Americans take their kids out for a spin

ENCOURAGING young children to spin on the spot can significantly boost their early academic learning.

Other brain-stimulating activities for children include hanging upside down, scrabbling along the floor on their stomachs like a crocodile and crawling along a trail of marked-out footprints or handprints.

The package of activities called SMART (stimulating maturity through accelerated readiness training) has been developed in the United States (where else?).

Five and six-year-olds who have taken part have shown significant improvements, compared to other classmates, in early language and numeracy skills, according to Lyelle Palmer, of Winona State University.

In one group of 70 SMART kindergarten children, only one was referred for remedial services when usually a quarter would be.

Based on research into how the brain develops, the programme's activities are designed to stimulate brain cell growth, and have been used in 20 schools in Minnesota and 80 others across the US.

Speaking at the Society of Effective Affective Learning's conference in Derby, Professor Palmer said children often wanted to spin because they wanted the mental stimulation, but parents tried to discourage them for fear of falls and injury.

"What is the possible relevance of spinning to education?" he asked, and then answered: "If you spin children and take them into a class which has not, the (spun) group will be able to concentrate, they are very focused. The others are distracted and all over the place, because they have not received stimulation."

The effect may not work on adults, though. Conference participants were asked to spin and one felt sick for the rest of the session.

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