As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your kids healthy. But are you doing everything to maximize their brain health?
Unlike prior generations, your kids will grow up into a world where brains matter more than ever – a knowledge economy where technology and electronic devices rule, and where health and resiliency will be expected throughout the lifespan.
What can you do to give your kids the best foundation to thrive in this new world?
For better brain health, follow these 5 tips:
1) Get your kids moving
Exercise is the single most important factor we know of for growing and maintaining the brain. Exercise grows new neurons and increases brain thickness in critical brain areas important for memory and organization. If you want a smart kid with better focus, self-control, and mood, get your child exercising regularly.
2) Serve brainy food
Kids’ brains grow at an astounding rate. A growing brain needs the highest quality building blocks it can find. This means one critical thing: stop feeding your child sugary and processed foods. This includes most store-bought granola bars, yogurts, snack packs, and juices marketed at kids – and kid favourites such as take-out pizza. Feed your child real foods high in omega-3 oils, antioxidants, and foods with anti-inflammatory properties – and talk to your dietitian or check out brain-healthy eating sites on the web if you have trouble getting started.
3) Unplug the kids
Is all that screen time benefitting your child? Not a chance. The number of hours spent in front of TV and on electronic devices is inversely related to language ability, attention span, and IQ in kids.
Constantly using devices may even rewire the brain to be more distractible. Be firm about limits on electronic devices, and don’t bend when the complaining starts – brain circuits for problem solving and impulse control don’t mature until adulthood, so kids aren’t able to resist temptation on their own. Instead, involve them in things that are good for the brain: nature time, unstructured playtime, downtime, and family time.
(While you’re at it, make a pledge to unplug yourself – you’ll be amazed how much more engaged you are as a parent without a smartphone in your hand).
4) Get a handle on your own stress
Research shows stress is contagious, transmitted from parents to kids. If you are stressed out, your child feels it, both emotionally and physically — even if they may not have the words to tell you. That’s because children are biologically wired to be vigilant to adults’ moods; exposure to stressed out parents and household chaos raises stress hormone levels in kids, which can be damaging to the brain and contribute to anxiety disorders.
5) Get it checked out
If you have concerns about your child’s cognitive development, attention span, or language skills, come in and see your health practitioner or your Brain Health team – it’s always better to find out what the problem is and intervene early for your child’s best outcomes.
Kids will need their brain longer than ever before – and will grow up in a world where brain-smarts will matter more than ever. Make sure you are giving their growing brains everything they need to thrive.