Whether your little one is toddling around in your home or spending days in elementary school, you likely wonder how you can promote good brain health and development. These brain boosters can help!
It’s only natural. From the moment a child is born—or even before that—parents worry about whether they’re doing everything they can to keep him or her on track developmentally.
It’s a common worry, but fortunately, there are many steps you can take as a parent to stimulate your child’s learning and development. These “brain boosters” can help set your child up for success.
Read on for a handful of tips on how to nurture your child’s brain health from the very beginning.
Brain Boosters: Read With—and to—Your Child
This is probably a tip you’ve heard before, but it’s a really important one. It’s a known fact that reading early in a child’s life offers many positive benefits.
It is possible for people of all ages to boost their brain power by engaging the mind in new and different ways. Because children are in a substantial period of development, it’s especially important to help them exercise their brains from a young age.
Reading is one of the best ways to do that—whether you’re reading aloud when your child is tiny or reading with your child when he or she is older.
“Obviously as your child gets older, having him or her read to you helps polish reading skills and promotes learning,” says Steve Melton, MD, pediatrician with West Tennessee Healthcare. “But reading to your child at a young age is also beneficial, since it exposes your child to new words, images, and colors. This works within the brain to promote cognitive development and knowledge acquisition.”
Brain Boosters: Play Games
Yes, you read that right! Board games and other similar activities offer more than just “play.” They can also help stimulate your child’s brain, keeping it active and engaged while doing something enjoyable.
This is especially true when introducing your kids to new games and puzzles. Any activity that’s new involves different challenges and keeps the brain stimulated in innovative ways.
Beyond simply challenging the mind, games can also teach kids valuable lessons like how to follow directions and allow them to use their memory.
Brain Boosters: Serve Up Brain-Boosting Foods
What you fill your child’s plate with also makes a big difference when it comes to brain health. There are many foods that are known brain boosters, packed with antioxidants and nutrients proven to promote learning and development.
Serve up foods with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids (which are essential for brain growth and function), lutein and choline (which help with memory), and vitamin E (which is linked to memory and language development), along with whole grains (which help moderate energy levels) and colorful fruits and veggies (which contain antioxidants).
“What you feed your child can have a big impact on brain health and learning and development,” says Finley Leslie, nurse practitioner with West Tennessee Healthcare. “Focus on healthy eating basics from a young age—fuel your child with fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.”
Brain Boosters: Cook Up a Meal Together
The effect of this brain booster is similar to that of playing games. No matter what our age, anytime we prepare a new recipe, different parts of the brain are engaged and challenged. The mind is often pulled in multiple directions while cooking, as you measure, read, follow directions, and even manage time.
Working together as a family to prepare a meal can help challenge the mind, promote teamwork, and teach kids how to effectively follow directions.
It also has an added bonus! Involving your kids in preparing meals makes them more likely to try new foods and eat a healthy diet—like one packed with the brain boosters we outlined above.
Brain Boosters: Encourage Physical Activity
The earlier brain boosters focused on exercising the mind, but it’s also important for kids to exercise the body. That’s because being physically active promotes good brain health, too.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Much of that can be accomplished through active play, whether indoors or out. It doesn’t matter what type of activity is chosen—it’s simply important to encourage your child to get moving!
One of the best ways to do that is to be active as a family. Take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner, have a dance party in the living room, or even build an obstacle course in your house.
Team sports are also known brain boosters, since they teach kids plenty of life skills while also keeping their bodies physically active.
Wondering whether your child is on track development-wise? Development checks are one part of regular checkups for kids. Need to find a pediatrician or family doctor? Find one here.