Skip to content
Mother & Baby Magazine
You couldn’t be more proud of your toddler. He knows his colours and shapes, can just about count to five and is word-perfect when it comes to the Wheels on the Bus. So what else can you do to boost his brainpower and give him a great start in life?According to Dr Madeleine Portwood, leading adviser on Child Development to the British Psychological Society, the toddler and pre-school years between three and five are a critical time for learning and development. ‘The way we play and interact with our children now, and what we feed them, has a significant impact on their brain,’ she says. ‘Parents shouldn’t try to fast-track their child’s development, because children all develop at different rates,’ she adds. ‘But there are plenty of ways in which parents can help boost their child’s cognitive and motor skills, which can help reduce hyperactivity and improve concentration, and so aid learning.’
Feed his brainGood nutrition is vital to get the network of connections in the brain working at their full potential according to Dr Portwood who has been involved in the recent Durham Sure Start trials, assessing the effects of fish oil supplements on pre-school children.
It’s the omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils that are believed to help boost brain function by their positive action on the brain’s neural transmitters. Researchers and parents noticed the children’s concentration improving within a week of taking the supplements.
‘I’d always recommend getting omega 3s from food rather than supplements,’ adds Dr Portwood. ‘If you can get your child to eat oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines) twice a week, then you’re setting them up for life.’
It’s also important to ensure your child eats a healthy, balanced diet, and has sufficient amounts of iron in his diet. Iron deficiencies have been linked with delayed development or behaviour problems in young children. Good sources include red meat, leafy green veg, legumes such as beans, and wholegrain bread.
‘It’s also important to steer your child away from additives,’ says Anita Bean, leading nutritionist and author of Healthy Eating for Kids, A&C Black. ‘One government funded study at the UK’s Asthma and Allergy Research Centre found that certain food colours and preservatives cause hyperactive behaviour in as many as one in four young children. They recommend that all children would benefit from the removal of artificial food colourings from their diet.’
Ones to avoid include Tartrazine (E102), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and the preservative Sodium Benzoate (E211). Start checking labels, and avoid fizzy drinks and sweets.
Snuggle up with a DVDMany parents worry about the TV issue – should you or shouldn’t you let your tot watch the box?
Researchers say children who watch more than three hours a day are more likely to drop out of school without qualifications. And studies at the University of Washington in Seattle found that under-threes who watched the most television performed worst in reading and maths at tests at ages six and seven. Watching several hours of TV a day has also been linked with attention deficit disorder and poor concentration.
However, many argue that a limited amount of television or DVDs – as long as it is educational – can be beneficial to young minds.
‘Television and DVDs do have a place for children to experience fantasy and stories,’ says Dr Portwood. ‘Some of the Disney cartoons are fine, and so are musicals such as the Sound of Music, where they learn songs and listen to rhyming words. But just ensure they’re not watching them for hours on end. When they can repeat each line of a film, you know they’re watching too much.’
Child development expert Liz Attenborough at the National Literacy Trust (www.literacytrust.org.uk and www.talktoyourbaby.org.uk ) adds, ‘Try to limit your child’s TV watching to half an hour a day for under-twos and one hour for three-to-fives. Some experts argue that DVDs or videos may be better than TV because their repetitious nature makes it easier for children to learn.’
Best advice is to sit down with your child and watch together. ‘That way you can answer any questions along the way, and you make it a more stimulating and interactive experience,’ says Dr Portwood.
The power of wordsAccording to Liz Attenborough reading with your child is one of the best ways to help boost her brainpower.
‘Storytelling introduces structure and language, patterns that help form the building blocks for reading and writing skills,’ she says. ‘Reading aloud combines the benefits of talking, listening and storytelling within a single activity and gets parents and carers talking regularly to young children. Books also help children learn to express their own thoughts and emotions, and they’re a great source of new vocabulary.’
For some great book ideas, try the Booktrust’s Early Years Awards Winners. This year’s winners include Mandy Stanley, How Do You Feel, HarperCollins Children’s for babies, Sam Lloyd’s Mr Pusskins, Orchard Books and Catherine Rayner’s Augustus and his Smile, Little Tiger Press.
Choose Toys Wisely Spending time with your toddler, and encouraging active play is the best way to develop his vital skills, according to the experts. ‘Play is the main way that babies and toddlers learn about the world. It’s a wonderful way to support their language development,’ says Liz Attenborough.
But should you rush off to buy the latest educational toys? And what toys are best to play with?
‘The very best toys are those which are interactive, and which engage your child,’ says Dr Portwood. ‘Many toys today are purely observational, but developing motor skills is vital, because you need to have the motor skills in place in order to form other networks of communication in the brain. It’s then that children develop the concentration that helps them learn.’Don’t push himComputer classes, French and piano lessons at three? It’s easy to hothouse your child, but experts warn against it. The study conducted into American and Swedish adults who were hot-housed at a young age found that many grew up emotionally damaged. ‘The fact is children of this age develop best with the simplest things,’ says educational psychologist Dr Peter Congdon who runs the Gifted Children's Information Centre in Solihull. ‘Most toddlers are adequately stimulated playing with a cardboard box – it’s great for their imagination and creativity. They simply don’t need all these toys; besides, too many can be bewildering for them.’ By taking your toddler to several educational classes each week you risk over-organising or regimenting his or her life. It can be stressful for them. Be led by your toddler’s natural instincts and inclinations, say experts. Balance is the key to a happy, healthy child.
Send a story, photo or video relating to this
Upload stories, photos or videos direct to the site .
There are currently no comments
Add your comment
You must be signed in to submit a comment.
Boost Your Toddler’s Brainpower
By submitting your comment, you agree to adhere to the askamum
Terms and conditions
You must be logged in to subscribe to a topic
Login or register now
Advertise with us |
Link to us |
Site map |
Mother & Baby magazine subscription |
Magazine subscriptions |
© Copyright 2013 askamum, Bauer Consumer Media - All rights reserved.
Other Sites By Bauer Media | Grazia | Closer Online | Closer Diets | Askamum | heatworld