music day where I play music on cds and let the kids dance with instruments and dancing ribbons and scarves.  It’s truly the highlight of our week.  We use disco music, oldies rock songs, kid’s songs, show tunes, and soundtracks from movies to get in the mood.  The kids get to choose what they want to dance to, but I will tell you that disco is king here. 

I don’t know how the children I get all seem to come here loving disco, but it has NOTHING to do with me.  Finger plays are good for stimulating development as well.  Letting your kids make homemade instruments or dancing props is a great way to get their interest going.

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There are innumerable games, songs, rhymes, finger plays and chants available online to beef up your repertoire.  We usually learn one new song, rhyme, or finger play every two weeks or so.  When we have our daily music time, we usually do that activity along with two others the kids choose, so we focus on really learning the new one well.  How ever you choose to add music and movement into your day doesn’t matter, just do something to increase the kids’ exposure to it and you are on the right track.

Music is the life of my soul. 

I love most kinds of music.  Loud music, quiet music, elevator music, I don’t care.  I just love it all.  Music can soothe my broken heart, bring me into the throne room of God to worship Him, wake me up, get my heart beating, connect me to others, calm me, put me to sleep, and many other things.  There’s magic in the melodies and harmonies that are created by the artists who make songs.  I think people NEED music.

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The lives we touch are ours to change.  We make a difference every single day.  Whether you work with kids or adults, or whoever, be the best you that you can be.  Do something new today that will change a life for the better.

Share some music memories you have:

Babies are Born to Learn

When children are born, they are naturally curious and processing information about the world through sensory stimulation. During the first three years of life, a baby has incredible growth in all areas. There is so much we can do as parents and caregivers to get children off to a great start of lifelong learning.

A baby’s genes serve as the main structure for their ability to learn, but there is so much we can do to help them improve. During the first years, a baby’s brain produces massive numbers of connections that will after the age of three begin to be pruned if they are not used. It is easier to form learning connections during this “plastic” or growing time in the brain. That’s why early childhood experiences are of utmost importance.

Positive experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances for happiness, achievement, and success. The more they are nurtured, held, and stimulated in the first three years, the better their brains will function for their entire lives. Not only academic learning is affected, but trust, problem solving, resilience and other emotional process are as well. Fifty percent of a child’s learning about the world is achieved by age 3.


Each person has billions of brain cells. Each cell has dendrites, or extensions like tree branches. They give and receive impulses to other brain cells which travel along pathways called synapses. These pathways send information from one cell to the other to form knowledge or brain power. Everything babies learn such as speaking, moving, feeling safe, recognizing objects, etc. travel along those pathways.

Pathways grow because of stimulation and nurturing. Repetition and routine are important to strengthen the connections between the cells. As an experience is repeated, it sculpts the brain. For instance, every time you nurture a crying baby, you are sending the message of safety and love and establishing trust. Nothing is more important to brain development than relationships.

So what can we do as caregivers to give young children the best chance at success? Spending time with infants and young children, talk to them, sing to them, play games, read to them. All of these activities build a foundation for children’s language. Encourage them to crawl, walk, climb, draw, hop, ride bikes, jump, skip, and dress themselves. In addition, it is vitally important not to rush children into learning skills their brains are not yet ready to learn. Not only does pushing children to learn things early cause undue stress that is damaging, but the connections that are formed will not stay because the child’s brain is not ready to receive those impulses yet.

Young children also need the proper amount of healthy fats in their diet so that the brain can function at its highest capacity. Breast milk is the perfect food to provide that to children. Healthy fats in natural food will give children the best chance of learning success they can have. Limiting unhealthy fats such as are in fried and processed foods is imperative for developing brains. Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and natural oils present in foods such as fish help to protect the processes of the brain and help it reach its fullest potential.

Creating little geniuses or super brains should not be our goal as caregivers. Our goal should be to provide a safe and loving environment where children know that their needs will be met. When children can trust, they are free to learn at their personal pace. Our goal should be to provide a safe, structured and loving environment with plenty of stimulation for young brains to learn.