When we hear the word “learn” we often think of children sitting in a classroom, at a desk, with a teacher educating students on a particular subject. We rarely ever imagine playing a game as a teaching and learning tool. However, the benefits of utilizing games and play can span more developmental areas than learning about a single subject through lecture and worksheets. As O. Fred Donaldson said, “Children learn as they play. More importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.”
Children between the ages of 7 and 9-years old are what most people consider “the golden age.” They are at a unique growth period in their life. They are proficient in their vocabulary and problem-solving skills, yet they are not at the age where they want complete independence from adults. They are refined in their gross motor skills but are still establishing a foundation in core skill development.
Children at this age are extremely bright and are very enthusiastic. They love a challenge and enjoy the spotlight. However, they often get frustrated when things don’t go their way and are just learning to tap into their emotions. Distractions can be a challenge for them as well.
For this age group, a program that involves game-based learning is extremely effective. Since they are generally excited about new things, utilizing games as a method of learning will keep their eagerness high and learning continues to be associated with a strong positive emotion. This will keep them coming back for more! And even better, they develop skills that benefit them in all four stages of development.
In the SKILLZ program, we utilize game-based learning drills because they are crucial for stimulating “working memory” in the brain. During these drills, neurons began firing which leads to new neural growth, which helps their intellectual development. Our instructors interact with our students, during the drills, in a way that triggers oxytocin in the brain and helps with their emotional and social development. And since we utilize martial arts as a vehicle to help develop the whole child, their physical development is enhanced through the drill itself.
For example, in the drill “Brain Games” the students will form lines, each one with an instructor. The students will be asked to run to the instructor and perform a technique with good form. This benefits their physical development by requiring them to be more precise in their movement. When the student approaches to begin the drill, the instructor picks a category of items, such as colors or animals, to count in, instead of numbers. This use of neurobics helps the student stay focused, which benefits their intellectual development. This drill helps with emotional development because they learn to persevere when counting their repetitions, via a different method, becomes challenging. And throughout the drill, the student is interacting with the instructor in a positive manner which benefits them socially.
By utilizing a game-based learning approach with 7 to 9-year olds, we can help them develop as a whole by adapting to their adventurous attitude and youthful nature while at the same time building skills that set them up for success.