Child’s duty is to play and explore

Have you ever met a healthy kid who doesn’t wish to walk into, jump in, out or splash water in a muddy puddle? Where does this need come from? The most important brain function is to collect and then to process information, which in essence is the intelligence. This is why a child during the period of development has instinctive need to gather as much information i.e. to learn as much as possible.

happy baby girl with an umbrella in the rain runs through the puddles playing on natureThis will be clear if we imagine the following situation: we are running from a group of wolves that is approaching. The pack will probably catch us up in two or three minutes. And we only have two minutes to get to the shelter. At that moment, the brain takes over complete control and does not ask us anything because there is no time to think. Each movement and each detail is now important. Our life in this situation depends on what we have learned up to that moment. At full speed, 20 m ahead, we see a branch at the level of the hips, obstructing the road. Abyss is on the right and dense forest on the left side. It is obvious that we cannot turn anywhere from the forest pathway. Since it is a life-threatening situation, brain activates its spare capacity and operates seven times faster. In that situation it receives more images than usual. Therefore, it seems as if we are in a slow motion scene and one second seems to last like seven. In real terms, a man runs 20 meters in 3 seconds. But now, it appears that we will never get to the branch and that it would take us 20 seconds to get to it.

Where does this superb brain’s ability to slow down time come from? This is an evolutionary adaptation that has been developing for millions of years because that is the way the brain provides additional time in order to find a solution. And while we are running towards the branch that we cannot reach, the brain realizes that there is not a single leaf on it while the environment is full of leaves. The brain sends us a childhood picture when we were breaking dry branches as kids. We figure out that the branch is dry and realize that we do not even have to jump over or pass under it but just to break it with our body at full speed. What if we didn’t break dry branches when walking through the forest? Maybe we would stop in front of this dry branch and lose precious 3 or 4 seconds. Maybe even our life. It is clear that the most important brain function is information gathering that will be processed in case of necessity. That is the way how connections between certain parts of the cerebral cortex are created which positively affects the development of cognitive abilities of the child.

Close Up Of Children's Feet Dangling From Wooden BridgeProcessing and linking of information is the essence of intelligence. So it is understandable why a child must jump into the mud, climb trees or jump on the bed. That is how the development of their cognitive abilities is being stimulated. The question is what will happen with a contemporary child who lays around for 2 or 3 hours. In these moments, brain is being deprived of thousands of impulses and therefore important physiological mechanisms (dynamic eye accommodation, the fixation of the object in motion, complex types of motion in running etc.) are not being stimulated enough. One may think that playing video games is a good way for the brain to receive thousands of impulses, but that is not an activity that is in accordance with the human evolution. Tesla‘s well known thought is that we are the product of continuous adaptation throughout centuries and that great and sudden changes may cause unforeseen and presumably, catastrophic consequences. That’s why it is important for a kid to spend as much time as possible running, leaping, jumping over, wriggling or to spend time in nature, climbing trees etc. That’s how kids activate and stimulate the development of important parts of the cerebral cortex. Therefore, parents‘ duty is to enforce these activities because that is how they stimulate the development of overall kids‘ abilities and prepare them for life. There are many things that parents can do. For start, when rain shower periods are approaching, it would be excellent for a child to get rain boots and to walk or even jump into a puddle or mud for as long as he or she wants. Instead of restraining, we should ensure our kids a safe environment for exploring and enjoying the nature.

Written by Ranko Rajović