We all know that kids who read for pleasure are smarter than kids who skip the books. But the same also can be said of kids who participate in organized sports.
Or so say neuroscientists from the University of Eastern Finland, who spent two years monitoring the activities of 504 kids and their cognitive development. Their findings: kids who read and participate in organized sports develop stronger thinking skills compared to kids who spent time with video games and unstructured free play.
Throw in a healthy diet and kids’ cognitive abilities truly thrive.
While much is known about the benefits of reading, the Finnish study adds to a growing body of research demonstrating that organized sports – particularly team-focused – improve brain function, memory, learning ability, and of course, physical health.
This coincides with previous studies showing that team sports builds confidence in kids, lowers rates of anxiety and depression, and helps with socializing / networking skills.
This is not to say that some unstructured play isn’t good for kids. In fact, there is quite a bit of research demonstrating that so-called free play – when kids can entertain themselves beyond the ever-vigilant eye of adults – is great for creativity, problem-solving, and learning how to socialize.
Similarly, video games – especially when done in a group setting – offer some benefits, including improved memory and spatial awareness skills.
But the problem, say researchers, is that far too often kids are left to their own devices (pun intended) and over time they suffer from stunted levels of cognitive development. Of particular concern is the level of toxic behavior, harassment, and bullying kids can encounter in unsupervised gaming and social media settings.