To ‘do’ means to move, be occupied, participate or experience. It is through these means that learning occurs. Learning by doing, or ‘experiential learning’, enables children to pursue their interests as well as to work through problems as they arise in real-life situations (Child Psychology Services 2016).
When children become totally immersed in the moment, they are processing incredible amounts of information. This information is foundational for the continuous growth of their abilities. Learning is not just about academic ability, but also the development and application of life skills (Child Psychology Services 2016).
‘Doing’ to create a great brain!
Every experience is a source of learning and development. Through participation children engage in multi-sensory learning which activates and strengthens multiple brain pathways. Multi-sensory input involves the combined use of the senses. It is used in the brain to piece together the environment, thus enabling a regulated body response and opportunities for clear thought processes and decision making.
Brain pathways communicate and distribute instructions throughout the body. A strengthened pathway allows the recall of information to be rapid and skills to be completed smoothly and successfully. Pathways strengthen after ’doing’ when the brain stores the experience by adding the planning, modification and completion to its skill specific ‘database’. Increased participation results in more information being stored, plus a more efficient capacity to recall it. The storage and retrieval of skill based information varies in children, particularly those with developmental delays where difficulties may arise.
The same part of the brain that processes learning also processes movement (Profectum 2015). Through movement children develop their sense of self, their perspectives, and an awareness of their abilities. These higher levels of thinking support a child’s ability to persist through challenges and setbacks. It is through this persistence that a child will reflect back on their decision making and experience feelings of pride.
Movement achieves a productive mental state because blood flows and oxygen to the brain increases (Profectum 2015). This in turn supports the brain and nervous system to be in a ‘calm alert’ state. When a child is in this state their body and brain are calm and ready for learning, it is easier to maintain attention and engage with learning. Some children need specific support to effectively organised their body in order to become available for learning experiences. These supports may be assistive equipment, preparatory movement breaks or one on one guidance.
Independent ‘doing’ by the child is a core goal in occupational therapy. Why? Because it creates ownership and meaning to the child’s role and to the work that the child is able to produce (Law 2010). Occupational Therapists can facilitate skill development and learning by presenting opportunities which match a child’s developmental level, physical needs and sensory profile. Where this balance is achieved, the child is most available to learn.
In order to learn, a child must do.
Child Psychology Services 2016, The Importance of Play and Experiential Learning in Early Childhood, viewed 16 August 2016, https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/play-experiential-learning-early-childhood/
Law M, 2010, Learning By Doing: Creating Knowledge for Occupational Therapy, viewed 16 August 2016, http://www.wfot.org/wfot2010/docs/mary_law_eng.pdf
Profectum 2015, DIR-FCD Model Assessment and Intervention for Older Children and Young Adults, viewed 16 August 2016, https://profectum.org/Profectum/mod/lesson/view.php?id=419
If you think your child would benefit from support to effectively organise their body and maintain attention at school feel free to book in for a startup session with one of our Senior Occupational Therapists to discuss how we can help.