As parents, it is important to make sure our child is healthy. This means they get the proper nutrition they need to grow properly without compromising their health and to have enough sleep so they can achieve their optimal mental status to function during the day. However, more often than not, sometimes parents oversee the task to make sure their child’s brain is healthy. Yes, “let kids be kids” is true but as parents, you should also know that the brain is the powerhouse of the body. Children who are lethargic and consuming “empty calories” from junk food may underperform in school and everywhere else.
Children have a lot going on biologically as they become physically and mentally active. On top of that, they are continuously growing too! This means they burn off more energy and are susceptible to hypoglycemia or for blood sugar levels to drop. Always be conscious of your child’s brain health and see the difference it makes.
Here are practical tips to keep your child’s brain healthy:
1. Get proper amount of sleep.
Children are encouraged to take naps during the day because their body is still developing, therefore they need more energy. They also need to follow a bedtime schedule for their bodies to adapt to the routine, therefore they need proper rest over the night. This will make them feel refreshed when they wake up and give them a boost of energy to perform well in school.
2. Let them snack on fruit or nuts like berries and almonds.
Instead of the usual candy bar or sugar loaded pastries, let them have nutritious snacks in between meals. Include mixed fruits in their lunch bags so they can nibble on them at school. Healthy snacks can improve cognition. Almonds are packed with omega-3s and the antioxidants in berries can help the brain achieve its optimum performance.
3. Never skip breakfast.
When doctors say that the most important meal of the day is breakfast, they are not kidding. Breakfast is critical especially for children who go to school. It is backed by research that children who eat a healthy breakfast in the morning perform academically better compared to those who do not have breakfast at all. However, make sure that they eat nutritious food in the morning like protein and complex carbs instead of sugar-loaded cereals, pastries and juice that are unnaturally sweetened. If they eat a healthy meal, they are able to maintain stable energy levels throughout the day as well as improve mental performance and motor coordination.
4. Encourage exercise or any physical activity at least 30 minutes a day.
Cardiovascular exercises are important for oxygen to circulate properly around the body. This way the vital organs, especially the brain, is amply supplied with oxygen in order to perform well and have a boost of energy. Feeling lethargic or sleepy all the time can also be lack of oxygen to the brain. By encouraging physical exercise through sports and other extracurricular activities, kids are able to pull themselves away from a sedentary lifestyle. Cardiovascular exercises can also help maintain a normal weight, balance blood sugar levels and improve motor skills.
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5. Prepare homemade wholesome balanced meals.
Psychologists believe that parents should make it a point to sit down and eat with family around the dining table at least one meal a day. This way you encourage them to eat healthy home cooked meals and parents get to set an example when it comes to keeping a healthy diet. Another benefit of eating a family together is that they get to tell their parents about their day and their concerns—big and small. This communication is healthy for kids.
As for the meals, “brain foods” are an essential. A balanced meal should consist of protein (30%), healthy fat (30%) and complex carbohydrates (40%). Beef is an excellent choice for protein because it helps address iron deficiency in children, since this is the number-one nutrition disorder in the world. Poor performance at school is the number one symptom and a minor deficiency can lead to cognitive decline. Throw in some vegetables and brown rice, get creative and make meals appealing.
6. Encourage kids to take up a musical instrument.
Music can improve cognitive function of kids and the best time for them to learn is while they are still young.
7. Expose them to nature and science.
Buy them educational games or toys. Encourage them to explore the outdoors by going camping, explore, take down notes and let them ask questions. After that, research for answers together. Let things around them spark their curiosity and interest about how things work.
8. Encourage reading!
Expose children to books as early as possible because there is no better way to keep a brain sharp than by reading. 30 minutes a day is good reading time for children to sharpen their minds and learn new things through books.
9. Let children be creative.
Set up a makeshift studio in your house or a box of art supplies filled with fun creative activities. Foster their creativity by letting their imaginations run free. This way you will also find out if they have a knack for anything art related and then develops that talent.
10. Instill in them a sense of humor by allowing them to laugh often.
Laughing relieves stress and tension. Children can be in a lot of stress at school and at home. Try to have a light disposition so that they may laugh often and develop an outstanding sense of humor as well. This will not only relieve stress and tension for the children but to the parents too.
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Remember, if the brain is healthy the body will follow. That is why it is most important to keep the brain well and the body energized for children to reach their full potential at school, at home and in life as a whole.