Children and the Brain: Think NUTRITION!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What is good for the body... is good for the brain!

Often when we hear the term "healthy" we generally think in terms of our body. However, realizing the positive impact healthy habits have on our brains and the dramatic effect they have on children can make an remarkable difference.

When I am presenting on the effects nutrition has on a child's brain, learning and behavior, I commonly find that people are amazed with this knowledge. This is the reason for my post today. I am sharing this wonderful article written by Lauren Zimet which was previously published in Common Ground Magazine, Nov 2011.
I have had the pleasure of co-presenting with Lauren. She is a dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate professional. 
Enjoy the valuable tips she provides for the benefit of healthier brains for everyone!

Nourishing Tips to Nurture New Neurons

The brain. We all have one. Yet sometimes it gets neglected. Our brain needs certain things to stay healthy, and when it doesn’t get what it needs, it doesn’t work its best. In fact, sometimes it gets the opposite of what it needs—stuff it doesn’t know what to do with, such as artificial dyes, preservatives, GMOs, the list goes on. When this happens, both our brain and body can have a sensitive reaction that can look different from one person to the next, but that can result in a brain not performing to its highest standard.

We are born with 100 billion brain cells, and the brain continues to develop after a baby is born. New connections between neurons—the cells in the brain—form quickly from birth to 3 years of age and older, and continue to form
throughout our lives, based on our experiences.This means that we need to
nourish our brain. We need to give it both the experiences and the nutrients it needs to develop.

It helps children to know that with each healthy food they eat, and with each new experience they have, they are making a new connection in their brain.
This is powerful stuff . Imagine a child, face filled with pride, after making a new neural connection by simply taking a nibble of kale.

The following seven tips offer
simple ways you can guide your
children in making mindful, brain-healthy
choices as they play, learn, work, and grow.

1. Eat a rainbow. Eat a colorful array of organic
fruits and vegetables every day. Be sure
to wash the produce to loosen and rinse away
any dirt and toxins. Kids can do the washing—
they benefit from being part of a team, by having
their own chores within the family.

2. Don’t eat fake stuff. The body really likes
food. Real food, such as whole grains, protein,
lots of colorful vegetables and fruit, and
healthy fats. Limit or eliminate artificial dyes,
colors, and flavors; processed foods; fast foods;
junk foods; hydrogenated fats; sodas; and refined sugars.

3. Keep your brain lubed. Your brain needs
omega-3s, also known as essential fatty acids
(EFAs), for proper growth, particularly                                      
for neural development
and maturation of sensory systems.
EFAs speed neural signals
along, making for smoother,
easier, more efficient communication
across synapses. EFAs are
necessary for proper immune
function, cognitive development,
and for skin function and
maintenance. A deficit in EFAs
has been linked to ADHD, dyslexia,
and other behavioral and
psychological disorders. Your
body can’t make EFAs, so you
need to consume them. They are
found in nuts, seeds, olives, seaweed,
and fish. It’s always best to
eat foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and
other essential nutrients, but if you are unsure
that your child is getting a well-balanced diet,
a purified, molecularly distilled fish oil supplement
is a great EFA source. My trusted brand
of choice is Nordic Naturals.

4. Stay awash in oxygen and water. Drink
H2O to hydrate—check with your health care                    
practitioner for how much, but a quick rule is
to divide your body weight by two to get the
approximate number of ounces to drink per
day. Also, take slow, deep breaths to reset and
calm the sensory and neurological system.
Deep breathing helps children self-regulate
and improves immunity, nervous system functioning,
and emotional regulation. A recent
study published in the International Journal of
Nursing Studies reports that deep breathing is
effective for reducing anxiety in children with

5. Learn to move and to chill. The brain
loves exercise, and exercise boosts brain power.             
But you also need to teach your child how
to relax—for example, by getting out into nature,
reading an entertaining book, or playing
a board game. Long-term stress can be toxic,
and a stressed brain doesn’t learn the same way
as an unstressed brain. Emotional stress has an
impact on a child’s ability to learn. Sustained
stress can damage a developing brain’s architecture,
which can lead to problems in learning,
behavior, and physical and mental health.

6. Rewire your thinking. Create “Band-Aid
thoughts” as a tool to acknowledge and work
through bad, sad, mad, frustrated, and negative thoughts.
Demonstrating positive self-talk in front of your children—
for example, reflecting on how you expertly handled a 
difficult or challenging situation—lays a blueprint for how
they may handle their own problems. Negative
thoughts or mistakes can be opportunities to
learn and grow from.

7. Name that feeling. Teaching your child
to label emotions and recognize feelings helps
connect the nonverbal and verbal pathways in
the brain. Strengthening these pathways can
improve a child’s ability to take on another’s
perspective. This is especially useful for children
with learning challenges, who need more
support developing flexible thinking.

Lauren Zimet, MS, CCC/SLP, is the founder of
Healthy Foundations, an education program
that facilitates brain health, nutrition education,
and social thinking for children of all ages

ipadding Toddlers: When Is It Too Soon?

Friday, November 25, 2011

What do YOU think about babies using ipads and smartphones? 

An increasing amount of discussion is occurring on the topic. Varied opinions and viewpoints are shared in this terrific article from Newsday written by Beth Whitehouse.  

