As parents, it is completely natural to want our kids to be mini geniuses as soon as they learn to walk, but of course that requires some nurturing. Thankfully, considerable research has been done on the topic, and there are many ways parents can encourage brain-boosting at home. With that in mind, here are 5 pretty cool brain-boosting tips and exercises for kids!
1. Taste the Rainbow
We hear it so often, “you are what you eat”. In this context, what you eat (and don’t eat!) can be a strong indicator of how it affects your brain power. This is particularly true for the young ones, who are still in the developmental stages of growing, and require as much nutrition as they can get. Training your kids to eat well is perhaps the best thing you can do for them, starting with a hearty breakfast, consisting of eggs, blueberries, and yoghurt – rich with protein, antioxidants and calcium respectively.
Feeding them with complex carbs is also a great idea to keep energy levels up, as opposed to sugary meals, which can cause tiredness. Fruits and veggies of course must not be forgotten, and feeding your kids with a rainbow of naturally colourful food is another way to know you’re on the right track. From the darkest green leafy spinach, to robust red apples, you cannot go wrong.
Water is another great brain-booster, as staying hydrated also supposedly boosts brain power significantly and improves memory in children. Dehydration is extremely problematic and can even cause the brain to become sluggish, so plenty of water intake throughout the day is imperative. Lack of water can also lead to something called “false hunger”, where one presumes one is hungry, but this is actually thirst. False hunger can lead to bad food choices.
Having your kids take one large glass of water upon waking up daily is the first step to good hydration habits. Infusing water with lemon, orange or strawberries can enhance the taste while providing added benefits. Way better than a calorie filled sugary soda drink, don’t you think?
2. Mind Games
We’ve mentioned the importance of game-play several times in our previous blogs, and it’s a subject we feel very strongly about. Games are simply a fun and effective way of building cognitive development in kids. Traditional games like chess, or even UNO teach a lot of important values like patience and cooperation, for one. These games are perfect for getting the whole family involved, making it a great bonding activity as well.
Conversely, we must not ignore screen time, and the games that come with the territory. Online games and apps are a great and positive way to introduce kids to the web, in a safe environment. Try our very own Zap Zap Math to build math skills, we’ve designed it to be fun and engaging, yet in compliance with Common Core State Standards – a win-win situation for parents, teachers, and kids! We’ve seen that repetitive practice can be very helpful in getting kids to learn concepts, which is something that is incorporated in the game. Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTs) can be encouraged since children have to do more than just solve equations but think critically and analyze math problems. Lessons are also divided into four skill areas which will teach kids the importance of Training, Accuracy, Speed and Mission.
3. Act Up
If your kid thinks he is a superhero, let him be. Honing imaginative skills in the games they play should never be discouraged, because it allows them to build their creativity. Additionally, it gives them a sense of awareness and sensitivity towards situations “they might not actually be able to experience in real life”. Language skills can also be built, because they are required to understand words and meanings.
Dramatic play or pretend play, as it is sometimes called, requires kids to memorize lines/sequences and think on their feet to improvise if needed, which all requires significant brain power. So if you see your child showing an inclination towards the performing arts, encourage this passion, as it may prove beneficial in more ways than one. Pretend play is integral to cognitive development, building emotional intelligence as much as other skills, like problem solving.
Parents can encourage pretend play in the house by using DIY methods that are relatively affordable. Recycle old clothes or items around the house to create new costumes, old books as props and even their toys! A trip to the craft store will inspire more ideas to flow – for both parent and child. The world is your stage, just enjoy every minute of it!
4. Bookworms Unite
Reading is a fantastic and relatively simple way to boost brain power, as it improves literacy, for one. Research has also shown that brain activity is significantly stronger in pre-schoolers whose parents read to them at home, particularly in terms of matching words to meanings and having a greater understanding of visual imagery.
Furthermore, reading can also help a child understand the importance of discourse at a young age – provided parents allow for discussion and healthy debates on the stories read. Reading also helps in another way, and that is in building language skills. According to research, kids “raised in high-language households” have higher IQ scores compared to those raised in low-language homes.
Another plus point is that reading creates a positive atmosphere for learning, and bonding with family. When children associate reading with being able to learn new things in a fun way, with their parent’s guidance, it will not be seen as a chore or something stressful. It is important to set these foundations as early as possible.
5. Colour Them Clever
Art encourages a sense of self and individuality that will serve a child well through adolescence and adulthood. Getting your kids involved in artistic pursuits like painting, and colouring all seem like natural childhood activities, but in fact the benefits are plenty. For one thing, art usually utilizes one or more of the five senses – sound, touch, smell, taste and sight. This is related to motor skills, something they will develop in the course of doing art, because they will need to handle a brush, or use scissors.
More than that, art can also help with a child’s visual learning. Living in an era where visual information is so prevalent thanks to technology, it is only natural that kids these days will be exposed to images at an early stage in life. As Dr. Kerry Freedman feels that an art education is valuable because it teaches kids to “interpret, criticize and use visual information” and will help them as they become consumers later on.
It has also proven beneficial for academic prowess, as the skills taught in art tend to flow through into their learning. Reports show that young people who are regularly delving into the arts are “four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement”, and participate in school-wide competitions. Most of all, it’s a fun activity that children will enjoy, meaning it won’t take a lot to get them to love art.
As you can tell, there are many cool ways to help improve and build a child’s brain power. One thing that’s constant throughout all these tips though, is that parents need to be heavily involved in all aspects of a child’s cognitive development. This isn’t something you’d just leave to teachers to handle. We hope this post has inspired you to try some new activities at home with your young ones.
Do you have any other cool tips and tricks to share, on how you get your kids thinking actively and creatively? Share these with us in the comments!