Did you know that at birth, your baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons (as many as there are stars in the Milky Way)! During his first years, he will grow trillions of brain-cell connections, called neural synapses. And, amazingly, a toddler’s brain has twice as many neural connections as an adult’s.
First and foremost, brain health replies on good nutrition. Virtually any lack nutrient can result in impaired function. Early studies show that children with an absence of important amounts of essential nutrients have experienced reduced attention span and intellectual ability.
In addition to the highly important factor of nutrition, there are four others areas that are characteristics of successful learners:
- Cognitive and Academic Growth: Having an understanding of your child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, as well as their academic skills, is crucial in order to maximize brain growth and maturation. Kids pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent, brief opportunities for free play, so as they work hard in academic settings and environments, don’t forget they are given opportunities for significant amounts of play.
- Hard Work and Effort: For quite some time our children have grown up in a “sticker” and “trophy” environment in which they are rewarded for just being there. Parents and teachers can play a significant role in fostering a learning environment that creates a growth mindset and a passion for learning rather than more of a hunger for approval. Rather than praising our children for how smart they are or how talented they are, praise them for their growth, hard work, persistence, effort, and improvement. The messages about success should encourage the love of challenges. Kids should be intrigued by mistakes and find pleasure in effort and persistence. Parents and teachers can help their children learn from their failures and mistakes by giving honest and constructive feedback. Mistakes are an occasion for suggestions, strategies, teaching, and learning.
- Executive Functioning Skills: A child’s ability to use executive function is a strong indicator of success in both school and life. Parents can help their children learn to plan, initiate, persist and evaluate. Developing executive function skills are a critical factor in being successful and in achieving continual brain maturity. Children need to be taught strategies that help develop their organizational skills, time management and study strategies. Some children may need a more structured approach to learning executive functioning skills.
- Exercise and Brain Growth: The brain profits significantly from physical exercise. Research indicates that physical exercise is as important, if not more important, than exercising cognitive skills. It increases the productivity of neuro-chemicals that promote brain growth and it helps improve memory, lengthens attention span, boasts decision making skills, and prompts the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels. Tablets, Smart phones, video games, computer games, YouTube, Netflix, social media, television and computers all compete with your child being active and exercising. Many parents are finding that limiting or having their children earn “electronic time” is helpful.While it’s important to keep tabs on the above factors, simple things like: having meaningful conversations, building trust by being attentive and focused when your child is communicating with you, and making meals and rest times a positive experience, are all additional ways to maximize your child’s brain health.A child’s brain is always ripe for learning, and parents and teachers have such a critical role and opportunity to help their children’s brain grow, mature, and reach its optimal opportunity for success.