By Emma Helferich
We have always heard that hands-on learning will help with a child's brain development, but why is that? Children of all ages - preschool through teenage years - are continuously growing and developing. These are critical periods; the more a child can engage in different activities and create different projects, the more motivated they will be to continue pursuing new challenges and learning new skills. Hands-on learning allows someone to develop intelligence as they use their vision and other senses while touching, pulling, and playing. This type of learning can be applied to something as simple as basic math or as complex as the structural design.
While there are many benefits to hands-on learning, one of the greatest is it engages both sides of the brain. According to Goodwin University, “Research done by Cindy Middendorf, an education consultant, has shown that between the ages of four and seven, a child’s right side of the brain is developing, and the learning derives clearly through visual and spatial activities. The right side of the brain, which involves more analytical and language skills, is said to develop later in childhood, around 10 years old.” Being able to touch something is much more engaging than simply reading about it. Hands-on learning requires children and teens to multitask by talking, listening, and moving, and manipulating, which stimulates and develops multiple areas of the brain.
In another study done with animals, it was proven that experience increases the overall quality of the functioning of the brain. In this experiment, rats were placed with the presence of a changing set of objects for exploration to encourage play (Rosenzweig and Bennett, 1978). These animals performed better on a variety of problem-solving tasks than rats reared in standard laboratory cages. It was also observed that animals raised in these complex environments had a greater volume of capillaries per nerve cell (therefore a greater supply of blood to the brain) than those who did not experience the environments full of manipulatives with which to play.
There are numerous studies that support the effectiveness of hands-on learning. We encourage you to create challenges and projects for your family to enjoy.