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Give Yourself a Hand

Photo courtesy of redwood 1

 

Here’s something that is mighty cool.  Using your hands well makes you smarter.  Let me explain.  Your hands are connected to a part of your brain that does higher thinking and problem solving.  The better your hands work, the better that part of your brain tends to work.  That might seem surprising but when you understand a bit about neurological development, it makes perfect sense.

 

In the early part of a child’s life, they need to learn how to balance and crawl.  When they crawl they obviously are using their hands and arms for locomotion.  As they begin to stand and eventually walk, suddenly their hands are free to do their own thing.  It’s at this point that their fine motor skills really begin to develop.

 

Now stop for a moment.  When does language show up?  That’s right, about the same time the hands are freed up!  That’s not a coincidence.  The use of your hands is wired to the use of language and thinking.

 

So the next question is, what can be done to use this bit of information.  Here are some ideas.

 

  1. Play the air piano – Start with your hands in a fist and one at a time uncurl your fingers starting with your pinky.  Don’t forget to include your thumb.  After that, curl everything back in the same order (pinky first).  If that’s easy for you, do it fast for a minute or so a couple times a day.  If it’s hard, start slowly ‘till it gets smoother and quicker.
  2. Play the banjo – or any another instrument, I just suggested the best one!  The dexterity and mental power to play an instrument is tremendously good for your brain and your smarts.  In fact, if you could look at the brain of an accomplished player you would observe that it was much larger in certain areas.
  3. Use a pen – Recent studies have shown that writing with a pen activates a much wider part of the brain than keyboarding does.  This is especially true in children and so you may want to help them learn good penmanship and writing skills.  They will be more likely to become smart enough to thank you for it later on if you do!
  4. Play games – There are all kinds of peg board or cup stacking games you can experiment with.  These are fun, especially for kids, and can be enjoyably used to activate the parts of the brain we are talking about.
  5. Play catch – This uses your hands in a slightly different way but with the same effect.  It’s also fun and can be very helpful in a marriage.  Imagine talking to your spouse while playing catch.  The wife will be happy because she can talk and the husband will be happy because he can play with a ball.

 

The point is to develop and maintain great fine motor skills by using your hands and help your brain in the process.  Can you think of a profession that was named for practicing by hand?

 

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