For most parents, September brings us to thinking about structured learning and routines again. There are many ways to support our children on their educational journeys, and it has everything to do with how they move, what they eat, and what they avoid.
1. Movement is Power
Humans evolutionarily developed brains because – unlike stationary plants – we began to locomote. Movement is therefore integral to the brain and its development. Steer away from the idea of ‘exercise’ – a single structured hour in which your kids move – towards all-day full-body movement. Try walking them to school to set the bar, hiking, taking nature walks, or swimming at your community pool. Favour walking over wheels (of any kind). These natural movements develop children’s ability to navigate the world.
2. Food & Mood Are Linked
When we counsel children with learning disabilities, mood issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder including ADHD, we always recommend removing the non-foods from the diet that are known nervous-system irritants: food colouring, MSG, preservatives, sulphites, and white sugar. Other top irritants include soy, eggs, gluten, and dairy. A 4 week trial of removing these items often boasts a less moody, more stable child.
3. Outdoor Time
It’s now been proven that trees give off natural chemicals that alter brain functioning for the better, improving learning abilities and long-term memory. A minimum of 1 hour outdoor time per day is the best prescription, regardless of weather. Bundle up, Canucks! Children who spend time outdoors perform better in school and life.
4. Decrease Screen Time
Excess screen time (smart phones, laptops, TVs, etc) dysregulates a child’s melatonin output and circadian rhythm, making it harder to get a good night’s rest and thus consolidate learned information. It also induces excess beta brain waves which keep your kid in the hyperactive state. Set the limit at one hour per day.
5. Avoid Over-Scheduling
While tempting to sign your kids up for numerous activities, recognize the importance of relaxation and unstructured play, which fosters creativity development.
6. A Winning Diet
A diet rich in DHA from fish, protein from meats and seafood, complex carbohydrates from veggies and fruit, and healthy fats like coconut & olive oil, avocado, and organic (ideally grass-fed) butter help fuel a learning child without bogging their system down from anti-nutrients (botanical compounds found in certain plants.) Children function best on a higher-fat, moderate carb, moderate protein diet for their growing bodies and brains. Try this brain-building recipe out:
- 6 skinless salmon fillets
- Pinch of salt & pepper
- 1/4C maple syrup
- 1 tsp each curry + dijon mustard
- 1/2C walnuts
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with olive oil. Combine curry powder, dijon. Chop walnuts coarsely. Pour mixture over filets then sprinkle with walnuts
Bake 14 – 16 min.