Baseball, a sport considered our national pasttime, has long been an enduring game for parents and children alike. The smell of hot dogs and cotton candy, the roar of the crowd, the thrills and spills and much more, but what is there to “learn”?

For me, some of my fondest childhood memories were of my father picking me up early from school so we could go see batting practice and take in an afternoon game. Boy, now that was fun and while I’m not going to say that getting your kids out of school early is a great way to help educate them, there is something very special about spending time with your Dad or Mom at the ballpark.

As a kid growing up in South Florida, we had no “home teams” to root for in baseball. The closest team we had was the Atlanta Braves and they were 600 miles away, but despite the fact that we had no team in Florida, we did have one thing going for us…Spring Training. For one month out of the year, the baseball world descended and still descends on Florida to prepare for the next 162-game campaign.

I personally believe that keeping a child interested in learning means we keep their interest in something they enjoy. If your child loves baseball, chances are he/she has some team paraphanelia in their room. Creating a home environment that mirrors some of the interpersonal time shared with a parent can be a strong reinforcement to learning in general.

Now, my father was from New York, Yonkers actually, and as such that made him a Yankees fan, so when spring training came around, we went to see … wait for it…the Yankees. It must have shocked him to the core that I later became a Red Sox fan. I don’t know that I had a particular reason for liking the Sox, other than I liked some of the players on the team. Those were the days of Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, “Freddie” Lynn, and of course, Carlton Fisk. Now, to be fair during those years the Yankees had a pretty stacked roster as well with the likes of Bucky Dent, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lou Piniella, Graig Nettles, and of course Catfish Hunter, so even though I liked the Red Sox, it was hard to root against the Yankees. (See that happens when you don’t actually live in one of those places, you can pretty much cheer for anybody).

By now you’re probably wondering, “what has all this got to do with learning ‘better’?” Well, I’ll tell you. At WonderBrains, we are big believers in the Multiple Intelligences model and constantly strive to find ways to use various types of intelligences together to enhance them as a whole. Baseball is such an activity.

Baseball, as a sport, is very bodily/kinesthetic. To play the game one needs to learn how to bat, throw and field but baseball isn’t just learning to improve hand-eye coordination. On the contrary, strategy, statistical analysis, planning and thinking all contribute in large part to playing the game of baseball. At any given time on a baseball field there are a number factors that affect where the ball needs to be played if it comes to you. In addition to being physically able to play a position, players know that alone isn’t the end-all, be-all measure of a winning formula. A manager plays the percentages. If a batter has a harder time hitting with runners in scoring position against a left-handed pitcher, then you put a left-handed pitcher on the mound.

One of the greatest problem solving activities my father worked on with me was situational analysis at the ballpark. One out, 3-2 count, runners on first and second baseball, ball played to the right side of the infield, what do you do and why? Over and over, we’d go through this process. What I realize now and I’m not even sure if Dad realized it then was that I was being taught how to critically think about a problem with multiple factors associated with it, but I was having FUN! It was great to think something through and then watch it unfold, sometimes the players did it right, other times not and that had it’s own set of ramifications. In the end, baseball IS a thinking person’s game, to be sure, but it can and should be mostly about having fun. Kids always seem to learn better when they are doing something they enjoy.

Most of the best tools we use for learning come from activities where the child doesn’t even realize they are being taught something. Baseball is such an activity. But even if you disagree with me on that point, taking your kids out to the ballpark for some fun is a great way to build a strong interpersonal relationship with them. Believe me, it may not seem that memorable to you, but I guarantee it will be for them and in the end, isn’t that the real reason for taking them in the first place?

Have a WonderBrains-ful day!

Pete