Back-to-school time is often a mixture of sadness and relief for parents. Sad because your child is one year older, possibly starting a new phase (like kindergarten or middle school), and happy because your kids are now off to school every morning!
Everyone wants their kids to be able to do their best in school, but today’s schools often have lunchrooms filled with poor food choices, vending machines full of high-sugar sodas, and too little physical education time or sports activities. To give your children their best shot, let’s focus on what you can do to help your children’s brains and learning ability:
- Sleep: It all starts with sleep. Children’s brains (and ours too!) are much better at mental functioning, attention, computation, and memory when they get enough sleep. Their moods are better and they behave better when they sleep enough. Recent studies have supported this by showing that kids’ brains do much better with the structure of a consistent bed time.
- Breakfast: After a good night’s sleep, it’s time for a good breakfast, too. Starting kids’ days off with a good protein source, fresh fruits, or even vegetables is key to giving their brains the energy they need. Try yogurt with granola, breakfast burritos with shredded carrots, or protein-packed shakes with frozen blueberries for extra brain power.
- Healthy food options: Once you get them out the door with a good breakfast, don’t stop there. Packing your child’s lunch is generally healthier than relying on school lunches. At home, put a fruit bowl out so they walk by it often. Keep soda out of the house. Keep processed foods to a minimum; certain food additives have been associated with hyperactivity.
- Good nutrition: To make sure your kids are getting enough nutrients, consider a daily multivitamin. The omega-3 fish oils (especially DHA) are important for brain development and a must for growing kids.
- Less screen time: Television, computers, tablets, and phones all have our kids sitting and staring at one screen or another. In fact, a recent report suggests that kids average eight hours of screen time a day. Try limiting screen time on school nights and turning off all electronics an hour before bed—this will greatly help calm their minds which will help them get to sleep faster.
- Get moving: Since schools are cutting back on physical education, parents have to take the time to make sure their kids spend at least some of the day doing something active. Exercise is great for kids’ brains; it helps them sleep better, have more confidence and better thinking skills, and improves their moods. When kids are having a tough time with their homework, send them outside to run around in the backyard for 15-20 minutes; it does wonders.
Our children’s brains need to be gently nurtured in order to perform their best. Taking simple steps can really pay off.