Prepare Your Child For The Future: How To Set the Foundation for Life-Long Learning

Posted by Enza Lyons on December 06, 2010

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

Alvin Toffler (Influential futurist, business thinker and author)

"The growth of the conceptual component of [economic] output has brought with it accelerating demands for workers who are equipped not simply with technical know-how, but with the ability to create, analyze, and transform information and to interact effectively with others."

Alan Greenspan (Former chairman of the US Federal Reserve Board)

You don't need me to tell you that our world is changing rapidly. In the past two decades alone the way we live, and the way we work, has been transformed by technological developments, global business models, environmental concerns, shifting political and economic landscapes, and evolving beliefs and value systems. Consider all the types of work that exist now, that you never imagined when you were in school, and also all those career paths that have since disappeared.

The reality is that no one can map out a career path for their lifetime, simply because we cannot know what types of work will exist in ten, or even five, years time. Recent statistics show workers change jobs every 2 – 3 years on average. The idea of a job for life died with the Baby Boomers and the rate of job turnover is only increasing with younger generations.

Preparing for an uncertain future

If we don't know what jobs will be available, how do we equip our children with the skills they need to succeed?

In his widely acclaimed book A Whole New Mind, Daniel H. Pink suggests that in an increasingly competitive market, businesses will be looking for a new type of worker. He describes this worker in terms of their brain function – referring to the qualities that emerge from the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

  • Left brainers are logical, detail focussed, emotionally controlled, systematic, into techniques, time conscious, pattern seekers.

  • Right brainers are intuitive, big picture focussed, spontaneous, imaginative, into rhythm and application, relationship conscious, flow seekers.

Traditionally, those displaying analytical, knowledge-based left brain qualities have been most valued in science and business, whilst those with more intuitive, creative right brain qualities were considered best suited to the arts.

Pink contends that in the new conceptual economy, left brain thinking alone will not be sufficient to ensure the success of individuals or organisations. We will need whole brain thinking – bringing together left brain logic and right brain reasoning – to realise our full capacity to “detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative... to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction...”

The US National Learning Foundation agrees that corporations are looking for “an agile workforce made up of flexible, curious/creative, co-operative collaborators, who are altruistically motivated, atheistically aware, reflective in their thinking, ambiguity tolerant and risk-takers.” From 'How to Educate' in Awakening the Child Heart by Carla Hannaford Phd.

Is the education system giving your child the skills they need to succeed?

There is a broad ranging debate underway about the effectiveness of our educational system in preparing our children to meet the challenges of the future. Some of the common factors raised in the course of this debate include

  • better learning programs

  • better teaching

  • better resources

  • better testing methods

  • learning styles .

However, we often fail to consider more fundamental factors that contribute to our child's success at school – their readiness to learn. There are a series of foundational skills that are necessary before a child is ready to learn, which I will describe in more detail shortly.

When these foundational skills are in place, your child will be able to activate whole brain thinking. They will thrive within the educational system and, importantly, be empowered to extend their learning process beyond the classroom to continually seek their full potential as inventive, curious, collaborative explorers.


Understanding the foundational learning skills

Neuroscience has shown that the development of the brain, from when we are babies, relies on interaction with the surrounding environment through our senses and through movement. The richer our experience, the more new nerve cells and neural connections are formed, and these are the superhighways for intellectual and physical performance.


The first stage of brain development are the reflexes. The primitive reflexes are automatic, stereotyped movements that ensure survival in the first weeks of life. An example is the rooting reflex which triggers an open mouth response when baby is hungry and touched by another person – it helps baby to feed. These reflexes are driven by the central nervous system (primitive brain) and are later inhibited by the frontal lobes (thinking brain) as a part of normal development. The postural reflexes develop next and are related to posture, movement and stability.


Problems with this development process, such as prolonged primitive reflex activity beyond 6 – 12 months or delayed maturity of postural reflexes, can impede development in other areas. For example, crawling is one of the early building blocks for learning as it promotes gross and fine motor control, integrates the senses (second stage of development) and grows neural pathways. When basic skills such as crawling have not been successfully automated, this can limit a child's ability to take in information and learn, despite the acquisition of later skills.

It is important to understand each stage of development (as outlined below) and ensure that these skills have been successfully integrated to enable whole brain learning. This will give your child the skills they need to succeed in the classroom and, more importantly, the ability to engage in the life long learning necessary to thrive in a changing world.

Reflexes - 1st Stage

  • Primitive Reflexes

  • Postural Reflexes

Senses Development - 2nd Stage

  • Vision

  • Hearing

  • Smell

  • Taste

  • Touch/Tactile

  • Vestibular System

  • Proprioceptive / Kinesthetic System

Perceptual Motor Development - 3rd Stage

  • Gross / Fine Motor Coordination

  • Eye Hand Coordination

  • Body Awareness

  • Laterality Integration

  • Directionality Hemispheres

  • Midline

  • Left/Right dominance

  • Visual perception

  • Language skills

  • Auditory Perception

  • Ability to shut out distractions

I look forward to sharing more about these developmental stages, and how we can use Brain Gym to set the foundation for your child's life-long learning  Check out my Dynamic Learning Program an Introduction to Brain Gym Online Course or come along to the Brian Gym 101 workshop.


Enza Lyons

Accredited Brain Gym Instructor (Brain Gym International)

Registered Kinesiology Practitioner (A.K.A., A.T.M.S.)

Director, Dynamic Learning & Health Centre


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