Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and grow in response to experience. It means that the brain can create new connections between neurons, reorganise existing ones, and even generate new cells throughout life. Neuroplasticity is essential for learning, memory, and adaptation.
This is why it is important for parents and teachers to help children develop neuroplasticity from a young age, to help them build the brainpower that will stand them in good stead throughout life, an education expert says.
“Research has shown that the better start a child has during their early years, the better their outcomes throughout their education journey,” says Desiree Hugo, Academic Head: ADvTECH Schools.
“Early childhood development drives success in life, so raising the profile of this stage of learning in all schools and at home is so important, because that is where you inculcate a child’s love for learning, or their resistance to learning,” she says.
Hugo says in the early years, a child’s brain is more flexible and adaptable than adults’ brains, and they can benefit from stimulating this associated neuroplasticity in various ways.
“This is why children should not only be exposed to opportunities to learn, but also to develop their thinking abilities, to build the neuroplasticity around the brain. But the window of opportunity to enhance this is limited, which is why best results are evident if this commences in the early years.”
Hugo says strategies for teachers and parents to employ to ensure that children develop neuroplasticity during the early years, include:
- Encouraging curiosity and exploration
- Providing a supportive and positive environment
- Teaching them new skills and hobbies
- Promoting physical activity and healthy habits
Hugo says schools and teachers also have an important duty to develop neuroplasticity in children. This can be done through:
Active learning strategies such as hands-on activities, interactive discussions and problem-solving games.
Multi-sensory learning which will include plentiful visual aids, auditory learning and kinaesthetic activities which allow physical movement during learning.
Mindfulness and stress reduction which will include practices which positively impact brain structure and function, promoting emotional regulation and reducing stress.
The promotion of curiosity and exploration, by encouraging questioning and relating classroom lessons to real-life situations.
Individualised learning through differentiated instruction which recognises that each child learns differently, as well as feedback and adaptation which allows students to learn from mistakes.
The incorporation of cognitive challenges such as critical thinking exercises and the learning of new skills