Feb 28, 2019

Helping Children Keep Their Brains Healthy

Tips from the GWAEA Brain Injury Resource Team

Children playing outside

As a parent, you are always trying to keep your child healthy, happy and fit. This should include keeping your child’s brain healthy and strong. A child’s brain grows at an astounding rate! Here are our top 10 tips to give your child’s brain everything it needs to thrive.

1. Encourage reading. One of the best ways to keep your child’s brain sharp and increase new learning is by reading to them. Go to the library with your child and help them pick out books of interest. Increase exposure to all kinds of reading materials such as picture books, magazines, and chapter books.

2. Maintain a healthy diet. A growing brain needs high quality food. Encourage your child to eat a diet high in protein with proper intake of fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Avoid sugary and processed foods. Foods high in omega 3 oils, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties are especially beneficial to a healthy brain including salmon, blueberries, and green leafy vegetables.

3. Get a good night’s sleep. Your child should receive 10-12 hours of uninterrupted slumber. This amount of sleep is ideal to increase a child’s ability to learn and remember.

4. Encourage physical activity. Physical activity stimulates mental activity and is one of the most important ways of growing and maintaining the brain. It also improves behavior leading to better focus, self-control and mood. Go outside with your child and play. Find a new trail and go for a walk. Go on a bike ride, play in the park, or participate in a sport. Help your child discover a special interest in an activity such as karate, skating, or swimming.

5. Explore nature. Even 5 minutes of activity outdoors enjoying nature leads to elevated mood and self-esteem in adults and children.

6. Limit your child’s electronic time. Children today are spending a great deal of time using electronics including video games, iPads, laptops and smartphones. These are getting in the way of activities that stimulate their brains and increase language learning, attention, and cognitive skills. Set a firm time limit and stick to it. Remember to model limited screen time. You should unplug too!

7. Increase quality family time. Talk with your child about their day by asking questions about classes, teachers and friends. Encourage them to retell stories and events. Play memory games like concentration, put puzzles together, and build with blocks. Doing arts and crafts, designing a scavenger hunt or obstacle course, or encouraging pretend play increases a child’s imagination and creativity.

8. Give the gift of boredom. Your child’s ability to daydream and entertain herself improves brain development.

9. Handle your own stress. Stress can be contagious. Increased stress hormones and anxiety negatively impact brain health.

10. Protect the brain. When your child is participating in activities such as riding a bike, skateboarding or skiing, remember to have them wear a helmet! If your child is participating in sports such as football or soccer, take the necessary precautions to avoid a concussion.

If you have concerns about your child’s cognitive development, attention span, or language skills, speak with your healthcare provider. Your school district staff also can connect you with Grant Wood AEA for additional assistance.

The Grant Wood Area Education Agency Brain Injury Resource Team (BIRT) was created to meet the needs of students with brain trauma. The BIRT team collaborates with school district staff to provide consultation for students who have sustained a recent brain injury (such as an accident or a concussion) or trauma to the brain in the past (seizure disorder, syndromes, etc.). This collaboration aids in ensuring the student’s educational access and growth. The BIRT team can also support families and LEA staff in locating resources to better understand their student’s challenges. Learn more at gwaea.org/BIRT.

Category: The Carpool Lane