Children today are presented with varying types of stressors in almost every aspect of their lives. The infamous “bar” has been set so high that in order to achieve it, children are asked to forgo “fun” and work towards superiority in everything they do. And while goal setting is an essential skill for future success, unrealistic expectations have led to increased rates of anxiety and depression in children and teens. This, unfortunately, is counter-effective to confidence-boosting and productive learning. Therefore, children and teens must be given opportunities to feel boosts of endorphins, which leads to improved mood and learning.
Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. Their main function is to alleviate pain and boost pleasure. They are most often associated with exercise since the release of these “feel-good” chemicals trigger a state of exhilaration which is usually referred to as a “runner’s high.” In recent years, studies related to endorphins have begun to focus on how this chemical promotes learning. They have a positive effect on an area of the brain that regulates memory and learning called the hippocampus. The meditative effect that endorphins also have help children be more present and in the moment by shifting their focus away from day-to-day challenges.
Since physical activity is essential to brain development, neuroscientists have been urging parents and teachers to work on stimulating these good-feeling brain chemicals. By boosting these positive neurotransmitters, cortisol will be reduced leaving children with happier feelings, which develops clearer thinking and enhances attention skills. This makes learning easier, so knowledge is better attained ultimately leading to more confidence. Therefore, it is vital that children have physical education and recess time in school, have outlets for physical activities throughout each week, and playtime outside. Establishing times that children can play and laugh will go a long way in improving mental health and school performance.
As a child development center, the SKILLZ program has been on the cutting-edge of establishing classes that utilize this knowledge. The innovative methods implemented in each class incorporate the most important aspects of child development and learning. Not only does the martial arts training boost endorphins but combining it with game-based learning creates a fun environment that strengthens learning. The Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialists that run each class also implement specific Teaching SKILLZ that not only assist with the gaining of new skills but also cognitively stimulate students throughout the class. The engagement also gives students a sense of belonging and fosters friendships.
By teaching with the brain in mind and utilizing all information in the areas of child development, science, and psychology, we can create opportunities for children to have the best learning experiences. When children are in a good frame of mind, they learn easier so providing time for them to be active is essential to heightened performance in school. This not only improves their learning abilities but also builds confidence by giving students a sense of accomplishment. The mind-body connection is a powerful thing.
Author: Jennifer Salama of Skillz Worldwide.
Jennifer is a 4th-degree black belt and has been training in martial arts since 2001. She has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology and has embraced the SKILLZ curriculum because of its focus on child development and using martial arts as a vehicle to develop the child as a whole.