There is nothing new in the concept that the first three years of life lay the foundations for the remainder, but as we live through a technological revolution, just as powerful in its impact on society as the agricultural and industrial revolutions that preceded it, we are in danger of ignoring the process of biological and developmental evolution, which takes longer to adapt.
Human infants have evolved to develop in a physical world in which interaction with the environment and social engagement shape not only physical and social skills but the neurological pathways involved. Whilst “higher” cognitive skill can and are developed through use of technology, they also need to be grounded in a secure relationship between the brain, the body and the physical world.
This begins with parental contact, free space and opportunity to develop physical skills throughout the pre-school years and engagement with an attentive and responsive adult, preferably mother of father.
Studies carried out in primary schools over the last ten years have revealed that a significant percentage of children enter school with immature neuro-motor skills, and that there is a link between the development of these skills and educational performance.
A retired head teacher who has conducted a pilot project in schools in the Midlands in which he compared children’s performance on a range of tests for balance, posture and motor skills, found that children with immature motor skills were performing in the lowest quartile when these test results were compared to performance on national curriculum assessments, and vice-versa.
Other studies have indicated that introduction of a daily movement programme into school can improve neuro-motor skills and influence aspects of educational performance and behaviour.
Learning it seems, is not all in the mind.