beginning of the school year is an exiting time. A time to get back
into a routine, see friends missed over the summer, and look forward
to cooler weather and a fresh start. But once the newness has worn-off,
how do we keep the positive attitude and productive energy going?
People function best
when they feel good physically, are well rested, and have calm,
focused energy. They learn and work better when they are organized
and can think and remember easily. Of course, everyone would agree
with this, but in our high pressure, fast-lane society, it's hard
to imagine how it might be achievable.
Here are seven everyday
life ideas that can impact how we feel, function, and learn.
#1 Drink Water!
Did you know that the brain is thought to be 85% water? The brain
works by transmitting electro-chemical signals that control our
thoughts, movements, and everything we feel or do. Since water conducts
electricity, good hydration (plenty of water) supports faster transmission,
which, in turn, supports faster thinking and learning. When we dehydrate
our brain with soda and coffee, we make our thinking slower and
Teachers should encourage
students to have water bottles at all times. And parents, get your
kids in the water habit!
#2 Include Protein
in Breakfast and Snacks Nutrition has an important influence
on learning, attitude, motivation, and productivity. The high sugar
content of many of today's breakfast choices results in fluctuating
blood sugar. This can cause high energy followed by low energy and
sleepiness, making it difficult to focus, learn, organize, and think.
Not a good recipe for a productive morning in the classroom or at
White sugar and white
flour are real culprits, so avoid them as much as possible. Parents,
help teachers out by supplying children with a breakfast that includes
some complex carbohydrates and some protein. (How about a protein
shake, a breakfast burrito, or a slice of whole grain bread with
peanut butter)? For snacks, think about sending a handful of nuts
or a slice of cheese.
Teens are tough because
they often don't like to eat in the morning, but as parents and
teachers, we at least need to educate them about brain healthy choices.
for teachers: Educate your students about how eating right
can improve their grades. (You may want to educate your school lunch
committee as well!)
#3 Add Movement
to Your Day I had a parent of a four year old ask me what
she should do to get her child ready for kindergarten. I told her
to take him to the park and let him run and climb and swing. She
was disappointed in my answer as she really had in mind getting
him started on reading and math.
The body and brain need
movement to function properly. Movement is a must
for establishing a sense of self as a reference point and spatial
orientation. Listening skills, visual skills, motor skills, coordination,
and an understanding about the environment are all impacted by movement.
We all need exercise
(adults included, and not just for the purpose of losing weight)!
Movement and exercise provide energy and integration to focus, work,
and learn more productively.
of homework interspersed with short play breaks that involve movement
(not video/computer games!) are often much more productive than
marathon homework sessions.
A few minutes of movement
exercises in the classroom at transition times or during long periods
can re-energize for better listening, attention, and learning.
#4 Boost the
Omega-3s Researchers are reporting that dietary supplements
with Omega-3 fatty acids appear to markedly improve attention, concentration,
reading, spelling, and behavior, and reduce impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
These “good fats” are found in fish and plants.
Richardson of the University of Oxford says, “…omega-3 fatty acids
found in fish and seafood…are absolutely essential for brain development
and function, but are often relatively lacking from modern diets
in developed countries.”
You can boost your intake
of omega 3s by taking fish oil capsules as a daily supplement. Nordic
Naturals (nordicnaturals.com) is a well-respected, research-based
company that has fish oil supplements for children, teens, and adults.
#5 Help Your
Kids Get (and stay) Organized Some people love structure
and routine; some thrive in organized chaos, but regardless of personal
style, people need some kind of intentional organization
to manage the demands and paperwork of school and work. The sooner
students learn to manage their time and their “stuff” the better,
but it's never too late.
Here's a place
Have your child or teen purchase some kind of folder or notebook.
Depending upon the specifications of classes and the student's preferences
this could be one folder for each subject or one large all inclusive
There should be a tab
or pocket designated for papers to be done and one for completed
work to turn-in. Every student should use an assignment sheet or
planner that shows both daily assignments and a calendar for long
term or on-going assignments.
