Today’s blog is about moving the brain into top gear for learning. As most people know, exercise and sensible eating are both necessary for optimal brain functioning. Today I am giving you some tweaked ideas that will prepare your child’s brain for learning even further. If these few simple ideas are put into practice, the mental activities in the classroom will be managed easily. Move the brain into gear with eating breakfast, using small brain breaks and eating unprocessed carbohydrates. Teaching kids to read write and spell needs focused concentration, therefore, it makes sense to implement strategies that will make learning a lot easier for both the student and the teacher. The answer to the question, “Does Your Brain Learn?” is answered in the affirmative. However, basic steps have to be put in place to make certain that the brain is learning optimally.
Research has found that children have lower concentration and recall by the middle of the morning if they skip breakfast. If kids find it hard to eat breakfast, try something light, like a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. Both of these foods are brain-boosters in their own right. Avoid biscuits, pastries, cakes and soft drinks because these items cause sluggish behavior and an inability to focus.
Teaching kids to read write and spell requires mental energy. In order to work at an optimal level the brain requires consistent breaks to allow it to rest. The rest will settle the brain before moving on with the lesson. Following this period of quiet, the brain will function more effectively because it has had time to reorganize.
Eat Unprocessed or Complex Carbohydrates
In order to function effectively and being able to learn reading, writing and spelling, the brain needs a steady supply of unprocessed or “complex’ carbohydrates: whole grains, brown rice, potatoes-especially sweet potatoes, corn, whole meal bread, whole meal pasta, chickpeas, fruit and vegetables. Glucose, being the power food of the brain, is the final breakdown product of all the foods just mentioned. The parts of the brain which are responsible for decision-making, planning and emotional control, use significant amounts of glucose every time they kick into gear. Carbohydrates also increase serotonin levels in the brain, these increases make children feel good. Children eating more carbohydrates are much happier and perform better in mental activities.
Salicylates – natural additives
We all know something about the ‘unnatural’ additives, such as food colourings and preservatives, that cause problems. Salicylates are a chemical group that is a major cause of intolerance-related behavioural issues. These chemicals occur naturally in just about all plant foods, with the notable exception of pear flesh, and the group also includes preservatives, such as sodium benzoate, which was tested in a Southampton study.
Loblay says sensitivity to salicylates is not technically an allergy but is described as an intolerance. Some people are more intolerant than others, and as with food additives, there are a range of different reactions from headaches and hives to full-blown ADHD-like symptoms.
“In boys it tends to be the ADHD behaviours, so they’re impulsive, fidgety, they can’t sit still, they jump all over the place, they’re volatile in their moods, hard to reason with,” says Loblay.
“In girls for example, there’s less of hyperactive behaviour and [they’re] more withdrawn and grumpy – not so much depressed but they’ll just sit in corner, they don’t want to play, don’t want to do anything, they feel unwell, they don’t communicate very well.”
What’s interesting is the transformation that happens when the trigger chemicals are removed from these children’s diets.
“They’re completely different children when they’re well,” Loblay says. “The parents will often say that they’re like Jekyll and Hyde.”
Children perform better in class if their brains are receiving the food and rest that they require. Research tells us that breakfast is a MUST. Short brain rests and unprocessed carbohydrate intake will keep the brain functioning at a top level in order to attend and learn successfully. Brain function is being researched in the light of supporting educational outcomes and as teachers and parents we need to take notice so that our students are on the starting block with a greater advantage. Teaching kids to read, write and spell requires a concentrated effort, therefore these few changes in a child’s day will prepare them for success.