Gymnasium for the brain

AWARD FOR ART (From left) Abhinaya, Advika and Jefferin PHOTO: R. SHIVAJI RAO

AWARD FOR ART (From left) Abhinaya, Advika and Jefferin PHOTO: R. SHIVAJI RAO  

Art helps develop lateral thinking in children - and how?

More and more parents are coming around to the view that a child's performance within the classroom is influenced by factors that lie outside. As a result, there is a proliferation of institutes that promise to pay attention to these `extraneous' factors. Kelvin Tham, a brain gym ("which is based on the principle that by moving the body, brain power is naturally enhanced") instructor based in Malaysia, says overcoming problems such as poor concentration and hyperactivity is crucial to a child's performance.

Integrated brain

"When hyperactive children touch the frontal lobes for a while they tend to settle down to their class work. It works so fast it looks like a miracle. However, it's easy to assume by the look of them that brain gym exercises are meant only for the body. But their actual work lies within - integrating the right and the left hemispheres of the brain. The left hemisphere is the seat of memory, and the right aids creativity. The two have to become an integrated whole if the child has to function at his optimum. An integrated brain will create what is called synapses (synapse comes from Greek root word which means "to clasp") or interconnection of neural circuits that control the other systems of the body."Shivasankar, Chennai area manager of SIP Academy India (which promotes Abacus mathematics), says children cotton to Abacus concepts much faster after a few minutes of mind gym. "As mind gym awakens lateral thinking, its benefits will spread to all areas of their lives."Dinesh Victor, chief executive officer, Global Art India, which is part of a worldwide programme promoting art as a tool for creativity, says drawing can make a child think as no other skill can. "Our art programme encourages children to draw outside the lines. When one child is different from the other, why should their drawings be the same? While we ask a child to draw an apple, we allow him the latitude to `compose' his own environment that would contain the apple." With Jefferin Annie Alex (11), it was the watermelon. "I remember earlier when asked to draw a watermelon, I would put one smack in the middle of the sheet and not disturb the white space around it. But now I know nothing exists in isolation and that my art should represent this reality. I write all those things that can go with the fruit and then proceed to put them in perspective on the drawing sheet." (Along with 10-year-old Advika and 13-year-old M. S. Abhinaya, Jefferin recently brought laurels to Chennai by winning top prizes at the International Global Art competition held in Bangkok).Dinesh says these children don't train to be artists but they are using art to develop lateral thinking. "The visualisation techniques (taught in this art course) enhance comprehension, reasoning and judgment. They let a child's imagination stretch beyond its usual horizon." V. Sethuraman Iyer of Ripe Institute is happy with the response to its course (for children), which includes goal-setting and time management techniques. "A child that is focussed on an impracticable goal is worse than one that drifts about without any goal. We ask our children to set goals based on their ambitions. However, at the goal-setting stage itself, we will weed out ideas and hopes that are not rooted in reality. This way, we will be maximising the child's chances of success in whatever he sets out to do. How can a child do well in studies if half of his time is spent on wasteful and unproductive pursuits? We help a child identify `time wasters' and get him to draw his own time chart which will eliminate these time wasters or, at the least, have less of them."PRINCE FREDERICK

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