Last night I had the pleasure of attending an expert chat on MetroImma’s facebook page. Deborah McNelis is the owner and creator of braininsights. Deborah has created several activity packets to help busy parents encourage the optimal development of their young children’s brains.
Deborah addressed several issues during the chat.
She spoke of the importance of nutrition. She suggested a few “brain foods” like salmon, sweet potatoes, fish oil, and avocados. Yay! I have selling this one to my kids for years. My older kids were “listening in” to the chat with me and did the obligatory teenage eye-roll when these foods were mentioned. I know they were proud and happy inside, though:)
Last year, my eldest daughter and her class wrote government exams. My daughter went on a “stress-free exams” campaign. She created a bulletin board within the classroom where she posted exam tips. One of them listed some brain-rich foods, including salmon and avocado, 2 of her favourites. Some of her classmates were shocked – they had no idea that certain foods would help their growing brains! Click here for to go to one of Deborah’s blog posts on nutrition.
Another essential ingredient for learning is a good breakfast, says Deborah. It must include protein, rather than simple carbs. My middle son, in grade 1, leaves for school at 7:30 am and does not have time for a full sit down breakfast. This has bothered me all year but I recently found an excellent solution in greek yogurt. My son loves yogurt so it is a perfect breakfast for him. He gets double the protein (12g) of regular yogurt, no fat and all those good probiotics! It goes down quickly and smoothly and keeps him even and focussed through the morning. I know this because I also have this delicious treat for breakfast;). Another of Deborah’s posts on the importance of healthy fats for developing brains.
Deborah emphasized fresh air and outdoor exploration and movement for kids as well. She said that the green space interaction was especially helpful. For those living in densely populated cities, she suggested that even looking at greenery out the window of a car or bus is beneficial.
Another element Deborah raised was pretend play. Allowing children unstructured imaginary play time helps them develop their imaginations while learning to self-regulate.
Deborah further stresses that interactions with real people and real objects, as opposed to TV and DVDs, are key in learning language. See Deborah’s blog for more information. Children need lots of face-to-face conversations and hands-on experiences. They need to explore using all five of their senses for optimal growth and development.
One simple activity Deborah shared with us: “To address specific activities…. one great and easy one is… while you are cooking or doing the dishes… provide plastic containers and lids for your child to play with. There is so much learning that can take place with something simple like this. They can stack, they can sort, match the lids, put them inside each other, knock a stack down, there are a lot of brain connections being made through something this simple!” (taken from the expert chat with Deborah McNelis on MetroImma’s facebook page).
Here is a little tease for the upcoming issue of WOTT. Our next issue will highlight women living their passions. Deborah is a perfect example of such a woman. She is clearly passionate about what she does!