By Julie Cline (JEI Learning Center, R&D Coordinator)
An object at rest remains at rest—Newton’s law of inertia. The same applies to children when their break is marked by inactivity. Most of you will probably enroll your child in an academic program this summer. However, the way children move in and explore their environments is a strong predictor of academic success. Here are three activities sure to get them moving—during vacation and beyond.
1. Drawing from Life. The simplest way to occupy idle hands is to give them a sketchpad and a pencil. Though small, the act of observing and drawing nature is instrumental in healthy cognitive development. And there’s no better time than summer, when everything is bathed in sunlight, for your child to begin a journal of nature sketches. Whether it’s birds, insects, or trees, one sketch per day can tune a child in to the subtle details of the outdoors.
2. Gardening. If observing nature is beneficial, getting one’s hands dirty is even more so: planting seeds and caring for them can transform a child’s relationship to the world. Consider growing seedlings in hollowed-out eggshells, eventually planting the biodegradable “pots” in your yard. Alternatively, community gardens are sprouting up in the most urban of settings. Find one to join, and you will find the experience will boost your child’s curiosity—as well as his sense of self within the larger community.
3. Indoor Rock Climbing. This is the fastest-growing sport in the United States today, and children as young as 5 are participating. Most indoor climbing gyms—made up of artificial rock walls and safety mats below—specialize in kids’ parties and equipment rentals for large groups. It’s the perfect opportunity to harness that natural desire for monkeying around and use it to develop problem-solving skills. What’s more, navigating the different colored routes will enhance a child’s spatial intelligence.
As Maria Montessori wrote in The Secret of Childhood in 1936, “Movement is an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from the outside.” In 2015, directing our attention outwards is all the more necessary. Children spend far too much time on phones or iPads, missing out on the rich experience of hands-on learning. As we look around at the landscape bursting forth with color in the months ahead, let’s make sure our children are also blossoming.