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15 July 2008

Working with hands helps brain

British children's brain development is being threatened by their failure to work with their hands in school and at home, said a report released on Monday.

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British children's brain development is being threatened by their failure to work with their hands in school and at home, said a report released on Monday.

With woodwork, metalwork, craft, music or car mechanic classes dropped by many schools and children wanting to play computer games at home the UK is becoming a "software instead of a screwdriver society", said the report, commissioned by the Ruskin Mill Educational Trust.

"Working with one's own hands in a real-world 3-D environment is imperative for full cognitive and intellectual development," said the report's author Dr Aric Sigman.

"Research is showing that increasing time spent in the virtual world of computers is displacing hands-on play and hands-on learning.

"That allows young people to experience how the world works in practice, to gain an understanding of materials and processes and to make informed judgments about abstract concepts."

Responsibility lies with parents
The report cited examples of 11-year-olds with deficits in certain areas of their cognitive development and a decline in the ability of young engineers and apprentices to conceptualise straightforward mechanical problems.

"The findings of this report clearly point to strengthening the role of '3-D' learning and crafts in educational policy-making today," said Sigman.

"The implications for the economy are significant and will actually improve the workforce's ability to use computers in research, design and development.

"But parents too have a responsibility to ensure their children have more of a 'hands-on' upbringing."

Sigman also warned class-obsessed Britons needed to drop their snobbish attitude to hands-on vocational training within schools.

"Working with your hands is considered declasse and the sciences are often seen as 'trade'", said Dr Sigman. – (Reuters Health)

July 2008

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