If you want to build a strong, healthy brain, the most important things to consider are; balanced nutrition, with whole foods, real foods. And plenty of physical activity and rest.
One of the very most important things you can do to support your child’s healthy brain development is giving them well-balanced whole foods everyday. This includes a balance of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates with every meal. The protein helps with sustenance throughout the day. The complex carbohydrates give quick energy to the brain and muscles. And healthy fats feed the brain along with other vital jobs.
Omega-3 oil is essential to healthy brain function. The brain is made up of 60-70% fat, and the fat of choice to feed the brain are Omega-3 fats. If the brain is not fed enough of these crucial fats, it will scavenge the body and have to compromise with inferior quality fats that can compromise healthy development.
Almost half the fat from which the brain is built is made up of one of the Omega-3s – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). (DHA), appear to play a crucial role in brain development by supporting the growth of neurons and their connections to one another.9
Between birth and five years of age, the human brain increases approximately 3.5 times in mass. During this time it is very important that children consume adequate amounts of DHA from Omega-3 in their diet to support this period of rapid brain and eye growth and development.8 Examples include: salmon and other cold water fish, chia and flax, and other healthy fats include: butter, ghee, coconut oil, avocado and nuts and seeds.
As important as nutrition is, it is even better when supported sufficiently with physical exercise. One of the best things you can do is to take your child to the playground and give them plenty of outdoor playtime. This helps build the conduits in the brain, strengthening the communication between the two hemispheres through physical exercise, climbing, swinging and balancing.
Brain Development Research shows that the most crucial time for a child’s development is in the earliest years (0-5 years).2 The act of play by a child stimulates brain development and function.3 and has a key role in building the foundation, organisation, and capabilities of the brain.4 It is very important for children to have many regular opportunities for a variety of gross motor activities.5 Children that do not get crucial interaction in their first six years will face a lifetime of limited brain power.6 Playing promotes physical success by allowing the child to explore, test, and expand the limits of the growing body. And playing promotes social, intellectual, and oral skills by allowing the child to interact with their peers and environment.1
Having said that, how does play directly correlate to brain development? The stages of development of the brain mirror the stages of play in early childhood. Play speeds the development of corresponding portions of the brain with patterned activities, and each stage of play promotes the growth of that portion of the brain and lays the neural connections and speeds the cerebellar synapses.7
To help see what is meant by laying “neural connections” and speeding “cerebellar synapses” in regard to play; imagine the connections of the brain are an overgrown, difficult-to-walk path. The more a child plays (using sensory impressions and motor-activities) the more the child, in their brain, walks that path. The more the path is walked by engaging in free play, the more defined the path becomes. Soon the path becomes a dirt road, then a street, and finally a highway. Through constant use, by repetitive play activities, going from A to B in the brain becomes very rapid—an easily negotiated highway.1 Alternatively, the child who does not stimulate those neural connections and cerebellar synapses, who, in contrast, sits on the couch watching TV all day, still has those connections but they remain only a narrow path and not a super highway.
Playing promotes brain development and helps lay the neural grid for a successful mind through repetitive play actions that reinforce that grid. And the best foundational support for this nutritionally is a whole food diet with lots of variety and abundance in healthy fats, protein, vegetables, fruit and grains.
All of our posts reflect our philosophy at A Healthy View www.ahealthyview.com A whole real food perspective on food and life. Extremes do not work but clean, whole, tasty and easy food choices can create a lifetime of good habits that lead to a lean, happy, and healthy person. Contact us on our website for our next Low Sugar Lifestyle program or a nutritional consult. Article by Simone Kopkas
1 Prepared for the Shasta Children and Families First Commission by Duerr Evaluation Resources
2 Palmer, L. Developmental Brain Stimulation in School and Day Care Settings. Winona State University. 3 Rivkin, M. Outdoor Experiences for Young Children. ERIC Digest. December 2000.
4 Perry, B., Hogan, L., Marlin, S. Curiosity, Pleasure and Play: A Neurodevelopmental Perspective. Haaeyc Advocate. June 2000.
5 Thomson, D. Matching Children and Play Equipment: A Developmental Approach. Early Childhood News. March/April 1999.
6 Galetta, J. Building Better Brains: With New Research Showing That Simulation Spurs Brain Growth. Chattanooga Times-Free Press. 3/31/2000.
7 Perry, B.