Just purchasing organizing materials does not automatically ensure
organization or use. It's a good first step, but students need to
be taught how to use their materials and strategies and
need to be monitored daily, then weekly until using them effectively
becomes a habit.
Organization and study
habits don't just happen for many students. Teachers who
incorporate instruction and practice with note taking, memorizing,
test study, and organizational skills into their curriculum are
making a great investment in their students' success for that year
and years to come.
systematically brainstorm, plan, and monitor organizational skills
with their children give their children a gift that is well worth
the time it takes.
#6 Up with Down
Time! Children and adults today find themselves bombarded
with noise, visual stimulus (TV, computers, electronic
games), information, and commitments on a continual basis. Even
weekends are often filled to the brim. This creates a constant stressor
on our systems affecting our listening, attention, mood, ability
to problem solve and follow through, and just functioning in general.
Those with hearty systems may handle this with just a bit of tiredness
or irritability, but for others, this constant overload may result
in shutdown, meltdown, inflexibility, or a really bad mood!
When my son was little,
I would pick him up from school along with his older sister and
two other girls. The girls would get in the car chattering (or squabbling),
and my son would cover his ears and yell at everyone to be quiet.
Since this happened day after day, we began to realize that he was
so overloaded from trying so hard at school all day that he just
needed some quiet and down time before he could face the rest of
the day. Hence the beginning of the “silent game” on our short ride
Providing quiet time
for children allows them to rest and restore the body and mind.
It allows for creativity, daydreaming, and getting to know themselves.
Energy, motivation, productivity, and attention are outcomes of
taking the time for down time.
Here are some suggestions
from an article titled The Importance of Kids' Downtime
by Dr. Laura Bradway for getting more down time in your child's
- Make a stand. Cut
back on at least one weekly commitment even if your child objects
- Refuse to schedule
anything that conflicts with the family dinner hour. This should
be a sacred time for sharing and support.
- Limit extracurricular
activities to one or two during the school year (depending on
your child's age) and let your child choose the activities.
- After school, allow
your child some down time for talking on the phone with friends,
having a snack, or listening to music, before homework is begun.
- Skip the activity—a
soccer game, piano lesson, etc.—when your child comes home from
school tired or has a test to study for.
- · Every once
in a while, leave a weekend day free with absolutely nothing scheduled.
- Turn off the television
set and get out in nature together. Take an unhurried bike ride
or hike in the woods.
Before a family vacation,
allow your child plenty of time beforehand to plan and dream about
it, and some time off following to reflect and remember
Dr. Lauren Bradway
is the author of How to Maximize Your Child's Learning Ability .
She consults online with parents regarding their child's learning
style at www.helpingchildrengrow.com.
It's time to get our
children off the fast track to burnout.
Even adult brains need
down time to function optimally. Thomas Leonard, a long time success
coach, encourages people to be incredibly selfish and take a little
time each day for themselves.
Daniel Amen, and Dr. Gary Small M.D. both suggest that adults take
10 minutes a day for meditation or mental relaxation exercises in
order to support and balance brain function. (This is a minimum.
In this case, more is better)!
# 7 Sleep !
We tend to be a sleep deprived society and often fail to connect
challenges with memory, clear thinking, problem solving, and concentration
with lack of sleep. Researchers and sleep specialists indicate that
most school-aged kids need 10 -11 hours of sleep a night.
If your child is having
behavior and attention problems at school, not enough sleep may
be the culprit. Sleep specialist and author of “Sleep Thieves”,
Stanley Coren, suggests that parents have their children go to bed
an hour or so earlier for a week and see if their school performance
changes. This is an easy way to see if sleep is part of the problem.
References / Sources
for more Information :
• Brain in the
News, Amen clinic Newsletter: www.amenclinic.com
• The Better
Brain Book by David Perlmutter, M.D.
• If Kids Just
Came With Instruction sheets by Svea Gold
• Smart Moves
by Carla Hannaford