At the Sunflower Trust, we have a quote tacked to the office wall which reads, “A well trained nervous system is the greatest friend a mind can have,” [Halleck 1898]. We have found this to be especially true for children - after all, the nervous system is at the root of all play.
Play - in particular, sensory or exploratory play - is widely acknowledged as the vital ingredient in developing confident, competent learners who make discoveries and ask questions. However, there is another crucial factor working behind the scenes to help children make sense of their discoveries - the nervous system. The nervous system helps us to interpret information from our eyes (sight), ears (sound), nose (smell) and skin (touch) and initiates a series of physical reactions based on these experiences. Play is the mechanism through which children learn how to integrate this sensory information via the nervous system.
For example, a child playing in the sandpit is developing their sense of touch - is the sand warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy? Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification and sorting - an important part of science learning. In this way, integrative exploratory play primes the brain and central nervous system for learning readiness by stimulating the senses and sending signals to a child’s brain. This strengthens the neural pathways that are important for all types of future learning. Most importantly of all, it helps a child to integrate sensory information, so that the mind and body learn how to work together effectively.
So, what happens if the nervous system is misfiring? A properly functioning brain communicates within and between both hemispheres of the brain at lightning speed. Think of these communications like runners in a relay race: they connect, pass on information, and release, repeating this process millions of times a minute via the nervous system. In a poorly functioning nervous system, these runners are often out of sync, missing each other or passing on only partial information. This throws the body into a state of confusion, leading it to misread messages and mishandle the body’s systems - i.e. disrupts the learning from exploratory play. A misconnection in the nervous system can occur anytime during brain development, even in the womb but it generally remains undetected until obvious symptoms occur, usually at school age, and can be at the root of health, behavioural or learning difficulties.
However, Sunflower has found that improving the way the brain mediates between the mind, the musculoskeletal and the biochemistry results in a happier, healthier child who is better able to learn from integrative, exploratory play. Get in touch with us today if you feel the Sunflower Programme could benefit your child.