How Nutrition supports Physical Development and Kinaesthetic Learning in Children?



Have you noticed how a nine month old baby seems to be using most of his limbs and all his senses towards the accomplishment of one simple goal such as grabbing a toy? He purposefully crawls on all fours towards the toy, uses his body to push himself up to reach it, turns it over repeatedly in his little hands- feeling the texture, shakes it to see if it makes any noise and then pops it into his mouth for the final test of taste! This is physical or kinaesthetic learning – a skill that comes naturally to little crawlers and toddlers.


As the children grow and begin schooling, it becomes easy to identify those children who continue to show greater inclination towards kinaesthetic or physical form of learning in contrast to those kids who adapt to a more structured and academic form of learning. A physical learner may find it difficult to sit in one place and may always be looking for artsy ways to express his ideas! Kinaesthetic learners make use of their physical dexterity and their gross and fine motor skills. However in general most pre-schoolers continue to thrive on activities that use tactual (touch) and kinaesthetic (movement) such as building sand-castles, clay modelling, building blocks and nature walks.


Good nutrition received from a balanced diet, comprising of grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and milk – breast milk and growing up milk, plays a vital role in the physical growth of young children including their ability to pursue kinaesthetic learning in early childhood.


Rise & Shine asked Dr. Lian Wee Bin, Director, SpecialKids Child Health & Development Clinic how, in her opinion, nutrition could support a child’s physical development and kinaesthetic learning in the initial years from birth to preschool?


Q. How important is good nutrition for the proper physical development of the child? What are the dangers of inadequate or imbalanced nutritional intake in children?


Nutrition is definitely a critical factor when it comes to the physical development. The various food groups, carbohydrates, protein, fats, micronutrients and elements, as well as vitamins, need to be taken in the right balance, in order for the body to be able to metabolise and store energy as well as use as building blocks to allow proper growth and development. The most sensitive period of growth and development starts at conception of a new life through the second year of life, as this period is characterised by rapid brain growth as well as physical growth. Both under and excessive intake will create adverse undesirable outcomes.


Q. How can we ensure that children get the nutrition that is necessary to support their physical development including their kinaesthetic learning?


It is important that mothers-to-be educate themselves on the necessity of maintaining a good, well-balanced diet before and during pregnancy. For example, folate deficiency might result in neural tube defects. For the first 6 months of life, breast milk would be the best nutrition any baby can have, provided that nursing mums ensure a good, healthy diet on their part and that babies are healthy and able to breastfeed. Even if they are not able to orally latch on, expressed breast milk still supersedes other options. Subsequent to that, all babies should have access to a full balanced nutrition intake with a combination of milk and solids. Difficult feeders (either for medical or other reasons), including picky eaters, will be at risk of being underweight and having nutrient malnutrition. Assessments to explore the reasons for difficult feeding should take place and identifiable causes addressed. Adjustments in the feeding regimes and patterns as well as supplementation to cover any nutritional deficiencies may be needed in order to provide best physical support.


Q. Kinaesthetic learning is a natural step as the child's gross and fine motor skills develop. Is it true that children with higher motor skills will be more successful kinaesthetic learners?


Someone with a Kinaesthetic learning style has a preference for physical experience - touching, feeling, holding, doing, and practical hands-on experiences. It does not necessarily refer to moving around physically all the time though it has that implication.


Q. Do kinaesthetic learners or physical learners need more nutrition as they use their whole body to learn (as opposed to auditory or visual learners)?


I am not sure that is medically proven - that kinaesthetic learners will need more nutrition, especially at the young age (because) all the kids are naturally kinaesthetic as you have mentioned in the next question. They are also more often visual learners.


Q. Infants and toddlers are natural kinaesthetic learners. Can nutrition play a part in sustaining and enhancing their aptitude for kinaesthetic learning in later years?


Again, I am not sure that there is actual evidence to suggest that specifically. However, good balanced nutrition is important for any learning, kinaesthetic or otherwise. Learning from young, should incorporate all modes of learning.



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