We all want our children to do well at school, and to achieve the best grades. To this end, many parents feel they need to turn to extra tutoring support to ensure their child gets the best possible opportunity to improve grades and achieve top marks.
While academic grades are the focus for many and taking part in exercise and physical play may seem like a wasted learning opportunity, there are huge benefits for children in terms of developing their concentration, communication and social skills that could enhance their classroom studies. Whether you provide children with bespoke outdoor playground equipment to keep them active, or a simple bat or ball game, it has been proven that the benefits that exercise and play can bring are very real, and could have a significant impact on a child’s overall attainment.
Exercise and play benefits more than physical health
Exercise and physical activity has far wider benefit than simply preventing child obesity and poor health. It also stimulates brain growth and has a positive impact on cognitive performance. Children involved in regular exercise and games show improved alertness, stamina and a better ability to concentrate on tasks. Improved motivation, memory, and attention span developed through play could significantly benefit their academic work.
Children who regularly engage in physical games benefit from improved sleep, improved mood and suffer less with stress and anxiety. Exercise provides a sense of well-being, whether from a run around the park with friends or a game of ball with family or even skipping on their own. Therefore, with regular breaks for exercise and play, children will feel more energetic throughout the rest of the day, and have sharper memory when compared to children who have little or no physical activity opportunities.
Some conditions can benefit more from physical activities than other therapies. ADHD is a condition where children can see enormous benefits from being involved in regular physical exercise. Partaking in regular physical activity boosts brain serotonin levels, dopamine and norepinephrine and as such works in much the same way as Ritalin and Adderall medications used to treat ADHD.
Children able to play and exercise with others outside of the academic environment benefit from the chance of relaxed social engagement with a wider freedom of expression. Communication skills gained are of benefit in the academic environment and help increase self-esteem and wellbeing.
Experiments have also shown that a child who would ordinarily perform poorly on a task requiring attention and accuracy had more success when the same task was performed after a moderate 20-minute walk. There is genuine proof that children perform better when they have physical outdoor playtimes at school regularly throughout the day.
Schools ensuring that all children are encouraged to make use of break times, and encourage them to be physically active, find better concentration and attention to school work, especially in comparison to rainy day play indoors. Schools that provide access to equipment such as balls, nets, hoops outdoor play equipment and encourage outdoor activity, are finding that the children, far from wasting valuable learning time are actually more alert, receptive and retentive when they do return to studies.
Aerobic activity also gives children a special boost, which alters their brain activity in ways that can enhance self-discipline, build resilience and help children cope with mental and emotional challenges more appropriately.
In addition to this, the social aspects of sport, physical exercise and play are vitally important for children. Taking turns on outdoor play equipment, sharing and playing as part of a team are life skills that children need alongside their academic learning. Cooperation, respect, appreciation of different abilities and a relaxed way to make friends as well as gain peer support are all skills that will benefit a child within the classroom environment.
The proof is in the studies
If you’re looking to learn more about the science behind play and cognitive benefits, you might be interested to read about a 13-week aerobic exercise program that was shown to improve mathematic skills and increased activity in the bilateral prefrontal cortex area of the brain, which was shown to help with a child’s attention span, planning ability and distraction resistance. Additional studies by Keita Kamijo and colleagues assigned 20 children between seven and nine years of age 70 minutes of daily vigorous physical activity, which, when compared to a group with no physical activity, showed they had improvements in solving tasks that taxed working memory and executive control.
There have been many other studies too; the results of which show that physical activity yields both short and long-term benefits for our children’s achievements in the classroom. Whether this is walking, a ball game or a chase around the playground, the benefits are clear. Children who have regular exercise and play opportunities have improved cognitive ability, concentration and less behavioural issues, all of which resulted in better academic achievements.
Providing children with a balance of opportunities to take formal education as well as group and solo physical activities will provide them with the best platform for learning, health and happiness.
So next time you are thinking about hiring the services of a maths or literacy tutor, why not consider if a ball game, some new wooden outdoor play equipment, or a run around the playground could be a more rounded solution to children’s overall wellbeing and education.