I had the pleasure of being interviewed for this article to share my opinion. Of course I expressed that it is best for young brains in the process of making valuable brain connections, to interact with real objects instead of being handed an electronic device. Since it is primarily experience that impacts the connections that physically grow and develop the brain, my strong recommendation is that children interact with the real world.  As the,

    "Although a varied array of experiences clearly stimulates learning in the preschool years, promotional statements about the superior brain building impacts of expensive "educational" toys and videos for infants and toddlers have no scientific support."

After reading the article, I would very much enjoy hearing your thoughts on the topic. 

Making A Differnce Through Giving for Children!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making A Difference For Children!

Giving to others is good for your brain. Research demonstrates, that when donating, the reward center is activated in the brain .....of the giver!

The hormone, oxytocin has been found to be released when giving to others.  At this time of year, it is especially fun to realize that the act of giving to others affects the brain in such a positive way.

I so appreciate all the dedicated people I have had the pleasure and honor of connecting with throughout the world! I can not express how exciting it is to daily become aware of additional people that are contributing in some way toward making the lives of children and families better.  

This newsletter shares links to some of the numerous people contributing to the needs of children!

You can also take advantage of  
Now through Monday! 



Friday, November 18, 2011

One of the reasons for creating, The Brain Development Series was due to my desire help parents learn what is best for the developing brain of their children. It is often confusing for caring parents to sort out which skills to encourage and support. It is my desire for parents to easily understand all that brain research clearly shows is most advantageous for learning and long lasting impact.
With this desire, I am pleased to share a guest blog from Marcia Hall. In this story she shares her perspective from her professional role... and her emotions from her role as a loving mother. 
Is That Child Smarter Than Mine?

I have been a Certified Professional Nanny for almost 15 years, working with children and families from birth into their teen years.  I have studied children’s brain development both in the classroom, through books, and during lots of personal experience.  I know that the bond babies make with mom or dad in those first few months are vital to the neurological connections that are being made in their brains.  As children get older, the connections also are made through many stimuli like touch, feel, taste, sight and sound.  I understand that a toddler’s brain will develop best through real experiences.  They should be learning balance, coordination, speech, spatial dexterity and social skills.  Learning the ABC’s, numbers, shapes and the rest will come but do not need to be pushed at this stage.  In fact stressing a child out (and yourself) to learn these lessons earlier and earlier could have negative effects to the development process.  The energy being used to memorizing these skills could go instead to the improvement of age appropriate activities.

All this I know from my training, however, I am also a mom.  A few weeks ago my almost 3 year old daughter had a play date with a child 5 months younger.  During play time the other child began to sing her ABC’s.  She got every letter right!!  Not only that, she went on to count to 20 without missing any numbers.  My daughter says “1, 2, 17” and her idea of ABC’s are “A, B, Q, X.”  Suddenly my mommy jealously kicked in.  For a moment all understanding of how the brain works and what is age appropriate flew out the window, and I found myself wondering if my daughter was not as smart.  Would that mean she would not do well in school and then not get into a good college Then would she not get a good job and be HAPPY!

Okay, maybe I did not consciously think all this in that instant, but my emotions went around these issues.  My head started spinning with worry.  I know the reality that even if this child was showing signs of greater intelligence by saying her ABC's at 2 years old that does not mean my daughter will not do well in school.  Happiness does not come from your intelligence or your job. 

But the issue goes even deeper because I know that being able to recite ABC’s and count to 20 at the age of two, does not equal great intelligence. It means that this other child has had experiences in different areas than my child. Perhaps she is an auditory learner and simply caught on to the “ABC song" or her mother has worked very hard training her daughter to count to say numerals in order. 

Whatever the case is my story is not unique.  There is a natural instinct in parents to want their child to excel at academics and to compare them to other children.  It’s hard for parents to resist this temptation and choose instead to see their child’s strengths.  If it is difficult for a mom like me who has been extensively trained and witnessed many children grow healthy and bright who did not know their ABC’s at 2, how much more difficult is it for parents that do not know these things.  Therefore it is understandable why it is so common for parents to push their children to learn things they do not need to be pushed to learn. 

I was able to quickly regain my rational thinking and genuinely praised the child for sharing what she knows.  I did not run home and try to force my daughter to learn to say the alphabet.  I choose instead to find the things she is really good at, like using her imagination and playing well with others. Remembering that EVERY child has skills and talents that they can do well is important.  It is our honor as parents and caregivers to find those strengths and nurture them. 

Guest post by Marcia Hall owner of Strong Roots Family Coaching 

Since 1996, Marcia Hall has been working with children and families. Marcia is an ACPI Certified Coach for Families.  In 2011 she was named the International Nanny Associations NANNY OF THE YEAR.  Marcia is also graduated from the English Nanny and Governess School and is an INA Credentialed Nanny.  

Marcia launched Strong Roots Family Coaching because she believes that all children are born with great potential. She's passionate about empowering parents to find the best ways to nurture, support and encourage their children as they build a deeper connection.

Marcia teaches to families in her community and around the country through workshops, one on one coaching and through her writing.  She writes weekly for a blog called YOUR Parenting Questions as well as many other websites and blogs.  Her first book Parenting Responsively co-written with 11 other ACPI Parent Coaches came out this summer. 
Marcia and her husband Scott, reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with their 2 year old daughter Nadia, whom they adopted days after birth.

Strong Root’s Web Site
BLOG – YOUR Parenting Questions


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