How getting active supports literacy development

“Movement activates the neural wiring through the body, making the whole body the instrument of learning.” - Carla Hannaford

I thought I would take some time on this week’s blog to talk about how sports and active play can have a positive impact on our literacy development.

Movement and activity is an essential part of children’s learning - especially in the early years. 

When children move and join in with play, games and activities, they’re developing their sense of spatial awareness; fine and gross motor skills; creativity; thinking and problem solving skills; and also deepening their understanding of how things work. All of these skills will stay with them for life. They’ll impact on how they process visual information, participate in activities and think and adapt to the world around them. These skills are also important to support language, literacy and communication development.

Studies have shown that movement and exercise increases the amount of oxygen in our brains. Oxygen is important not just for growth and development, but also in terms of helping to build brain connections and brain mass. These connections and mass develop fastest between the ages of 0-3 than they ever will again – and they stay with us for our entire life.

Movement and play that uses actions such as spinning, crawling, rolling, jumping and bending, helps to stimulate the inner ear, which helps support balance, and the cerebellum in the brain, which supports movement. Together, the interaction between the two systems has been shown to lead to a significant increase in attention and reading [Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen, 2005].

Rhymes and clapping games associated with play help to develop our language skills as well.

When we sing and rhyme as we move, our movements become more rhythmic. These rhythms are an underlying and driving force behind all our communication. When learning to read, children need to be able to hear the beat and the rhythm of sentences. Experiencing language and movement together helps to prepare children for learning to read. The ability to keep a steady beat has been shown to be a strong predictor of a child’s later reading skills.

Stories, songs, rhymes and participating in actions helps us to learn the meaning of words. Concepts become more tangible for children and easier to grasp. Games that encourage children to move creatively, and move to a story or a song, help them to increase their vocabulary and further their understanding of words and their meaning.

The benefits of movement and active play are great for both our physical development, but also our brain development. Most importantly though: it’s fun! Children love to move and getting active. If you encourage this from an early age you will be supporting their development.

Tracy Cooper

Tracy is the Early Years Programme Development Manager for Scottish Book Trust.