In the early 1960's, a neuropsychologist named Roger Sperry developed a ground-breaking idea about how our brains worked. He theorized that our brains are split between two hemispheres - the left and the right. Certain aspects of our thinking are exclusively controlled by either one side or the other, he presumed. Scientists have since expanded significantly on Sperry's original research, and the right/left brain theory has largely become the dominant school of thought. The left brain, they believe, governs the logical, analytical and rational aspects of our thought. It is geared toward intellectual thought like problem solving, mathematics and analyzing data. The right brain, on the other hand, governs the intuitive, feeling aspects of our thought. It's governance includes things like design, spatial relationships, and viewing things as a whole rather than a series of parts. For instance, consider balancing your checkbook. When you sit down to accomplish this task, the left brain takes over. It thrives on organizing and creating structure, and it engages the task in a sequential, systematic way. It adds up the figures and expects and exact, specific answer. If you tried to put the right brain in charge, you'd be in trouble. It would rather guess at the total, content with looking at the pile of figures and rounding out the total. Now consider driving in traffic. In this instance, your right brain takes over. When in traffic, you're bombarded with stimuli from every direction, and your mind has to take it all in without focusing on any of it specifically. It needs to see the picture as a whole. If your left brain were in charge, it would go crazy trying to lock on to each piece of information and sort it in manageable form. The analysis of left and right brain thinking is becoming more and more a part of the workplace environment. During the Industrial Age, when our cultures were busy supplying its people with practical machines and goods to carry out specific functions in our lives, left-brained workers and designers were in great demand. These people thought practically about how an item can be practical and functional, and how a company can make it using the least amount of resources. More and more, however, employers are seeking out right-brained workers. This follows the ideas of a number of researchers who believe that we've moved from the Industrial Age into a "Conceptual Age." We've reached the point where we live in a economy of abundance. We have everything we need to live practical, functional lives. Now consumers are looking for goods that not only fulfill practical applications, but also satisfy our aesthetic desires as well. Phones can't just connect us to the outside world; they have to look good, feel good in our hands, and incorporate many more services than just connectivity. To fulfill these demands, companies are hiring right-brained employees who can think outside the box - creative, artsy employees who aren't just number crunchers. To bring your child into this marketplace and make sure he succeeds, you have to foster his right-brained abilities. Now, some people are simply born the way they're born. Some kids are inherently good at math. Others are inherently good at music, and couldn't solve a math problem if their life depended on it. No matter what anyone tells you, though, everyone uses both sides of their brain. Like any other aspect of our bodies, though, we have to exercise our brains if we want them to perform. By exercising with right-brain activities, you can hone your children's thought processes and make them more appealing candidates to future employers.
- Be decorative -- Raising infants and toddlers in houses with bright, well-organized decorations helps foster their visual thinking skills. During their infancy, decorate their walls with brightly-colored shapes cut out of construction paper. Make circles and squares, both small and large, to help them learn to differentiate between curved lines and straight ones. As they get older, help them to redecorate their rooms with posters of superheroes or singers or whatever they enjoy. Make sure they have creative control over the process, though. Help them think through tough decisions, and help them understand how the arrangement of the posters, not just each poster individually, is important to how the room will look.
- Promote arts and crafts -- While this may seem like a chore (and it will be, when your kids are still young), you've got to help them paint, draw, sculpt and create in any way possible. Your right-brained kids will immediately take to this; it will more than likely be their favorite thing to do. Your predominantly left-brained kids may take to it a little slower, and some may not like it at all. As this type of exercise is firmly rooted in creative, visual and spatial reasoning, it is a great way to flex their right hemispheres. If you want help avoiding the mess, Crayola has a number of products that eliminate the need for cleanup.
- For math problems, bust out the abacus -- A number of prominent Japanese psychological researchers discovered the use of an abacus as a mathematical learning tool promoted and was promoted by right-brained skills. While students who learn math in schools generally visualize numbers by picturing the numerical symbols, students who learn using an abacus visualize numbers in groups and collections of abacus beads. The researchers found that children using this tool had improved numerical memory (ability to remember and recall multiple numbers), spatial memory (ability to remember sequences, placements and arrangements) and general mathematical skills. These children scored higher than non-abacus students in many areas, including addition and multiplication of one-digit numbers, addition and subtraction of multi-digit numbers and word problems employing addition and subtraction. An abacus, then, can be a great tool for a predominantly left-brained (math-centric) kid to develop right-brained skills, but it can also be a great tool for a right-brained kid to develop better math (left-brain) skills.
- 4. Be aware of your child's visual learning needs -- When trying to teach your right-brained child, don't get frustrated when he's not getting something you're trying to explain to him. Remember, these kids are visual learners. When they don't understand something, repeating yourself over and over isn't going to help. Instead, think about how you can "rephrase" the information with visual cues. Hang up a large dry erase boards in their room, and use them to both explain things and help your child work through problems.