Why you shouldn’t tell your child to sit too often

“Just as the brain controls the body, the body has much to teach the brain�? – Sally Godderd Blythe

In the first 2 years of a child's life, we do everything in our power to teach them to walk and to talk.  However, for the rest of their childhood we will all-too-often ask them to 'sit still or be quiet'.  (And I'm not talking about discipline or the lack thereof).

The fact is, children were made to move!  Research on the importance of sensory-motor experiences for brain growth and development has blossomed in recent years.  We can no longer limit the learning environment to "sitting still, being quiet, and memorising stuff".  We can no longer limit a child's break time to only half an hour per day.  We need to go back to the basics.

Why is movement so important for learning? 
There are a number of reasons.  Jean-Pierre Changeux, a French neuroscientist, paralysed the muscles of a baby chick inside the egg.  This prevented the chick embryo to move whilst being in the egg.  The result?  The chick’s brain was abnormal when it hatched!  This emphasize the need for movement (even prior to birth), for healthy brain development. 

This researcher went one step further.  He took healthy brain cells of a baby chick and placed it in a dish. The cells remained there but did nothing else.  He then added a protein called BDNF.   John J. Ratey, a Harvard psychiatrist, calls this protein "Miracle-Gro".  Do you know why?  This protein caused the brain cells to sprout into structural branches in the brain required for learning - sort of like a fertilizer for the brain.

So how do we get this protein called "Miracle-Gro"?  Through movement and exercise!  Movement also stimulates and affects all of the major senses which provide important information necessary for future academic success.  The vestibular system (big word for the 'balance' system) is situated in your inner ear.  This sensory system is considered the entryway into the brain.  It also acts as a 'traffic cop' and directly or indirectly influences nearly everything we do in our daily lives.  It has a direct link to the following:

  • Balance & equilibrium,
  • Eye movements & muscle control,
  • Spatial orientation,
  • Arousal state (responsiveness, being alert)
  • Discrimination of speech and language 

Movement and learning disabilities
Researchers found that 94 % of children with dyslexia and learning disabilities had a vestibular dysfunction related to ear infections or allergies.  How do we get this system to function optimally?  You guessed it - through movement!

We can now understand why modern technology can be harmful to our children's development.  Not only because of the content that children may view, but also because the excessive amount of screen time robs them of valuable movement time.  Time that they could spend on "building their brains".

Like John R. Ratey says, "Exercise is really for the brain, not for the body". 

You might want to read more about what to do when your child doesn’t perform at school.